And now to introduce… Julia Howe

Well, we are in the run up to StageWrite now and we are frantically getting everything organised for the festival next week.  We are very excited and ticket sales seem to be going well…  We are excited to have Ben Haynes working with us this year as an intern from the University of Bedfordshire – but more about him later… I’m getting ahead of myself.  We’re here to talk about Julia – the next up in a series of interviews with our fantastic writers.

It’s great to meet you Julia.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?

julia_hat_small“Up Your Prana” is the first full-length play for theatre I’ve written.  However, I’ve been writing uncommissioned comedy and drama scripts for TV and film since 2002. My debut feature film screenplay, “Life Coach”, a comedy drama about an unsuccessful life coach, was shortlisted at the London Screenwriters’ Festival competition in 2010. My two-minute film script about obsessive love was long-listed in the 2012 London Screenwriters’ Festival “50 Kisses” competition.

And how long have you been writing plays for and what got you started in writing?

Not very long. I wrote “Up Your Prana” in 2013 and the early part of 2014.  I’ve always written in some shape or form ever since I was little. Then I stumbled across scriptwriting in 2002 when I went on a Raindance course and sat there absolutely spellbound. I instinctively felt then that writing for stage and screen were the right channels for my storytelling.

What prompted you to write ‘Up Your Prana’?  

The play started off as a rough idea for a sitcom about the weird and wonderful goings-on in a yoga centre. It began to take shape when I met a comedy performer at my lindy hop dance class who also worked on reception at various yoga centres! After a few months of working together, we parted amicably as we had different visions for the project. I then worked up a collection of character monologues for eight oddball characters all associated with a fictional yoga centre. In October 2013, I started working with a theatre director and performer, Dominique Gerrard. In two months, the collection of monologues evolved into a three-act play called “Up Your Prana”.

My intention with this play has always been to hold up a mirror to the behaviour of people who profess to be spiritual, or if not spiritual, self-aware. But the play is about much more than that: it’s about the masks we all wear to stop the secrets inside us from leaking out. It’s about love, loss and the transformative effect just one humane individual can bring on a group. Which sounds very grand.

Indeed – well we loved it and thought it had some great moments of humour in it.  Tell us a little bit about your process of writing?

It’s long, drawn-out, prone to procrastination, and punctuated by cups of tea! I start by mind-mapping and jotting down notes on the characters: their wants and needs, their journeys. Then I write character biographies and interior monologues.  I’m a firm believer in the benefits of collaboration. Dominique’s staging experience and structural notes were invaluable, as were director and writer John Handscombe’s input on characters.  Any creative project is an evolving thing, and the play was no exception. In Feburary 2014, we held a table read – and the feedback from actors was constructive and useful. There’s no getting away from it: scriptwriting is a collaborative process, and you’re always a rewrite away.

Couldn’t have put it better myself… and I am with you on the procrastination front (said, as I go to make my fourth cup of tea of the day… and I’ll just have one more piece of chocolate cake…).  Well you can see Julia’s piece, Up your Prana on Friday 13th March kicking off at 7.30pm.

Tickets are available online here or from the Central Box Office on 01234 718112. Looking forward to seeing you all there.