FLORENCE, S.C. – What began as an assignment for a Francis Marion University playwriting class has made it to a stage in Columbia.
Julie Brian wrote the play while attending a class taught by FMU professor John Tuttle. Brian is director of the Intensive English Institute, which is housed on the FMU campus and helps foreigners improve their English.
The play, titled “Mavens,” was performed at Trustus Theatre on July 7-8 and 14-15. It was held over and presented again on July 21. The one-act comedy is about four married women in their 50s “conspiring to help save one marriage and spice up the other three,” Brian said.
Brian ended up sitting in on Tuttle’s class by happenstance. Last year, she was helping an IEI student find a class to observe so the student could improve her English skills. Brian stumbled upon the playwriting class. Although the student chose another class to observe, Brian was intrigued by playwriting and Tuttle allowed her to sit in.
Tuttle, who is the literary manager at Trustus, was impressed with Brian’s play.
“It was hilarious,” he said. “It was a play that really moved somewhere and got somewhere.”
Tuttle presented the work to Trustus artistic director Jim Thigpen, who decided to produce it. Tuttle said he presents only one out of every 100 or so scripts he receives to Thigpen, and very few of those are ever produced.
“It is a very selective process,” Tuttle said. “I didn’t get (the play) done. It flew on its own merit.”
But Brian credits Tuttle, whose six full-length and three one-act plays have received more than 40 productions and 20 staged readings around the country.
“Without his encouragement, guidance, patience and teaching, I could not have done this,” she said.
Tuttle disagrees, saying Brian has natural playwriting talent. “I didn’t teach her anything,” he said.
The play was performed during the theater’s “Late Night” series, generally reserved for experimental, locally written plays. Brian had very little input with the production of the play, attending only one rehearsal.
But Brian said she was overjoyed with the way director Becky Hunter and the cast handled her play.
“The things they did were just so inventive and wonderful,” she said. “I’m thrilled!”
Brian is not new to creative writing, having earned a degree in poetry writing from the University of Illinois. “Mavens” is only the second play Brian tried to write and the first one she finished.
“I think I’ve found my medium,” Brian said. “The second I started writing the play, it just seemed natural.”
She said the idea for the story came as a reaction to “man-hating” works such as “The First Wives Club.” Brian said she wanted her characters to portray a different attitude toward men.
“If you make them the king, you’ll be their queen,” she said.
Brian said she plans to continue writing plays, and hopefully, see them produced. “Any time they put on anything I’ve written, anywhere, I’ll be happy,” she said.
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