Dolores Huerta — Inspirational Icon

IMG_3334I saw a film last night that should be required viewing for every woman who’s ever felt disempowered no matter her color, by every mother, by every judgmental school administrator, and by every male of every race. It’s called DOLORES and is the story of Dolores Huerta, the little-known mother of the Farmworkers union (to Cesar Chavez’s father) and eleven children. She, along with the farmworkers, forced change at a time when the growers refused to consider their workers more than slaves. She demanded better treatment in the fields, that workers not be sprayed by pesticides, that they be paid fairly and that they have clean, safe places to live. She was a friend of Bobby Kennedy’s who’d taken up the farmworkers’ cause and was by his side when he was assassinated at LA’s Ambassador Hotel. She later fought for women’s rights, LGBGT rights and was one of Hillary’s surrogates in the last election. Today she is still fighting at 87. It’s just what and who she is, and she’s never let the fact that she is both Latin and female get in her way despite daunting obstacles, both outside and even within her own patriarchal community. Peter Bratt, the film’s director, made the film at the urging of Carlos Santana, and it took 5 years to complete. Bratt was there last night, fielding questions from many with connection to Dolores or knew her story (I did not). One person sitting in the audience at the NW Film Center was a former attorney, named Art Johnson. He was the lead prosecutor against the San Francisco Police Department after one of its officers took a baton to Dolores (over 50 at the time and not a threatening presence) during a protest, beating her and landing her in the hospital with life-threatening injuries (you see it happen in the film). Johnson, clearly moved and fighting tears, rose to tell the story of how he and his team won a settlement from the SF police department and when he told Dolores the terms, which would pay her to $2000 a month for life, her response was, “This isn’t about the money, but we’ll use it to reform the police department.” When she recovered, she did that, culminating in an entirely new policy and rulebook for the department. It was Dolores who came up with the call to action, “Si se puede,” making the farmworkers believe they could make change happen. You’ll recognize the call as, “Yes We Can,” used by Barack Obama (he gave her credit) in the lead up to election. In this horrific political climate we find ourselves in in 2017, the film gave me inspiration to resume the fight. It’s traveling the country and will air on PBS next Spring. #shepersists #couldabeenamuff IMG_3327

Muff Jelicka’s “What I Did That Summer”

whatididlastsummerSometimes Muff Jelicka wakes up after an alcohol-infused evening with only a vague recollection of the night before. We worry about her, though most of the time she holds her liquor quite well.

Fortunately for us, she remembers most of the month she spent in Europe between her sophomore and junior years in college–specifically the July in the south of France, where she not only sampled several varieties of cute men, but imbibed more than her fair share of cocktails. Our recollections of food and drink are often accompanied by waves of nostalgia about a particular event with friends or loved ones and that’s what this cocktail means to Jelicka. It evokes a time well-worth remembering.

And so it is she tracked down this version of a gin sour, tweaked with blackberry liqueur (Crème de mure). Some call it a Bramble. Jelicka calls it, “What I did that summer,” and we all know what she’s talking about.


1 ½ oz. Gin

¾ oz. Fresh lemon juice

½ oz. Simple syrup (1:1)

¾ oz. Crème de mure

Garnish with a Lemon wheel topped by a fresh blackberry, pierced

Fill a “rocks” glass with crushed ice and add the first three ingredients: stir to combine. Add more curshed ice if needed and carefully drizzle the crème de mure on top. Garnish.

Note: If you can’t find Creme de mure, you can substitute crème de cassis (though it tastes different as cassis is made with currants) or some other berry liqueur. Jelicka won’t mind.

Lunatics, Actors & The Rest of Us By Anna Nicholas

DuchenneLunatics7“I can make anyone feel anything,” or so states a mysterious character early on in Four Clowns’ production of Lunatics & Actors, now in a very short run at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. I was hooked immediately, as was my 20-year-old companion. When volunteers from the audience, each claiming to have acting experience, sat on three chairs placed a foot apart on a stage reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, none of us in the audience knew where we were headed.

The character making the bold claim is Dr. Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne de Boulogne. Duchenne is based on a real 19th century doctor who, by some, is credited with being the father of neurology, and whose life’s work with electroshock therapy, involved inducing emotional response in mental patients. “Inspiration is unreliable,” Duchenne says at another point, which I took to mean he needed to shock his patients into feeling emotion, or at least displaying what a given emotion looks like. And this is what gets us to the “actors” in the title. Actors train to develop techniques for generating emotions that a character—Hamlet, for example—might be feeling. But which set of emotions is “real”?

Lunatics & Actors is the brainchild of David Bridel, Dean of USC’s MFA program in Acting and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Bridel approached Aluma, four years ago with Duchenne’s story. “I have an idea that would serve your company,” Bridel remembers saying, “ But it will take you down a darker and more mysterious path than you’re used to.” Aluma was all in, as was his skilled company, Four Clowns, which is based in LA. A seven-year-old troupe of clowns, most members met while training at Bridel’s Clown School. The group developed the material, which grew into a workshop. This production, four years later at the Shakespeare Center, is the show’s World Premiere. Prior to this production, Bridel and Aluma have enjoyed great success with the award-winning shows, Abraham & Isaac, Noah & Jonah and Sublimity, all of which have been performed throughout the United States and internationally.

lunaticsCreating the show was a three-phase process. The first consisted of a series of games and exercises based on prompts and works of Shakespeare, going bigger and smaller with the emotional range. Because everyone trained with Bridel, the team spoke a common language. The second phase was Bridel going off on his own and committing some of what had occurred in the “game” phase to text. The third phase, Aluma says, “came straight from David’s brain.” Once they had a text to work from, Four Clowns, along with Bridel and Aluma, as co-directors, spent another five weeks honing and shaping the work. During this period, questions were asked of the entire team—designers, board members, etc.–Where were you interested? Where did you drop out? Aluma says the opinions at this stage were vital. After the initial workshop, the writing changed about 10%, the design and production changed about 75%, and the acting and directing changed about 50%; getting Four Clowns to what’s now on stage at the Shakespeare Center.

Aluma is among a growing group of younger white male theatre creatives, both aware and doing something about the lack of gender and ethnic parity in theatre. Though Lunatics… is based on true events, involving a male doctor and mostly male subjects, a female actor and original Four Clowns member, Alexis Jones, plays the only female character, Fifi. Other members of the cast are Tyler Bremer (Bon-Bon), Andrew Eldredge (Pepe) and Thaddeus Shafer (Dr. Duchenne). The behind the scenes team is predominantly female, and racially diverse as well. Production Stage manager is Ashley Jo Navarro; Set Designer Fred Kinney; Lighting Designer Azra King­Abadi; Costume Designer Elena Flores; Sound Designer Kate Fechtig; Propsmaster Niki Mercs; and Technical Director Matt MacCready.

After Lunatics & Actors, Four Clowns, may be on brief hiatus as Aluma heads off to DePaul for his MFA. “A temporary swansong,” Bridel suggests, as the two practitioners look ahead to new and divergent possibilities in the coming months. Aluma also feels they will work together again. “You go through so many ideas together, you bond with each other, and that connection will remain,”

There are only three more performance left of this incredible piece of theatre—May 26, 27, 28—and I recommend you get there. The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles is located at 1238 West 1st Street, Los Angeles. TICKETS are $12-15 at Parking can be challenging so allow time to find a spot. Doors open at 7:30 and wine/beer/snacks are available.

Lunatics & Actors is a fascinating—and ultimately moving—consideration of what it is to be human—what we feel, how we feel, and what emotions look like when we’re feeling them. In 2016, when so many self-medicate to stop feeling anything, this show reminds us how much we need to.

Anna Nicholas is a playwright and novelist


The Josephine


Seeing Shuffle Along got Muff Julie thinking about Josephine Baker, that fabulous entertainer who was the toast of Paris in the 1920s. Julie wondered what cocktails Josephine might have preferred to drink at all those nightclubs she frequented.  And since Julie is a professional chef, she had no trouble coming up with a cocktail that might have suited Josephine perfectly. It even has absinthe!

Allow yourself to be taken back. Here is Julie’s jazzy riff on The Metropolitan .



2 oz. Remy Martin VSOP

1 oz. sweet vermouth

1 tsp. yellow Chartreuse

2 dashes Angostura or Orange Bitters

1/4 oz absinthe


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except the garnishes and stir. Strain into a brandy snifter.

Garnish with  the following: 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 raspberry, 1 strip of orange peel.




Olivia’s “Uh-Oh, I Drank Too Many”

UH OH cocktailThere are some cocktails that go down a little too easy. If you like bourbon, this is one such drink. Olivia Caceres, a Muff-in-waiting, thought it tasted like an unusual, yet quite delicious, kind of lemonade and she just couldn’t resist. Uh-oh, Olivia!

The key here is to use Meyer lemons, not the ordinary grocery variety (though they’re acceptable in a pinch) and, in advance, to whip up something completely misnamed called “shrub,” which wouldn’t grow in the finest of greenhouses.*


1 ½ oz. Bourbon

¾ oz. Fresh lemon juice

½ oz. Strawberry-Meyer lemon shrub

½ oz. Ginger syrup (1:1 fresh ginger juice and sugar)

1 dash Angostura bitters.


Shaker, strainer, fine strainer, gorgeous glasses (coupe, martini, whiskey sour)

 The shrub:

Combine 1 cup of granulated sugar, the juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon and ½ cup of hulled, chopped strawberries in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and let cool. Strain, measure the liquid and add an equal measure of cider vinegar. Bottle and keep refrigerated for up to 10 days.

* I looked up why this concoction is called shrub and seems to be a bastardization of the Arabic word “sharab” which means “to drink.” We use it to refer to a mixture of two related but acid-based beverages. If you don’t want to whip up a batch yourself, you can buy a bottle version of shrub from—imagine–Shrub & Co.

Mauritzio’s Monster-Mash Martinez

martinezFor my age, I know surprisingly little about cocktail origins. So when I went to the Aviary in Chicago recently, not only did I get to try a cocktail called The Martinez, I also got an earful about its origins. Apparently, it’s some “missing link” between a Manhattan (Daddy’s drink) and the Martini (Mom’s). “I’ll try it,” I said gleefully, thinking if it’s a mash up of Mom and Dad, it sounded like me. “Mauritzio” told me there’s some disagreement about how to make the thing (there’s also some controversy about earliest appearance; some say it’s as old as 1884, others say 1920s) but that the Aviary’s was superb. Fine I thought. I’m a mishmash people might find hard to come up with a recipe for too. And I don’t go around advertising my birth year either.

Without further ado, here’s Mauritzio’s Monster-Mash Martinez

2 oz. Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin
1 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
1/8 oz Maraschino liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters
5 drops Orange bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice, and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Imbibe with vigor.



Patty’s Perfectly Packing-Heat Party Punch

cocktail punch-1-1Muff wannabe Patty likes to throw parties but can’t afford an on-staff mixologist. She puts out the wine bottles, the tub of bottled beer and soda and lets the guests fend for themselves. But she likes to offer a hard liquor option to those still celebrating the end of Prohibition, which frankly, is all of us. Here’s her Southwestern style party punch, one-bowl wonder for a crowd. She makes gallons of the stuff, taking healthy samplings every so often as she mixes, and stores it in the fridge for later replenishment of her closed-top punch dispenser.

It’s any party host’s liquid liberator and inhibition annihilator.


First make your oleo-saccharum (no, not a back problem; OS is the way good bartenders get the most out of citrus). You’ll need:

Peel of 1 whole pomelo

Peel of half a grapefruit

2 oz. Palm sugar

2 oz. Panela (aka jiggery)

In a punch bowl, muddle the peels and sugars together to draw the oils from the peels and let sit for an hour. Then add:

8 oz. Stool blanco

8 oz. Palo Cortado sherry

4 oz. Reposado tequila

4 oz. Mandarine Napoleon liqueur

12 oz. Sparkling wine, chilled

The chilled juice of 3 pomelos and 1 lemon

4 cups of cold water

1 cup of ice

Before serving remove peels (unless you like the way they look). You could also garnish with fresh fruit slice. Note: Some of the ingredients can be hard to find but Patty fools around with various similar fruits and liquors and the stuff will still have your guests toasting your mixology skills.



Fading Frannie’s Midnight Reviver

scary cocktail -edited (1)The Muffs are all over thirty, many with kids, so when Frannie got asked to a post-Grammy party for #AndraDay that didn’t start ’til 10:30 p.m., she knew she’d need help rallying so as not to snooze through the whole thing. Fortunately, there was an open bar and all the ingredients for her wake-up punch. And even though Andra’s record #RiseUp didn’t win best R&B record of the year, Frannie had no idea, she was having so much fun.

Directions:                                                                                                                          Chill a coupe glass (or hope your bartender’s done it) and coat (evenly) the inside of the glass with absinthe.


  • 3/4 oz. dry gin
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz. Cocci Americano
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Scant teaspoon absinthe

Shake all but the absinthe with ice, strain into the glass, drink and be revived!

Deidra’s Damn Dram Wham-Bam

LionsTail cocktail editedMy friend Deidra likes vintage everything–vintage clothes, vintage men (not too many of them in LA, sadly) and vintage cocktails. She also likes to experiment and go off the recipe reservation when it comes to vintage cocktail recipes. Maybe she thinks if she dresses and drinks the classics, she’ll attract Cary Grant.

In any event, here’s her Damn Dram Wham-Bam and it packs a wallop. No wonder the Muffs like it.

2 oz. Bourbon

3/4 oz. allspice dram

1/2 tsp. gomme syrup (or more to taste)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pour or sprinkle all this into a shaker with ice and shake it, baby. Then strain into a cocktail glass. Decorate the rim with crystal sugar or an orange slice and mmmmm wham-bam. 



A very pretty drink that goes down smooth AND packs a wallop– Your skirt will be over your head in no time! Muff Michelle served it at the annual Steal-the-Gift party and we all left with the wrong present!
To Start:
Bring 1/3 cup of pure Maple syrup and 1/3 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan along with 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and a pinch of grated nutmeg.

Let cool. Discard cinnamon and cloves.

To the cooled liquid, add:
2 1/2 cups of chilled hard apple cider
1 cup chilled dark rum
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 chopped green apple
6 halved orange slices
Serve chilled. Serves 4 unless you’re thirsty. Cheers!

Michelle Joyner is a founding member of The Muffia. She is also a Los Angeles based Actor, Writer, Director and Mom of Teenage Twins, which means she does a LOT of drinking.