Julia Blauvelt discusses her play “Three,” with a script she and her collaborators Allison Taaffe and Madeline Barr assembled from diverse sources, including Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” The writers and performers present a staged reading of the play about three sisters at the New York Society Library on March 13.
“I was interested in looking at the three daughters of “King Lear.” I was just really into that play a couple years ago for some reason, and that sort of collided with Allison [Taaffe] being really interested in “Three Sisters,” the Chekhov play. And we had coffee one day and talked about how I was interested in these women apart from the rest of the narrative of the play. And she was like, ‘that’s funny because I’m reading “Three Sisters” and I’m really interested in those women.’ And we thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to see them in the same play stripped of the rest of those plays? Then Maddie [Madeline Barr] came on board and brought with her this pop culture streak. We started looking at a bunch of different sources that had three women, specifically three sisters in them. So then it became this big collage frenzy of culling all these different sources.”
“All of these texts, be it present day Beverly Hills, California or 1604 or Russia, all of them have certain similarities within the characters, within the texts, within the struggles, within the way they phrase things. And there are certain consistent archetypes among those sisters. I think that sort of makes each piece timeless in its own right. I never thought I would call the Kardashians timeless, but this has led me to believe that they are. That the existential despair that Kim feels in a breakdown where she’s crying over something that seems sort of trivial is actually similar rhetoric to a breakdown that Masha might have in “Three Sisters.”…And looking at “The Brady Bunch,” we have found some really morbid, existential lines coming out of Cindy’s mouth that sound like they could have been written by Chekhov. Really interesting things in the context of that very light-hearted and spirited ‘70s TV world, when it’s taken away, when it’s taken out of context, they read super dark and heavy.”
“The plot is very simple. We’re just three sisters celebrating the youngest sister’s birthday. But it’s also been a year since our father died, so we’re together for the first time, sort of in remembrance but also to try to have this birthday party, and we’re baking a cake in the oldest sister’s kitchen. So the action of it is fairly straightforward. But the text is, we’ll say a line of Shakespeare, and someone will counter with a “The Brady Bunch” line, and pretty soon it becomes clear that there is conflict among these siblings. They’re undercutting each other, undermining each other, getting at a bigger point of who’s angry, who’s bitter, who’s holding on to something, and how are they going to reshape their lives in the absence of their father. So that’s the deep undertone of this play. And then the aesthetic of it is super breakneck. At times there will be a monologue from Shakespeare but then that will be undercut by a quip from a Kardashian or a snarky line from Marcia Brady.”