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DeLauné Michel was raised in south Louisiana in a literary family that includes her uncle Andre Dubus, her mother Elizabeth Nell Dubus, and her cousin James Lee Burke. She has worked as an actor in theater, television, and film. The first two stories Ms. Michel wrote won recognition by the Thomas Wolf Short Fiction Award, and later work won the Pacificus Foundation Literary Award. Her first novel, Aftermath of Dreaming, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins in 2006. Her second novel, The Safety of Secrets, will be published by Avon/HarperCollins in May, 2008. She is currently working on her third novel. She is the founding producer of Spoken Interludes. Ms. Michel has developed, has taught in, and continues to run Spoken Interludes Next, an outreach writing programs for at-risk teenagers. She lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband Dan Fried (an owner of H & H Photographers specializing in event photography) and their children.

Southern Gothic... From Virginity to Adultery
At the Chapel

Reviewed by Scott Proudfit

Beauty and truth: These are two properties to which artists have always aspired. They are also essential ingredients to any good one-person show. In our society, where every dark secret from adultery to incest is daily dissected on talk shows and newscasts, the act of one person revealing herself onstage is not as novel as it may once have been. Still, while there is nothing shocking under the sun, or the center spot, there is always room for originality when a performer has the above two ideals as her guiding lights.

Witness DeLauné Michel's one-woman piece, Southern Gothic, a tale of the road "from virginity to adultery." That may sound like old hat, but the beauty of Michel's language and the specific reality of Lyla, the character she portrays, makes it all come to life.

Michel infuses Lyla's story with rich, living language. A Catholic girl growing up in New Orleans, Lyla is fixated with her cruel and distant father. This kind of relationship is one we've seen portrayed 100 times, but Michel's words make it fresh and powerful: "I thought Daddy gave the Mississippi its cue to flow downstream every morning," she says.

Michel also knows when to hold back; the piece never becomes a poetry reading. Rather, her poetic flights are veiled in everyday commonplaces. What's more, Michel creates a specific and truthful world around Lyla. The setting, a chapel of a girls' school in New Orleans, comes to life through her words, as do the numerous characters Lyla encounters, from the one-night stands she suffers to a portrait of her holy and vicious cousin. It all rings true and draws us into her world. The outcome? The piece appears more than studied—it appears lived.

Director Jon Lawrence Rivera has done an excellent job keeping the piece varied and creating space for its emotional moments, and whatever influence script consultant Beaty Reynolds had on the work can only have helped. The direction and the text are sharp and straightforward, and allow Michel to do her work. Beautiful and true, Southern Gothic is a great little show.

"Southern Gothic…From Virginity to Adultery," was presented by Playwrights Arena in association with Spoken Interludes & Matthew Smith at the Chapel, Hollywood United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave, Hollywood, November 1 through December 6, 1997.

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