Julia Heflin

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Julia Dorn Heflin (1911–2007) was a journalist, a theatre producer and a teacher. The Washington Post aptly called her "a firebrand." In the 1930s, with an English-speaking cast, she staged an incendiary production of the Clifford Odets play Waiting For Lefty on a truck-bed in a Moscow street—where perhaps the only words understood by the Russians who gathered to watch were "Strike! Strike!" which brought clamorous cheers from the comrades. She was still making sparks in 1977 when, at the formal ceremony marking her retirement from Mount Vernon College in Washington, DC, she chided the administration for insufficient support of the theatre curriculum.

As a Phi Beta Kappa, fresh from Smith College and Columbia University, Julia joined the Hedgerow Repertory Theatre, where she acted and was assigned to the production office. She worked briefly on Broadway before heading to the Soviet Union. She was one of the first Americans to work in the theatre there before World War II. She was a Reggisseur Practicant at the Meyerhold and Vahktangov theatres, and helped workers on a collective farm produce the opera, Quiet Flows the Don.

Deploying her formidable curiosity, Julia became an interviewer and free-lance European/Soviet feature correspondent for Stage Magazine and the old New York Herald Tribune, first abroad, and later when she returned to the United States. She interviewed Nemirovitch-Danchenko, who, with Konstantin Stanislavsky, founded the Moscow Art Theatre. Among many others, she also interviewed actor-singer-activist Paul Robeson, stage director Max Reinhardt, film director Sergei Eisenstein and playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Returning to New York, Julia staged a play with boisterous boys at a public works settlement house, and, with Lee Strasberg, taught acting in evening classes at the Laboratory Theatre in Manhattan.

She worked for Broadway producers Eddie Dowling, Oscar Serling and Lewis Gensler, and assisted Theresa Helburn at The Theatre Guild [1]. She was co-founder, with St. John Terrell, the Bucks County Playhouse and served there as co-producer and director.

She then began a career in radio with CBS as a staff researcher, writer and interviewer for the popular We, the People series. Her interviews with such theatrical luminaries and popular cultural icons as Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dalí, Bette Davis, Helen Hayes, John Huston, Gene Kelly, Sinclair Lewis and Walt Disney provided her with incomparable primary source materials which shaped her subsequent work on the stage and in the classroom.

Julia married journalist and public relations advisor Martin Heflin, whose brother Van Heflin and sister Frances Heflin, were both film and Broadway actors. Julia's daughter, Marta Heflin has appeared on Broadway and in Hollywood films, and continues her career as a cabaret singer in New York. When Julia moved to Washington, D.C., to be with her husband, she began her academic career as teacher and director, first at Mount Vernon Seminary and subsequently at Mount Vernon College. During almost 30 years as a demanding teacher, she brought wide experience, insight and passion into the classroom, and onto the stage in the direction of scores of plays she directed at the schools.

She was a member of The College of Fellows of the American Theatre.