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A Main Course of Stories

November 29, 1998|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the television, motion picture and pop music mecca of the world, quiet, salon-style evenings are almost unheard of. Spoken Interludes, a monthly gathering for supper and stories at Le Colonial restaurant in L.A., is an exception.

Louisiana-born writer-actress DeLaune Michel conceived Spoken Interludes in 1996, when she was waiting in line at the post office.

"I was thinking back on a series of great holiday parties I had just given. I thought, 'This is what theater should be--a fun community experience.' "

What resulted was an event that puts theater, or, more specifically, stories, in the middle of a party.

"I wanted to break down the elements of theater that stress people out, like getting to an 8 p.m. curtain, not enjoying dinner before and not being able to share the experience because the audience is anonymous."

At Spoken Interludes, guests arrive at their leisure for a buffet dinner and cocktails served between 6 and 7:30 p.m. An hourlong program of stories follows, and most people stay to talk about the works over coffee and dessert.

Set in the frond-filled upstairs of Le Colonial, Spoken Interludes feels more like an intimate dinner party than a public event and often draws more than 200 guests. The consummate Southern hostess, Michel works the crowd, introducing newcomers and helping people connect.

But Spoken Interludes is as unique for performers as it is for guests.

"It's a forum for writers to put up work that isn't in its final form, to read the beginning of a screenplay or novel, and get immediate feedback from the audience," Michel says. It's also a way for actors to experience the thrill of a live audience, without having to commit to the full run of a play.

Michel puts together the programs each month, choosing four readings of differing styles.

L.A. writer Diane Sherry Case hasn't missed a Spoken Interludes event since one of her stories was read in February.

"There is so much that writers do by themselves, but this is a real community," she says. "I like the idea of a little food, a little conversation and some substance," she says.

*

The next Spoken Interludes events will be Dec. 6 and 7 at Le Colonial, 8783 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. $20 includes dinner. (213) 957-4688 for reservations.

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