The Los Angeles Times
"Spoken Interludes is the best of a reading at some funky bookstore, but with great food and drink. LA's hippest salon has an eclectic menu of words."
Bruce Wagner, best-selling writer
"The coolest place in town to read."
Los Angeles Magazine
"With her Southern hospitality, actress/writer DeLaune Michel has recast the literary salon for LA."
Larry Charles, producer/writer "Seinfeld"
"Reading at Spoken Interludes is a very authentic, inspiring experience."
"Spoken Interludes recasts the idea of Story Hour... as a monthly literary salon for adults."
Jan Burke, award-winning, best-selling writer
"Every now and then, I meet someone through this business of writing who makes me feel amazement at my luck in having some excuse to have our paths cross, DeLauné is one of those people. I so admire her dedication and willingness to work to make the world a better place through Spoken Interludes."
The Los Angeles Times
"This is a real community. A little food, a little conversation and a lot of literary substance."
Robert Crais, best-selling mystery writer
"DeLauné does a great job of making everyone feel welcome (and not just visiting authors!) and hosting the events."
Westchester Magazine’s Best of the Decade
Irvington, (914) 307-1683
Author readings can sometimes be a very sober affair. The writers get up, they clear their throats at the podium, and read their very serious works of fiction. Produced by the friendliest host this side of the South, DeLauné Michel, Spoken Interludes is our favorite reading series because it breaks the stuffy atmosphere. Instead, you’re more likely to think of it as a cocktail party - a very fashionable one, where authors happen to drop by and read their recent work. Folks who have recently dropped by include Frank Bruni, A.J. Jacobs, Sloane Crosley, and Marilyn Johnson. And, man, do their words go down nicely with Chutney Masala's samosas.
Carolyn See, award-winning writer
"What an absolutely beautiful evening! And besides the external beauty, the imperceptible stuff was all that DeLauné brings to it - the quiet organization, the gentle hand that quiets the craziest writer, the good manners that are her hallmark. I just love it."
Ann Magnuson, actress/writer
"It's so nice to feel part of a community in the big urban sprawl we call L.A. Spoken Interludes feels very New York-ish."
The Rivertowns Enterprise, Friday, April 10, 2009
"Spoken Interludes is a cozy, inspiring evening. As calendar editor, I recommend this highly."
The Journal News
Culture, with a side of food
April 5, 2006
Guests settle in at round tables to dine on selections from the buffet at Trinity Bar & Grill in Harrison, then hear three young writers read from their works at the Spoken Interludes series organized by DeLauné Michel, an actor and writer. She began the series in Los Angeles in 1996 to recreate the colorful dinners of her literary family. "I want to bring back a sense of community to live events, and eating engenders community," she says. On April 18, four novelists including Mary Gordon and Michel herself, reading from her debut novel, will appear.
The Journal News
Reinventing the Salon
March 13, 2005
Though her willowy brunet looks suggest a model or the actress she once was, DeLauné Michel has more in common with Gertrude Stein, Madame de Stael and other women of letters who, over the course of four centuries, turned their homes into places where the literati would become the glitterati.
In 1996, Michel began Spoken Interludes: A Salon for Stories, a monthly program in which established and emerging writers could read their work in the convivial atmosphere of a buffet dinner at a Hollywood restaurant. Now Los Angeles' largess is New York's gain: While continuing Spoken Interludes biannually in Beverly Hills, Michel has shifted the monthly program to her new base in Westchester County.
The dinner-readings, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays at MacMenamin's Grill in New Rochelle beginning this week, arrive at a moment when the reinvented salon is sprouting like so many spring bulbs all over the country.
"We don't really conform to the old-fashioned salon," Michel says of Spoken Interludes. "I do see (us) as a theatrical experiment, brought back to the old-fashioned experience of storytelling."
Perhaps the chief difference between Spoken Interludes and its historical counterparts is its crucial choice of a public rather than private setting.
Spoken Interludes will begin with a supper buffet at MacMenamin's Grill from 6:30 to 8 p.m., wherein "guests" (members of the public) can arrive at any time and mingle with one another. Dinner will be followed by four writers reading for 15 minutes each. This Tuesday's program features comedy-of-manners specialist Meg Wolitzer ('The Wife") reading from her latest book, "The Position"; Tony Award-winning play-wright Warren Leight ("Side Man"), offering a short story; National Book Award nominee Kate Walbert reading from "Our Kind"; and mystery writer Kinky Friedman presenting an excerpt from his new 'Ten Little Indians".
Over a late breakfast in White Plains, Michel talks about how she builds a program. She begins with one writer, just as her "mama," as she says in her Louisiana lilt, would start with one couple in creating the parties that haunted the homesick actress when she moved to Los Angeles in 1990.
Michel might begin with Robert Crais, "a dark mystery writer with comic overtones. Then I'd want something funny, so I'd call on (performance artist) Ann Magnuson, Nora Dunn ('Saturday Night Live'), or Yeardley Smith ('The Simpsons'). Then I'd look for a debut novelist."
The last is key: In the world of the salon, past and present, the chance to uncover a diamond in the rough has an irresistible allure.
And while marketing techniques have changed greatly, a literary gathering can still be a launching pad. Spoken Interludes provided Christopher Rice -- the novelist son of vampire author Anne Rice -- with an opportunity to develop his first book, "A Density of Souls," Michel says.
Everything is so technologically driven," says Luis Alfaro, director of new play development at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and a devotee of Spoken Interludes. "The chance to be in a room and hear ... language ... it's like a bedtime story for the soul."
Michel, too, would read a series of nine stories at Spoken Interludes that would become her first novel, "Aftermath of Dreaming," about a young jewelry designer's affair with an older movie star.
"I wanted to write about the experience of saying goodbye to one's father," she says.
The book is due out from William Morrow & Co. early in 2006. She is writing a second novel also about Hollywood.
The salon, of course, has never been all artistic work and no romantic play. Alma Schindler, the most sought-after woman in fin-desiecle Vienna, met her first husband, composer Gustav Mahler, at the salon of journalist Berta Zuckerkandl.
And Michel met her husband, Ardsley-reared independent film producer Dan Fried ("0"), who also owns H&H Photography Studio in Riverdale, at her August 1999 salon. That led to the birth of their child, now 13 months old, and, eight months ago, relocation from Los Angeles to Irvington.
"I think L.A. is a wonderful town," Michel says. "But we wanted our child to have an experience similar to the one we grew up with."
It takes a savvy hostess to facilitate not only her own career but that of others--and to find marriage and motherhood in the bargain. The salonieres of The Jewish Museum exhibit are described, for the most part, as women of physical and psychological grace, a quality Michael shares, Alfaro says.
"She's lovely, and she's gorgeous," says the writer, who's rehearsing "Electricidad," his girl-gang update of the Greek tragedy "Electra," at the Mark Taper Forum. "She makes you feel that you have a voice. She has this ability to help people listen."
No doubt that's partly because of her own literary pedigree: Named for an ancestor who was part of Marie Antoinette's court, Michel is the niece of short-story writer André Dubus ("In the Bedroom") and the cousin of novelist Andre Dubus III ("House of Sand and Fog") and mystery writer James Lee Burke.
And perhaps that lineage helps her understand the novelist's need for discussion and a connection with readers. For the writer --working alone with a computer and a latte -- there is a particular hunger for feedback.
"You write a book and it's like sending out a message in a bottle," says Francine Prose, who'll be reading from "A Changed Man" (HarperCollins), her engaging new novel that explores a neo-Nazi's about-face and our complex make-up, at Spoken Interludes on May 10. 'To get some response is important."
Prose knows the thrill of people talking about her characters as if they were there in the room or students discussing Emma Bovary as if she were their next-door neighbor.
"I think people are looking for any kind of community," she says.
But community is not what the salon provides, Braun says.
"The salon is the sphere in which the individual can flourish in the group."
Perhaps the salon, as old as the Marquise de Rambouillet's and as new as DeLauné Michel's, can best be described as a kind of intellectual quilting bee, to which each participant brings his own square of talents and ideas.
The Rivertowns Enterprise
Michel Transplants Her Literary "Interludes"
March 4, 2005
When DeLauné Michel moved across the country recently, she brought with her "Spoken Interludes," an acclaimed series of readings by top-shelf writers that she had produced for eight years in Los Angeles. Now the Irvington newcomer hopes the same spark that made the literary events so successful on the West Coast will catch fire here in Westchester.
On March 15, Spoken Interludes will kick off at MacMenamin's Grill in New Rochelle. On the menu for the evening will be ample food and drink, as well as a story-telling hour far more intimate than the obligatory bookstore readings typical of most writers' publicity tours. While seated at long, low tables surrounded by the former plastics warehouse's exposed brick walls, guests will enjoy a buffet dinner before listening to writers read their own work.
One imagines the salon-style series, with its intellectually hip, subterranean Greenwich Village feel, better suited to a New York backdrop than the bright lights of Hollywood, where Michel, a "30-something" actress-writer, had pursued roles before moving to Irvington last July with her husband, Dan Fried, a Rivertowns' native.
Fried graduated from Ardsley High School in 1986 and now owns H & H photography studio and is an independent film producer (he produced the 2001 film "0" starring Josh Hartnett and Julia Stiles).
Michel's short stories, which she presented at several Spoken Interludes readings in Los Angeles, have won the Thomas Wolfe Short Fiction award. Since settling into her new home in the hills of Irvington, Michel has been busy at work on her first novel, "Aftermath of Dreaming" to be released by William Morrow in 2006.
With her thoughts and energies now turned to writing, Michel approached MacMenamin's -- whose Soho feel had caught her eye in the Zagat's restaurant guide -- with the idea of hosting the Spoken Interlude readings in New Rochelle, and the owners readily agreed.
The writers featured at the March 15 reading are all based in the New York metro area. They include Kate Wolbert, a National Book Award nominee for her novel "Our Kind," which chronicles the lives of a group of sorority girls who reconnect after the breakup of each of their marriages; Tony Award-winning playwright Warren Leight ("Side Man"), who will share a new comical short story; Meg Wolitzer, whose best-seller "The Wife" examined the issues of fame, feminism and marriage and will be reading from her latest book, "The Position"; and Kinky Friedman, called "the world's funniest, bawdiest mystery writer" by The New York Times, who will introduce his most recent novel, "Ten Little Indians?"
Spoken Interludes' nights featuring Ann Beattie, Rupert Holmes and Francine Prose are planned for April and May.
In California, Spoken Interludes have included such writers as Alice Sebold ("The Lovely Bones") and Bruce Wagner ("I'll Let You Go") and the literary turns of others, including comedienne Margaret Cho, "Saturday Night Live" regular Julia Sweeney, and Academy Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden.
The monthly writers' conclave is unique for its casual, up-close-and-personal setting, where audience members feel as if they've pulled up a chair in the writer's home. Each of the four featured authors reads for 15 minutes.
"If you don't like one, you sip your drink and wait for the next one:' Michel joked.
The effervescent Michel plays hostess, greeting guests and writers personally at each of the readings. It is a role that comes easily to her.
The Louisiana-bred Michel was born into a family of writers who all came out of the melting pot environment of Baton Rouge, not far from New Orleans.
Her uncle, André Dubus (who died in 1999) wrote the famous short story "Killing," which was turned into the screenplay for the 2001 movie "In the Bedroom," starring Sissy Spacek. His son and Michel's cousin, Andre Dubus III, penned the novel "House of Sand and Fog," which was adapted as a feature film starring Ben Kingsley.
Another cousin, James Lee Burke, is the author of the best-selling Dave Robicheaux detective novel series set in the French Quarter, and Michel's mother, Elizabeth Dubus, is a lesser-known writer of screenplays and novels.
Of her own natural leaning toward the craft, she said, "I just always knew I would write."
The concept for the readings series which began in 1996 with a short list of friends and expanded to as many as 100 guests came out of Michel's memories of relatives trading stories around the supper table.
"Dinners would last two hours on average:" she said.
Homesick for the Southern tradition of a party season that lasted from Thanksgiving to Lent, Michel began hosting parties that became bigger and bigger, and the stories exchanged at these gatherings set the stage for Spoken Interludes. The interactive environment was like a form of impromptu theater in which the audience reacted as the story unfolded to their ears in that very moment, Michel said.
"When you hear it read in the writer's own voice, you hear the inflection -- you get to hear how the writer heard it in their own head," she said.
And guests at the readings interacted with each other, too, striking up conversations that were very real and refreshing amid the wheel-and-deal networking Hollywood scene.
"Usually when people in L.A. meet, it's like, 'What do you do?' and then 'Can you help me with my project?'" Michel said. "People were connecting in a very different way."
The series blossomed, being named one of the "150 Coolest, Sexiest, Most Dangerous Things To Do After Dark" by Los Angeles magazine and featured in a host of other publications, including the New York Times and GQ magazine.
In 1998, when Christopher Rice, the son of writer Anne Rice, read passages of a short story in progress, the feedback from his Spoken Interludes audience prompted him to turn it into a novel, the critically acclaimed "Density of Souls."
"That kind of put us on the map with publishers," Michel said.
Until then, she had directly appealed to writers to book them for her readings; following that coup, publishing companies began pitching writers to her, and writers themselves submitted their works to her for consideration for future Spoken Interludes events.
And Michel expanded the series to include separate nights for up-and-coming writers (Spoken Interludes Vanguard) and outreach programs to help at-risk children learn to write and read their own works.
In the process, she developed close friendships with other authors. She refers, for example, to best-selling author Robert Crais ("The Last Detective," "L.A. Requiem") simply as "Bob."
"It became like a family," Michel said.
And she hopes that the series in New Rochelle will foster a similar simpatico feeling in the Westchester community.
"It's something I hope the community will want and like," she said.
The Los Angeles Times
Farewell to the Interludes
June 3, 2004
The monthly salon Spoken Interludes has presented tidbits of works in progress by Los Angeles' hottest writers, dinner-theater style, for the past eight years. It's based on the idea that "if you put people together with food and drink and literature, they can't help but get to know each other," founder DeLauné Michel says. The final chapter here, though, is about to be written.
Michel, an author-actress who is moving to New York for personal reasons and taking the series with her, is planning a blowout farewell Sunday. Held at the Skirball, the evening will feature some L.A. favorites: author-screewriter Jerry Stahl, poet, essayist and fiction writer Carol Muske-Dukes; memoirist Bernard Cooper; comedian Taylor Negrin and Michel.
"It's always been really fun," says Cooper, who's participated in a number of evenings. The events, he says, "bring in a group of enthusiastic people who don't necessarily go to readings at bookstores; it's a mixture of writers, actors writing monologues and comedians."
Though L.A. may not be perceived as a community that appreciates its writers, Michel says her experience has proven the opposite. "People love coming out and getting to hear the work, to sit and be told a wonderful story," she says. "It speaks to our humanity."
March 13, 2003
Spoken Interludes, a monthly series at the Tempest Supper Club in West Hollywood that's built around dinner, cocktails and authors reading briefly from works-in-progress, aims to be intellectually serious but without the ponderous feel of a lecture. A recent Sunday found novelist Yxta Maya Murray, Hollywood mail-room chronicler David Rensin and three others sharing a stage. "The difference with these salons," says author Carolyn See, "is that you can drink. You dress up, you eat and you flirt like it's a party. The authors have like seven minutes: It's snappy and beautifully put together."
Sprawl Crawl... Going out in Hollywood is easy. Knowing where to go isn't
Spoken Interludes: Stars demonstrate their literacy by reading their own work or short fiction by others in a monthly dinner salon. Harry Shearer, Bruce Wagner, Marcia Gay Harden and Megan Mullally figure among L.A.'s brainier guest readers.
LA Weekly's "Best of L.A. 2000"
Best Storytelling Hour For Grown-ups
Spoken Interludes recasts the idea of Story Hour on floor mats over milk and cookies as a monthly literary salon for adults... this time over cocktails and a luscious buffet dinner. Writers, actors and others gather in the upstairs lounge of Le Colonial, an elegant French-Vietnamese restaurant that looks like some place Bogart might have frequented in Casablanca: wicker furniture, ceiling fans, tiny tables lit with flickering candles. Dinner is served on a small balcony with French doors, and, inside guests settle in to eat in low-slung chairs and couches. With contented strangers nestling up to one another, the atmosphere is that of an intimate dinner party among (as one press release boasts) "the city's hip intelligentsia." The program is relaxed and simple: Four writers read short pieces (typically memoirs or first-person fiction) for 15 minutes each on a wee stage; while hostess DeLauné Michel, an actress-writer herself tall and slinky with a mane of long spiral curls snakes through the crowd greeting people and introduces guests onstage. Past participants include Harry Shearer, Julia Sweeney, Carolyn See, Jerry Stahl and Hubert Selby Jr. After the reading guests linger for coffee and dessert but no milk and cookies. If it's any consolation, the bartender makes a killer martini.
The Los Angeles Times
A Main Course of Stories
November 29, 1998
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 DeLauné 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 theatre 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 hour-long 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's so much that writers do by themselves, but this is real community," she says. "I like the idea of a little food, a little conversation and some substance, " she says.
Los Angeles Magazine
150 of the Coolest, Sexiest, Most Dangerous Things to Do After Dark
Discover A Real Salon
With her Southern hospitality, actress-writer DeLauné Michel has recast the literary salon for L.A. with her Spoken Interludes series. Mixed with fine dining, scintillating talk and postprandial treats, writers, comedians and actors read from books or regale the gathered with tales of woe, lust and love.
Bright Lights, New Roc City
After nine years in Los Angeles, acclaimed literary salon Spoken Interludes, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the city's coolest things to do after dark, has packed its bags for New Rochelle (Yes, New Rochelle!). It debuts this month at MacMenamins Grill & ChefWorks with readings by Tony Award-winning playwright Warren Leight (Side Man), National Book Award-Nominee Kate Waldbert (Our Kind), bestselling author Meg Wolitzer (The Position), and mystery writer Kinky Friedman (Ten Little Indians). Readings, of course, but did we mention cocktails and dinner, too?
Spoken Interludes is more like a soiree than a typical reading, according to the salon's foundre, DeLauné Michel, recently transplanted to Irvington with her film producer husband to raise their young child. "I'm from the South," says the Louisiana-born author. "Giving parties is like breathing to me." Her first novel will be published by William Morrow winter 2006.
The New York Times
...Informal seminars and literary gatherings are also becoming more frequent fixtures. On a recent Sunday night more than 80 people came to a monthly literary salon at Le Colonial, a West Hollywood restaurant. For $20 you could get a buffet dinner under a whirling plantation-style fan and listen to four writers read from new work. On this night DeLauné Michel, whose one-woman show "Southern Gothic" played here last year, was one of the attractions. "There's a real desire out there to be part of some greater literary community," said Charlie Otto, who directed the reading.
Readings Pick of the Week
Los Angeles Bars & Clubs
I recently bought a long dining room table, big enough to seat 10, because it is my not-so-secret dream to be the fabulous hostess of a monthly salon. Of course I don't have anywhere near 10 chairs, or even 10 wine glasses, so I've been turning to Spoken Interludes to fulfill those literary pretentions. A bi-monthly salon held in the upstairs bar at the much beloved French-Vietnamese Le Colonial, the night is hosted by actress/writer DeLauné Michel (part of the cast for the new WB series, The Gilmore Girls). Michel created Spoken Interludes to give writers an outlet for their work. Much better than any stogy reading series, attendees get to hear great performers and scribes like Margaret Cho, Jerry Stahl, Chloe Webb, and even the too-funny-for-his-own-good playwright, Christopher Durang. Spoken interludes had a number of different homes before settling on Le Colonial. "It's just the most gorgeous room in town," says Michel, "it's the essence of L.A. elegant in a very relaxed way." So it is our beautiful curly-haired hostess, who occasionally reads herself, and keeps the atmosphere relaxed enough that it feels like an evening in an especially cool friend's living room. Twenty-five dollars includes a buffet dinner provided by the restaurant, but you'll have to take yourself to the bar for drinks. Make sure you load up before the reading begins, these stories are riveting, simple, and deftly straddle the line between performance piece and short story.
Spoken Interludes is a cozy, inspiring evening that makes you realize how rich and creative life is as you listen to people's stories, reflect on your own, and relish being where you are at that moment. As calendar editor, I recommend this evening highly!
A bit over two years ago, DeLauné Michel got a bright idea, acted on it, and now her popular literary salon, "Spoken Interludes," is a success, though something of a well kept secret (but the monthly performances usually sell out anyway). Its venue of understated elegance and charm is a French-Vietnamese restaurant, Le Colonial, in Beverly Hills. The package evening includes dinner, literary works read by professional actors, and a not-to-be-underestimated ambience of glamour and romance that has you thinking you've stepped into a spy thriller set in French-occupied Vietnam.
glue magazine (excerpt)
Salman Rushdie once said, "I grew up kissing books and bread." At Spoken Interludes, you can do both. DeLauné Michel, an actress who often reads from her own work, has booked the gamut from performance artist Ann Magnuson to "Last Exit to Brooklyn" writer Hubert Selby Jr., for her salon-style dinner readings.
Up to 100 patrons sit on chairs and couches. The dinner-party setting facilitates more interaction that you often get at over-lit bookstores with folding chairs. One gay couple was laughing so hard at a recent performance, you could hardly hear Jerry Stahl's words (from his novel "Perv: A Love Story"). Yes, it can get a bit network-y, but the intention is to foster a forum to explore the work. "I wanted to open up the kind of discussion that theater was supposed to stimulate in the beginning," says Michel. "The original form is stories."