Linda Rae Johnson
"Southern Discomfort, Louisiana Style"
Reading from her "Ouachita Girl" series
an evening of childhood memories
Saturday, June 10, 8 p.m., $5 admission
in the Main Gallery
Ms. Linda Johnson has taken her childhood memories, southern fried them and serves them up in a ten-course complex narrative that walks us down the paths of her childhood. She evokes the bittersweet humor of a small Louisiana town as seen through a child's eyes. The vignettes are embellished where names and events have faded from her memory and to protect the innocent and not shame the guilty. The stories are voiced by "Linda Rae" from age nine to thirteen, the sassy know-it-all personification of Ms. Johnson's reflections. They are depicted in tones of innocence tainted by darkness, but kept alive by her offbeat humor.
Ms. Johnson credits her first summer in 1997 at the Nimrod Writers Retreat in Bath County Virginia, where she wrote "Monopoly at Twelve," as the beginning of her "Ouachita Girl" series, now totaling sixteen vignettes. In the time since, she has enjoyed reading and performing her stories throughout Virginia. In November 1997 she won first place in the semifinals at the Open Stage Theater competition in Richmond. She performed these serio-comic monologues for two weekends in November 1998 at Windy River Winery and was a featured reader at Borders Books and Music that year. In May 1999, Ms. Johnson launched her yearly performance at Artspace Gallery where she is a member. She was also an interviewed guest on WCVE Public Radio's "Gallery" with John Porter. Ms. Johnson especially enjoyed her engagement at the Greenbrier Resort during the 1999 Christmas holiday. Her most recent appearance was in April at Roanoke's Mill Mountain Theater sharing the stage with two other Virginia storytellers.
In July of 1997 at a family get-together, my three sisters and I got into a lively, heated and humorous discussion about our childhood in Louisiana. We laughed about the craziness of it all, recalling incidences that had buried themselves in the subconscious of our minds. In that evening of discussion, we came back to the one argument that had been going on for years, "Who really cheated at Monopoly?"
There we were, grown women in our forties still defending our innocence and as always, trying to pull Mama into it, appealing to her to be the arbitrator. She has refused in our adult life to play that role.
That evening I returned home and wrote "Monopoly at Twelve," the beginning of "Ouachita Girl." From the first work, I became Linda Rae again and knew I had discovered a voice within myself that had something to say. As I slowly embarked on recreating those days in Lousiana filled with humor, spirit and dark tones of what I refer to as "Southern Discomfort" the voice became a part of me. In the editing process, as I read and re-read each story aloud, I realized I had reconnected to that child within myself.
Never would I have believed that July evening would lead me to where I am tonight. I love the creative process of writing these vignettes but sharing them in this storytelling form has brought me such delight.
I welcome you this evening and my hope is that Linda Rae will touch that child within you, recalling some of your own childhood memories with fondness. I celebrate the child within us all because it gives us hope, belief in ourselves and keeps us forever young.