Our focus in our education programs isn’t in creating an artist out of every child that takes a class with us or participates in our residencies or contests, it’s simply to instill in each person the tools of creativity – the ability to think critically, to synthesize original solutions, and to participate in and appreciate the process of creation and distillation that all good ideas go through in their life cycle.

Some of our students, however, are born with that artist’s spark in them and they go on to do wonderful things in the arts – Julie Ann Earls is a perfect example of that.  I went to see Puffs, Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic last week and got to hang out with Julie Ann afterwards.  Here’s a few questions she answered for us!

WTNJ:  Like most of us in the theatre, you’re a multi-hyphenate – actor, singer, voice-over artist, etc.  What are some of the projects you’re currently working on?  And feel free to plug anything you want people to go see!

JAE:  The main thing I’m working on is Puffs, Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. So I will plug that! It’s all seven years of a certain magical school in 90ish minutes through the eyes of the Puffs. I PROMISE you it’s a good time and I don’t say that lightly. Check out puffstheplay.com for more info (P.S. I also run the show’s Snapchat … @puffstheplay !) During the week, I am auditioning, mainly for commercials/print right now, and sometimes I am involved in short films or student films. I also try to take a voice lesson once a week to keep up my singing. But that’s about it right now – just general hustlin’!

WTNJ:  Let’s talk about Puffs, since I just got to see it last week and fell in love with the manic, ten-jokes-a-minute pace and the warm gooey heart beneath all the fun.  How’d you get involved with the show and what’s your favorite thing about it?

JAE:  I got involved in the show through Matt Cox who wrote it. We did this beautiful, epic and crazy show together called The Mysteries at The Flea directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. It was a 5.5 hour show with a cast of 50+…Yup. Matt and I had stayed friends once the show closed and I became a big fan of him and his work. He wrote this play called Kapow-i GoGo at The Flea for #serials which then later moved to the PIT and it was a truly delightful piece. It was duct tape swords and cardboard fireballs and 100% theater magic. I remember seeing it and thinking “Man! I hope Matt invites me to work on one of his pieces one day!” One day came and he invited me to do a reading of another play he was working on called Puffs. I read for Megan Jones and I’ve been attached to the piece ever since. It’s been about 2 years now since that first reading.
My favorite thing about Puffs is honestly the cast. It’s a joy to tell this story with them every night and I think our joy is tangible from the audience.

WTNJ:  You’ve spoken before about how your background (being born to an Irish-American father and Filipino mother) have influenced your life.  Have you seen that influence carry over into your work, and if so, how?

JAE:  Absolutely. I grew up in an environment of two very different cultures and each culture saw the world in a very different way — what it means to be an American, what it means to be an immigrant, food, respect, what a party is, hard work, how conflict is handled, fears, dreams, love, loyalty, prejudice, etc. – just to name a few. I became a bit of a melting pot between the two cultures as a result, but I think the experience also widened my lens as an actor. Ultimately, I think my task is to understand how a character sees the world and to portray that in service of the bigger story. My upbringing has given me a starting place to so many kinds of stories and worlds.

WTNJ:  Something many people might not know about you is that you’ve actually had a relationship with Writers Theatre that started years ago, when it was still Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey.  You were a New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival winner in 2007 with a play you wrote called The Moodring Monologues and you wrote a response piece (available here: https://www.wtnj.org/reflection-from-julie-ann-earls/  ) that our Director of Education, Jim DeVivo, quotes in his Ph.D. thesis.  Blast from the past, huh?  Do you remember the experience?  What did you learn from the NJYPF process?

JAE:  WOW. That really was a blast from the past! I do remember the experience, but I’m so glad that 18 year old me was an “organized dork” and wrote that. I have a really bad memory, so I love looking back on old writings and diary entries and experiencing all those little details again – totally didn’t remember the violin case part! The main thing I see in my mind is the rehearsal room and the actual performance. I remember little me sitting in the rehearsal room and instead of being the intern or reading stage directions, everyone in the room was there to bring MY words to life. It was absolutely thrilling and empowering as a young artist. I also remember the actual performance and definitely feeling nervous about what my peers would think (a feeling I’m sure playwrights and artists of every age still feel) but in the end feeling pleased with it all. The NJYPF process taught me the power of the writer. They really are the spark that sets everything else on fire.

WTNJ:  As your own star is rising, what advice would you give to other artists out there trying to make their own way in the business?

JAE:  I took an acting class with Ted Sluberski and he said something that really stayed with me. We were talking about the auditioning process and he said something along the lines of “you just have to go into the room, throw your [stuff] on the floor, and LEAVE.” When I was first starting out, I would go into the room and try to analyze what I needed to be, what they wanted, and search for approval. Now, I “throw my [stuff] on the floor and leave” – I come in and show what I have to offer, how I would do the role, who I am, and then I leave, or, in other words, let it go. I think less “rejection” and more “selection”. And I think this kind of thinking is helpful to any kind of artist. Go into the room and stand proudly behind your words, your vision, your design, whatever it may be. This is not to say that you become arrogant and unchangeable, but I think you have to bring something to the table so a collaboration can start.