Interview:  Playwright Julia Blauvelt and TWO HANDER at NJ Rep

Playwright Julia Blauvelt and TWO HANDER

By: Apr. 16, 2024
Interview:  Playwright Julia Blauvelt and TWO HANDER at NJ Rep
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New Jersey Repertory Company (NJRep) in Long Branch will continue its 27th Season with the world premiere of Two Hander by Julia Blauvelt, directed by the NJ Rep Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas. It will begin performances on April 18, with its opening night on April 20, and run through May 12, 2024.

In the play, therapy first-timer Claire is reluctant to undergo psychotherapy. But after a few sessions with Diana, her unorthodox, sharp-witted therapist, a sort of trust begins to form between the two. But there are obstacles in the room as patient and doctor dig deeper and come to rely on each other in a way that transcends the office. This very fragile trust can easily turn into betrayal.

Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Blauvelt. the playwright of Two Hander, about her career and the upcoming show at NJ Rep. 

Julia Blauvelt an NYC-based playwright and screenwriter.  Her work has been produced at New Normal Rep and received residences at Orchard Project and Athena Writers Lab.  Her plays have been finalists for the WP Theater Playwrights Lab, Neukom Playwriting Award, and the New Voices Award.  She holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch.

 Who was the first person to recognize your talent for writing?  

An incredibly talented playwright turned dear friend, Jack Canfora. I met him by attending a reading of one of his plays, and afterwards he happened to ask me-- almost with some kind of sixth-sense-- "do you write?" And honestly at that point, I wasn't sure. I was dabbling. I had written a play, but I couldn't identify myself as a writer-- it seemed beyond me. Jack changed that. He read that play and many others after, and it was his voice in my head that informed me "you are a writer. And you're good." I think everyone needs that voice in order to put confidence into their work; Jack was that voice for me. 

What piece of advice can you give others who aspire to be writers?  

You have to actually do it, and that's the least glamorous part. The best part is the imagining: imagining the world, the characters, the interactions they might have, the twists and turns, the moments. The more important part is seeing what comes out of your fingers when you sit down to translate all of that. It's okay if you don't enjoy it, but you have to do it.

We'd love to know a little about your experience studying at Tisch.  

Tisch changed my life. I went in with ideas, hunches, theories on how to write and, under the guidance of world-class instructors, I came out with tools, strategies, and a clear-headed approach on how to write. They also never wanted me to sacrifice my voice to fit into a mold, which meant I was never blocking out or muting my instincts to fit into a formula. Instead, I learned to trust those instincts, and then find the best way the formula could serve them. It's an incredible program that values individuality and creativity, and provided me with a tremendous amount of community and support while I evolved as a writer. 

What was the inspiration for your play, Two Hander

I'm endlessly drawn to situations where people have a specific set of social rules to follow. These circumstances lend themselves to character questions that delight me as a writer: what's the language they speak? How do they operate within these boundaries? What happens if they break the rules? So all of that mixed with the very real fact that I've done a lot of therapy, and I basically had to write this play. I did important, life-changing therapy for many years and frequently would think to myself about my therapist in the midst of some profound revelation "but are we friends? She knows more about me than anyone. This has to be friendship, right?" I wrote this play as an exploration of that space, on the off-chance I'm not the only one who's ever felt that way.

How do you like working with the team at NJ Rep? 

It's a dream come true. Everyone I know who has worked with NJ Rep raves about the experience, and I'm honored that I now get to join their ranks. From the very beginning of the process, it was so clear to see that this is a team that cares deeply about art and the people who make it. The first time SuzAnne and I ever talked about the play, she described it exactly the same way I described it to myself, basically word for word. I think it's one of the things that makes her an incredible director, this intuitive approach to text and an understanding of writers and their thought-processes. The cast is what gave me the courage to actually write this play. I wrote these parts for Jill and Ella, and knowing that they would say these lines allowed me to take the risks I did. They've embodied these characters with such vulnerability and skill that I've actually stopped thinking about the text when I'm watching them: I'm simply just watching them live.

Interview:  Playwright Julia Blauvelt and TWO HANDER at NJ Rep
What would you like patrons to know about the show?  

If the title reminds you that you're watching a play, that's a good thing. That's part of it. For me, this isn't just a recognition of therapy, it's a recognition of theater: two spaces where we come to have our stories witnessed. A thesis I had while writing this play was something like "we heal through having our stories witnessed." I want this thesis to not just exist in these onstage sessions but to bleed over into the audience, fill the seats around you, and be a presence in the room. 

Can you share with us any of your plans for the future? 

It seems like another play of mine will have a small run at an NYC theater as part of their programming of new plays later this year or early next year. And, I hope, more collaborations with NJ Rep!

Anything else, absolutely anything you'd like BWW NJ readers to know. 

NJ Rep is a truly special theater with the most dedicated team behind it. They're also a tremendous gift to playwrights; their commitment to new plays opens the door for fresh, meaningful advancements in theater. It's been an incredible process to bring The Two Hander to life here, and to watch this talented group of artists transform this thing which once lived only in my head into a fully-fledged experience on-stage.

Tickets for Two Hander are on sale at NJ or by calling 732.229.3166. NJ Rep is located at 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey, 07740. Two Hander will begin promptly at 7:30 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with additional matinees on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets for all upcoming shows in this year’s season are also available.

Photo Credit: Julia Blauvelt headshot by Jeffrey Hornstein

Photo Credit: Production Photo by Andrea Phox



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