The Oxford Film Festival and Theatre Oxford presented a reading of “Our Josephine” at the Oxford Lafayette County Library. Screenplay director Rebecca Jernigan adapted the screenplay from Kat and Margaret King’s memoir of the same name. The twins read as themselves during the event.
The screenplay follows the story from the writers’ childhoods when they visited their Grandmother Dornbusch for a week at her home in Vicksburg in 1957. During this trip, they meet Josephine Harris, a sixteen-year-old African American girl who works for Dornbusch.
The three girls become fast friends, and the twins — who did not understand why Josephine could not do things they could — learn about the darker parts of society.
The screenplay was written and performed as if the twins, long grown up, are reminiscing on old times and all the mischievous activities they had done with Josephine. Kat and Margaret had not seen Harris since that week and decided to start searching for her.
“Since we had already written one story about her, we started going through that whole week and thinking of the things we had done,” Margaret said. “We said, ‘Let’s just write a book and call it ‘Our Josephine,’’ because that was the last thing we had said to her. ‘Will you always be our Josephine?’ We wanted to honor her.”
The twins were inspired to write down their adventures after she had appeared in one of their previous books.
“We didn’t know if (Harris) was alive or dead, and that’s when we started searching for her,” Kat said. “We found that she was alive and told her that we were writing a story. We wanted to know if she remembered it the same way we did, and she read every chapter to make sure we got it right.”
Harris came to Oxford in 2014 for the release of the book at Square Books, and the twins continued to stay in touch with her. Though Harris could not attend the reading in person, it was filmed for her to view.
Jernigan, longtime friend of the King sisters, decided to adapt the story into a screenplay.
“Kat and Margaret are my good friends, and actually we were just talking,” said Jernigan. “I’m not sure how we decided we would do it. Somewhere along the line, they asked me about it, and I was delighted to get into it.”
Kat and Margaret were amazed at seeing their memories come back to life on stage.
“We read through it and said that we just loved it, but we didn’t know where to go with it. She came to us and said, ‘Let’s just put it in as a read-through on stage, and we were thrilled,” said Margaret.
Kat said she felt very strongly about what the story could teach others.
“I think the moral of the story is do unto others, be kind and, regardless of somebody’s skin color, respect who they are and get to know them,” Kat said. “You will love the person that is behind the skin.”
The Oxford Film Festival begins March 18th.