“The Ones Upstairs” to Debut at TNC’s Dream Up Festival
By Lauren Johnson
Have you ever found yourself talking to the dead? Perhaps you’ve had a made-up conversation in your head, where you play the part of both yourself and the deceased. Or maybe you frequently ask yourself “I wonder what my grandfather would say about this if he were alive to see it?” I’m not superstitious, but every so often I find myself looking for signs of the invisible in my every day life – and I suspect many others do as well.
Enter “The Ones Upstairs,” an original play in one act written and produced by 27-year-old Jillian Stevens.
Stevens – an actress, yoga instructor, and native New Yorker – wrote the play five years ago as part of a play series she participated in with some friends. At the time, Stevens only wrote the first two scenes of the play. The idea for the play came to her one day while she was sitting in an Irving Farm Coffee shop with her laptop, writing – and from the moment the inspiration came to her, she knew it was eventually going to turn into something. “I had no idea what it was or where it came from, but I knew it was going to be something [in the future]. You cannot force an idea – it knows when it needs to release itself,” Jillian said in an exclusive interview with Hedonist/Shedonist.
After writing the first two scenes of “The Ones Upstairs,” she put it aside for five years until one day, it spontaneously popped back into her brain. Stevens wrote the rest of the play within a single week.
So what exactly is “The Ones Upstairs” about? “The Ones Upstairs” is a light-hearted dark comedy that explores difficult themes such as death, love, and letting go. The story is about a young 27-year-old named Neil who has terrible luck in love. Little does he know that most of his misfortune is caused by his nosy, officious, overbearing mother, Elaine – who just so happens to be deceased. As luck would have it, Neil’s upstairs neighbor, Millie, can commune with the dead – and works in conjunction with her deceased husband, Fonzie, and Elaine to meddle in Neil’s love life. So much for trying to break an unlucky dating streak!
When I asked her how she came up with the idea, Jillian explained that the topic is one that is very close to her heart, and that the characters are a combination of many different people in her life – including herself and her older brother. It’s also an aggregate of various coffee shop conversations that Jillian has overheard – and pieced together – throughout the last few years. “One of my favorite things to do is to sit and listen to people, in coffee shops – they don’t know that I’m listening to them,” she says with a laugh. “I pay particular attention to people’s stories about dating, the dating world, funny or bad Tinder dates – and I write down their dialogue. I use them as fuel to help me get through it sometimes,” she admits. Part of “The Ones Upstairs” then originated as a cohesive assemblage of some of these narratives. As for the other-worldly element of it? “I’ve always been intrigued by ghosts, and by glimpses of another world, if it is indeed there.”
When I asked Jillian what the most exciting part about seeing her work come to life on stage was, she immediately responded with “Seeing the characters develop and grow in ways that surprise me. The energy of other people turn the project into something I couldn’t have imagined. We have an incredibly talented team of amazing actors, and it’s beautiful to witness – I’m so honored to hear these words come out of their mouths.”
Stevens is also excited for the potential of “The Ones Upstairs” to continue well on beyond the show’s run dates. “If I can leave a small piece of joy behind, or brighten somebody’s day, or inspire them to let go of something that they’ve been holding on to that’s weighing them down, then I will be very, very happy.”
“The Ones Upstairs” debuts on August 28 and runs through September 2nd at the Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue). To purchase tickets, click here!
For the full specs, see below:
WHERE AND WHEN:
August 28 to September 2.
Theater for the New City (Community Theater) 155 1st Avenue.
Presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of Dream Up Festival 2018.
August 28 at 9 PM, August 29 at 6:30 PM, August 30 at 9 PM, September 1 at 2 PM, September 2 at 8 PM
Tickets: $15. Box Office: (212) 254-1109