Linda Rae Johnson's memoirs at Artspace 

Southern Discomfort

"There's nothing like Southern dysfunction," Linda Rae Johnson says. "You can have dysfunction in New Jersey, but it's nothing like Southern dysfunction."

That particular dysfunction, dubbed "Southern Discomfort," is the subject of Johnson's memoirs about coming of age in Louisiana. Since 1997, Johnson has been writing creative memoirs and performing them in various venues, including Artspace, where she'll return for her third performance on Saturday, June 10.

Asking Johnson to describe her performance might result in one, as Johnson drops her speaking voice in favor of a heavy Southern drawl and tells about fishing trips in the Bayou with her stepfather Bill.

The tone of Johnson's memoirs ranges from pathos to humor, and the themes run the gamut from infatuation with the boy down the street to an ill-tempered stepfather. Each story contains a pre-adolescent Linda Rae who describes those tumultuous years of enduring her mother's three marriages and growing up with three younger sisters. In "Monopoly at 12," Johnson reminisces about her sister's inclination to cheat at the board game.

"Monopoly" was Johnson's first piece, penned at Nimrod, an annual writing conference. As she began editing her work, she read it aloud and connected with the voice so much that she felt it was important to have people not just read her stories, but also to hear them. She doesn't consider herself to be an actress, but she says she's "always been kind of a ham," and is comfortable in front of an audience.

In addition to her enthusiasm for performing the pieces, Johnson is also interested in seeing them in print. Two have been published in the literary magazine Lumina, and she intends to publish the entire collection when it's complete — she's finished 16 of about 20 stories — as "Ouachita Girl."

The June 10 performance at ArtSpace begins at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Admission is $5. Call 782-8672 for details.


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