Essay: Academy Theatre, Julia Roberts’ parents laid foundation for blossoming of theater in Atlanta

atl-theaterI kissed a girl, and 10 yards away a Buick exploded. I was on the back of a flatbed truck that had been converted into a swamp. I was a fox. The girl was a terrapin. We were in Atlanta, it was a very nice summer day in 1965, and I was 15 years old. The girl was Yolanda King, daughter of Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr. I was primarily Caucasian and Yolanda wasn’t. That’s what the trouble was about. I don’t know who owned the Buick, but I know who blew it up.

A man, a tangential member of the Ku Klux Klan, had seen me kiss Yolanda the day before in the same parking lot. She and I were members of a theatrical group called the Actors and Writers Workshop. It was run by Walter and Betty Roberts, the parents of Eric and Julia Roberts. Rob, as Walter was sometimes called, had written his theatrical version of a Joel Chandler Harris story, thanks in part to a Guggenheim grant for children’s theater. That’s why Yolanda and I were standing in a makeshift swamp on the back of a flatbed truck, dressed as a fox and a terrapin.

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Phillip DePoy is an Atlanta playwright and author. A former artistic director of the Theatrical Outfit, he was the recipient of the Edgar Award in 2002 for best mystery play.

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