Julie Rottenberg, a television writer and producer who has made her mark on hit shows including Divorce, Sex and the City, Smash, and Odd Mom Out, returned to Germantown Friends School (GFS), to celebrate the Poley Festival and to talk to students about her career path, early influences, and inspirations.
Rottenberg spoke about how her career came to be what it is today, thanks to hard work and determination, friendships and support, embracing opportunities and experiences, and some luck. Her time at GFS as part of the class of ‘88 had a big impact on her career.
As a student, Rottenberg helped launch the Poley Festival 30 years ago, a week-long drama celebration that helped her discover a passion for screenwriting and taught her the importance of collaboration. Her classes allowed her to act, direct, write, and produce, getting her feet wet in everything needed to project manage an entire show, while in a safe and supportive environment.
Lastly, Rottenberg recalls a defining career moment at GFS, when teacher Anne Gerbner sent one of her student plays to a competition; Julie won, and received her first title of “award-winning playwright.” This recognition gave Julie the confidence to push forward in her dream career.
Rottenberg’s writing is inspired by telling stories from her own life.
“I draw on life, my insane wonderful family, things that bother me and things that make me laugh,” she said.
Rottenberg also finds that collaboration sparks her creativity. In fact, herlong-time writing partner Elisa Zuritsky ’88 also went to GFS.
“Friendship and partnership gets me through the hard parts of the job,” Rottenberg added.
Many students were personally moved and motivated by words from this alumna.
Brenden Dahl ’20, a current drama student who is showcasing a scene from his original play during Poley Fest, said: “I was struck by how much I identified with her journey—we both came to playwriting in very similar ways, by writing in a GFS class, even with the same teacher, and then winning a playwriting competition. Hearing her talk about the highs and lows of her professional journey really inspired me. I realized that if I continued to work at it, this is something I could really achieve.”