Juniper and Jules is at Soho Theatre in London through May 14. Playwright Stephanie Martin is excited to bring this play back to the stage, following a successful 2019 run at the VAULT Festival. Directed by Bethany Pitts, Stella Taylor and Gabriella Schmidt reprise their roles as Juniper and Jules in this romantic comedy about relationships, love, and queer identities.
Martin’s credits include Joy (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Alkaline (Park Theatre), and Passion Fruit (New Diorama) with Dior Clarke. She spoke with me on Zoom about returning to the theatre and writing her first feature film with the BFI.
On Writing Plays
What’s an essential skill you picked up in drama school that you’re using now?
A general understanding for how theatre works. Having spent a lot of time with actors, I understand [that] a lot of the time if an actor doesn’t want to say a line, it’s probably because it’s not very good. Maybe it needs to be rewritten.
What do you love about the writing process?
It’s nice when you get to be you in your own little world and you completely zone out. It’s you and the words on the page. You’re sketching the idea and thinking about characters and plot.
On Mounting a Juniper and Jules Revival
How are you feeling about this revival?
There have been a lot of interesting conversations with gender about nonbinary and trans identities. That’s something that we didn’t really have in a mainstream conversation four years ago. A two-year break has only made us more excited to get back to work.
What was challenging about constructing Juniper and Jules?
The main thing we’ve noticed is that it’s difficult to have positive, joyful queer representation and also maintain the conflict that is necessary for drama. It’s an interesting balancing act. How much can we live in the joy without it being boring? You can’t just have two nice people being nice to each other.
What are your expectations when you bring a script to stage with a director?
When you create words on a page, you have no idea what the style is going to be. Creating a world is such a two-way street with a director. What that looks like, you don’t know until you’ve made it together [with] the atmosphere and the feeling, as well as the life of the characters.
Moving to New Projects
How should contemporary theatre keep evolving?
I think it should be a focus on enjoyment. For so long, we’ve accepted that culture has to be hard work. At school, we read these classical novels which are dense and challenging. We go to the theatre, where it’s four hours of Shakespeare and hard work. I think more and more, we want to have a good time. We want to go to the theatre in the way that we look forward to watching easy-to-digest rom-coms. We don’t want theatre to be always high art.
What’s a big adjustment for you when it comes to writing for film?
Learning how to go from dialogue-heavy to picture-heavy has been very interesting. I have a background in theatre and I haven’t trained in film. I’ve been studying film and things that I love on TV streaming and going, “Okay, that’s how that works.”
For more information, visit the Soho Theatre website.