About Judith Katz
My official “training” is in playwriting– in the early 1970’s I worked with Len Berkman as an undergrad at Smith College, and again as a grad student in the early ‘80’s. In between, I worked as both an actor and a playwright under Megan Terry and JoAnn Schmidman at the Omaha Magic Theatre, went back to Northampton, MA where I co-founded Chrysalis Theatre Eclectic with five other activist writer/performers; and ultimately came to Minneapolis in the mid 1980’s where I wrote, did some administrating and a little acting At The Foot of the Mountain. I ultimately worked with a group of escaped actors and writers from ATFOM on a serial lesbian soap opera called Toklas, MN.
But all that time, there was a novel working inside me. From the middle of the 1980’s until it was published for the first time in 1992 by Nancy K. Bereano’s Firebrand Books, I was working on a book that went by many names – The Monster in My Mother’s House and The Vildachia of New Chelm for example—but would ultimately be called Running Fiercely Toward a High Thin Sound, that book won that year’s Lambda Literary Award for best lesbian fiction. Four years later, Bereano published my second novel, The Escape Artist, which follows the exploits of a Jewish sleight of hand artist and her concubine lover as they work to outsmart a gang of pimps and strongmen in 1920’s Jewish Buenos Aires. Both novels were recently re-issued by Bywater Books.
In addition to the 1992 Lammy, I have also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Minnesota State Arts Board; the Bush and McKnight Foundations. In 2018 I was named to the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame.
My plays have been produced by The Washington Area Feminist Theatre; The Omaha Magic Theatre; Chrysalis Theatre Eclectic; and At the Foot of the Mountain.
Short pieces of my fiction can be found in Sinister Wisdom, Evergreen Chronicles, Common Lives/Lesbian Lives, as well as the anthologies The Original Coming Out Stories, The Penguin Book of Women’s Humor, and Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers. Most recently, my work has appeared in on-line journals Tablet Magazine; Lambda Literary Review; and The Seattle Lesbian.
After a couple of decades of adjunct teaching at the University of Everywhere (Hamline University, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, University of Minnesota, etc. etc.), I have settled into a steady job advising English and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies majors at the University of Minnesota.
I have a novel in a drawer and a couple of others up my sleeve. Here is an excerpt from one of them:
I took the back roads, east, north, over mountains (the little bug chugged along but just barely). Buffalo. Goats. Families.
Finally, just outside the city of Humdrum, Nebraska, the little car died. I gathered my back pack and my violin, and as I used to do in the oldest days (my youngest days, which seemed though they were not very far behind me) I walked into the city to find a place to sleep.
Here are facts about Humdrum you may know:
Back then it smelled like dead cows on one end of town and molasses on the other.
It was bordered by four shopping centers called The Streets: The West Streets; The South Streets; The East Streets; and the North Streets. It was just east of an air force base, which sported signs that read: Do Not Be Alarmed By Sudden Loud Noises. It had an art museum, a Catholic College, a gay bar called The Tunnel, a burgeoning arts district known as Gallery Town, and half a dozen Good Wills that had a surplus of long men’s coats with rabbit collars, cowboy shirts, and dungarees. That night there was no one on the downtown streets. Most everything was locked up tight as drums. Except for one store front, where Christmas lights twinkled in the middle of summer. There were black and white photographs of men and women in garish makeup and ballerina costumes plastered on the plate glass. On the other window was a hand painted sign that read, in huge letters: Coming soon:
Drag to Dust: The Life and Times of Antonin Artaud (a play with music).
On the door, painted in wild tempera colors on a sheet of brown butcher paper, this: Welcome to the Humdrum Theatre Of Enchantment: Let All Who Dream Enter Now.
I pushed on the door.
It opened, and in I came.