Mendocino College Professor of Communications, local novelist, and playwright Jody Gehrman won the prestigious Ebell Playwrights grand prize this year for her latest full-length play, Tribal Life in America. She will travel to Southern California for a professional staged reading of the play and a celebratory supper at the historic Ebell Club of Los Angeles.
Jody is a native of Northern California and has authored numerous plays for stage and screen and ten novels. Her young-adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel. Her first psychological suspense novel, Watch Me, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2018.
Jody’s plays have been produced or had staged readings in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She holds a Masters Degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is a professor of Communications at Mendocino College.
“This is such a huge honor,” Gehrman says. “Anyone who has ever written a play understands the thrill of seeing a talented cast breathe life into your words for the first time. It’s addictive. To have a public showing at the Ebell Club, with its grand history and gorgeous architecture, is especially exciting.”
Mendocino College President Arturo Reyes adds, “Professor Gehrman’s selection for this prestigious award speaks to her imagination, creativity, and humanity. As a college and a community, we are very proud of Jody’s monumental achievement and tremendous success.”
The Ebell Club is a women’s arts organization founded in 1897 dedicated to fostering female theatre artists in California. The Ebell held its inaugural playwriting contest in 1928. Today they continue that tradition with the Ebell Playwright Prize, founded to encourage and celebrate California women playwrights. The first-prize winner is awarded $5,000 and a staged reading, followed by supper at the historic Ebell Club. This year’s judges were TV and film actress Mary-Pat Green, New York Times bestselling novelist Susan Isaacs, and screenwriter Ellen Sandler. The staged reading is directed by Elina de Santos, an award-winning director for screen and stage.
The Ebell Club, one of the first of its kind in the country, still operates in one of its original buildings, built in 1927 in Hancock Park. Since most women were unable to pursue formal education back in 1897 when the organization was founded, the club served as a substitute for training at a university; the organization had 2,500 members at its height in the 1920s, and continues to be a vital part of the Los Angeles arts scene. Today the Ebell Club is often utilized as a set for film and television; it has provided the backdrop for productions like Wedding Crashers, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, Drunk History, Fight Club, Dexter and Six Feet Under. A staged reading that took place there recently featured Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Judy Garland was discovered there while performing with her family in the early 1940s.