PlayPen Writer Profile: Julie Grady Thomas

Julie Grady Thomas performing her debut stand-up comedy as part of Crash Test Dymis the new Aberystwyth performance scratch night.

Julie Grady Thomas performing her debut stand-up comedy as part of Crash Test Dymis the new Aberystwyth performance scratch night.

Julie Grady Thomas’s previous writing experience is in journalism and screenwriting. She joined the Writing for Performance Group in the summer of 2012 and wrote for theatre for the first time for Town with No Traffic Wardens. Her short play Cookhouse is her second play. Julie also made her debut stand-up comedy performance as part of the new scratch night Crash Night Dymis in November 2012. She was studying for an MA in Screenwriting at Aberystwyth University but her studies are currently on hold after she found the fictional story she had created for PlayPen turning into fact. Whilst her play is performed on Thursday 7th February she will be in the US awaiting news of a student visa that will allow her to return to her home, her studies, her husband and her dog.

Tell me what your play, Cookhouse, is about?
My play is a snapshot of what deportation really looks like in modern Britain.

Tell me how you got the idea?
Being an immigrant myself, I was quite inspired by the shift in UK immigration regulation this past summer, which is in direct violation of the European convention on human rights.

How close to fact is the play?
Oddly enough, it wasn’t close when I started writing. Of course, I am American and my husband is British, but no, we didn’t have immigration issues at that time, nor are we that we that pithy.

Julie Grady Thomas and her husband Patrick at Newcastle Airport ahead of her flight back to the US

Julie Grady Thomas and her husband Patrick at Newcastle Airport ahead of her flight back to the US

How did you feel when you found out that the fiction in your play had turned into fact and you had to leave the country?
I thought I had a superpower. I thought if what I wrote could come true, then why am I writing about immigration? I should be writing about winning an Oscar or the lottery for that matter. But, in all seriousness, the fiction in my play is fact for a lot of other people, which is hugely unfair and that’s beyond an understatement. Presently, I’m writing to you from an airport because I’m on my way back to America. Luckily for me, I’m a current student, so I should be able to apply for a student visa when I get home. That way I can continue my studies at Aberystwyth University and be with my husband (and my dog) in the house that we own. That’s the funny thing; the UK doesn’t care that we own a home or that we aren’t on benefits or that we live in a place where most salaries aren’t above the requirement. They don’t even care how much money I make. It’s all up to my husband, my keeper. We’ve dodged the proverbial bullet for now, but in nine months I could very well be back on a plane without him again.

How do you feel about the changing immigration regulations?
Immigration regulations change constantly. I cannot overstate that enough. However, I am not a number or a statistic. I am a person and my life is very real. What people tend to forget is that immigrants aren’t a faceless mass. We are individuals. When these regulations change, when the higher-ups create policy without thought, it affects lives—actual human lives. Was I given bad advice? You betcha. I could have gone to the US during the break, had Christmas with my family and not missed a single class. I’ll be starting this semester at a major loss, but I do hope to keep writing and keep in touch with my professors and the department whilst I’m away. They have been nothing if not supportive. But I’m lucky. I’m young. I have no children. I’m from a Western nation. There are people who are going back to hostile environments, to poverty, to oppression. And I can assure you, these people, these immigrants, they don’t want to live off off anyone, they just want to live.

What other things are you working on writing wise at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on an independent feature, Broken Boys. It’s coming-of-age film that follows the unlikely coupling of two gay teens, an estate kid and a brilliant student. It’s all about first love and what a gorgeous mess it can be; the raw power it has over us, the hurt it can create, the cuts, the scars, the beauty.

Julie Grady Thomas’s play Cookhouse will be performed on Thursday 7th February at Aberystwyth Arts Centre 7.45PM as part of the PlayPen showcase of 20 minute plays from the Aberystwyth Art Centre’s Writing for Performance Group. Further information on all plays being presented as part of the PlayPen project is here.

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