When Julia Murney takes the stage in Falling at the Minetta Lane Theatre, her face isn't Elphaba green, she's not wearing John Lennon's famous New York City t-shirt, nor is she raising the roof with her unparalleled belt. Rather, she looks stressed, drained, and focused on getting her adult autistic son out the door in time for the school bus. As Tami, Murney plays a woman whose main goal is to maintain a level of consistency for her son's specific needs, but as the veneer begins to crack, we see her come dangerously close to unraveling. It's a role that's physically and emotionally demanding, and Murney, along with her castmates, sustains this high level of intensity for the show's entire 75-minute runtime. In real life, however, the actress (veteran of Broadway's Wicked, Lennon) is wickedly funny, self-deprecating, and refreshingly unfiltered.
What's it like to play Tami six days a week?
Emotionally it's tough. After every show, people say to me, ‘How do you do that?' And the thing I always think of is that the author of our play has an 18–year-old severely autistic son. Knowing her, and [after] her sharing her story with us, my answer is always, 'I only have to do it for 75 minutes. She's done it for 18 years. So, I can figure out.' Yes, it's emotional, and yes there are certain things that sometimes trip me off in ways they don't on other evenings. But I get to get it all out [on stage]. Nothing's left unexpressed. And [the play] is short. I'm not gonna lie, that's nice for any number of reasons. If there were an intermission, that would be weird. The thought of coming upstairs to our dressing room and going on Scramble with Friends, or something silly, and then having to get back into the mind of the [show] is odd. I'm very glad we don't do that.
With your musical theater–heavy background, was there a stigma attached to you during the audition process?
Here's perfect crazy actor brain. I thought, ‘I really like this play.' I auditioned. Then I got a call back and I was like, ‘Ooooh, wait. Now I kind of want the play. I want to be in the play!' And I got a call back—they asked me to come back a few hours later the same day. I did that, and then was sort of salivating. [But] as soon as I found out I booked it, my brain went, ‘That play wasn't very good, was it? Oh, it was probably bad.' Simply because they had asked me to do it. Which is so pathetic and yet true!
Our director and our writer are not from New York, and have never done anything in New York. So when I walked into the room, there was no preconceived label on me. I was just another actor lady walking in. And so that thing of, ‘Well, she does musicals'--which, frankly is tacked on to a lot of us musical people--wasn't there.
And I paid them.
Well, no, because it's off-Broadway.
What feedback from audience has stayed with you?
The other night was a two show day, and right before the evening show someone brought up these beautiful Christmas globes that had been made and left at the box office. My first reaction was, ‘Don't eat the fan food!' Which, I'm sorry everybody, is something you tend to be careful of, because you don't know where it came from; you don't know what the what it is. But the note that came with it was from a couple who were coming to see the show that evening. I was reading it aloud to everyone, so I hadn't pre-read it, and all of a sudden they said, ‘We lost our son at 21 of a brain aneurism.' And the whole play, all I could think of was them. It was overwhelming….in a bolder sense, that's what doing theater is. This is our special skill, to allow someone to walk in for two hours and release something, either through happy tap dancing or emotional whatever. [It's] cool, to be reminded of that.
What do you sort of see yourself doing after this show? What is your dream?
What is my dream to do next? I just said to somebody last night, ‘I would like to do something funny.' I would love to do, if I'm going to throw it way out there, do something funny on television. I want to do whatever the next 30 Rock is. In a perfect world, it films in New York.
Usually I'm in those kinds of shows where, because my face is very boney and serious, it's sort of more like, ‘I have sad eyes. I'm gonna sing sad songs.'
In order to prepare for this interview, I pumped some of your friends for info. One of them told me to ask you about your voiceover work, specifically the ones for the Spice Channel--
--Well then, you've never seen me in concert.
This is on Youtube, me telling this story.
Make sure to also add that it is not appropriate for young children or work. [Ed: Official Warning: this link is NSFW or NSFYC]
For a number of weeks I did promos for the pay-by-the-hour version of the Spice channel, which is porn. And pay-by-the-hour is everything. You can show everything. I had just bought my apartment. I didn't have a television. I needed things, so I took these jobs for Spice. The tag of the one voice channel I remember is, ‘Welcome to the month of C**ktober on Spice.' When October comes around every year I get, "Ohmygod, Happy C**ktober!' I've milked the porn cow, if you will.
Heidi Blickenstaff told me to ask about your pancake breakfast--
This tradition might be [going on] 24 years now. On New Year's Day I have a pancake breakfast. It's a lot of the show folk, and a fun, nice way to start the year. It's sort of, like, one inch shy of a red carpet. But no pictures—that's never going to happen. It's very low-key and people are in their pajamas or jeans. I turn around and see all of these people I like in one place. Sometimes there are people who have issues with each other and I'm always like, ‘You know what? Everybody figure it out!' I don't want drama. I just want carbs. And bacon. If the drama is saved for January 2nd, knock yourselves out. But on January 1st, please, can't we all just get along? Over butter?