Momus Insights: Julia Stier on PLAYWRIGHTING

What made you decide to be a playwright?

In college, I was the literary manager for a student theatre group called Brand New Theatre.

Every fall, we put on a one-act play festival, and produced between 4-6 shows. As literary

manager, it was my job to read all of the submissions, provide feedback to the writers, and to

determine – with the other members on the board – which plays we were going to produce.

Reading so many plays, I started to get a feel for the format. By my senior year, I knew I wanted

to try my hand at writing one. I wrote my first one-act play Last Night in Town, about two

friends, the flighty Tatiana and homebody Sirine, who reflect on their differing lifestyles, and

what it means to be fulfilled. The story was inspired my own conflicted feelings about what I

want out of life – stability or adventure. Last Night in Town was selected to be produced by Brand New Theatre, and it was the first time I ever got to see words I had written performed on stage. Seeing what the actresses and director were able to do with my text was exhilarating. After I graduated, I submitted the play to the Manhattan Repertory Theatre. It was selected to be a part of their summer short play festival, and in July 2018, Last Night in Town had its Off-off Broadway premiere in New York City. I played the role of Sirine, and Sarah Hahm (who originated the role of Tatiana) reprised her role and also served as the show’s director. It was a life-changing experience, and I realized that playwriting was something I wanted to continue. Do you have a method for how you start writing? For some reason, I find it so much easier to start with pen and paper. I usually handwrite out an

entire draft before I sit down at a computer. I find I’m to get into a flow that way. It helps me just

get the story and the details out, and prevents me from over-editing as I go.


Tell us about your most recent project?

In April, the theatre company It’s Personal did a Zoom reading of my latest ten-minute play, Better as Us. Francesca O’Hern and Garrett Botts played Rebecca and Josh – two lifelong friends whose friendship is tested when one of them makes an ill-timed confession.

It is always such a privilege to work with actors who just get it. When I see actors pick up one of

my scripts and immediately understand who the characters are, then I know I’ve done something

right (and that I’ve picked incredible actors!).


How would you describe your style?

I like to mix a lot of fact with fiction. I typically start from a place of truth – a debate with myself

that I am trying to work out, or a story from my own life. Then, as the story or conflict develops,

I stray more from my own reality, and let the lives of the characters take over.

How do you deal with writer's block?

Whenever I’m stuck, I give myself a prompt in the form of a question. For example, my

“prompt” for Last Night in Town was “which is the better way to live?” These kind of prompts

give my characters a problem to work out, and giving each person a clear point of view helps me

figure out who they are, how they think, and what makes them tick.


What are you working on next?

Currently, I am working on creating plays that are meant to be

performed via Zoom. In these

changing times, I am trying to embrace the unique challenges that the theatre world is facing, and

seeing how I can use these obstacles to enhance my storytelling.


What advice would you give to a playwright starting out? 

Get your work up on its feet. It can be scary to put your writing out there, but you truly learn so

much from seeing/hearing your story performed. Get a group of friends together to read your

script out loud, submit to play festivals, or even self-produce a production or reading of your

piece! Knowing when to let go, and to trust your work to stand on its own, is all a part of the

process!


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