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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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“Two Dollar Bill” Premieres as Thought-Provoking Entertainment

Two+Dollar+Bill+Premieres+as+Thought-Provoking+Entertainment
Alexander I. Weisman

For most people, achieving the American dream can be as rare as finding a two dollar bill. T.J. Brady is one of those fortunate souls who had the passion and courage to chase his dreams and to find success. Brady has turned his love of writing into in an aptly named play, “Two Dollar Bill,” which makes its world premiere Jan. 15 through Jan. 30 at Pioneer Theatre Company.

Brady didn’t initially set out to be a writer. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1996 then went on to serve as an Army officer in a tank battalion. Despite his success in the military, Brady decided to pursue his dream of writing professionally. After seven years of fine-tuning his craft, he finally broke through from a starving artist to a gainfully employed writer when he was hired to write for the Fox television series, “Lie to Me,” and most recently as a writer for the Netflix original series “Narcos.”

Amid his television successes, Brady often found himself in the company of playwrights and began to explore the world of theater.

“I really found I had the same passion for writing for the stage as I did for the screen,” said Brady. “In television you get notes from the writing room, the studio, the network and most of the time they aren’t suggestions, which kind of handcuffs you creatively. With theatre I found that I’m changing and revising just as much but it’s things I want to change as opposed to what others want changed.”

Brady initially shopped “Two Dollar Bill” to numerous theatre companies in Los Angeles, but found that many of them weren’t receptive to outsider work. His hard work and diligence received a lucky break outside a jump castle at a children’s birthday party when he bumped into Matt August, who directs the play, and asked him for advice on how to help his play see the light of day. August did more than just give advice; he used his connections at PTC to get Brady’s play to the big stage.

“It was one of the luckiest breaks I have ever had in my life,” said Brady. “I had seen him before dropping his kids off at school but I had never really spoken to him until that day.”

“Two Dollar Bill” tells the story of Bill Dudley, a distinguished professor of history at an elite university, who has been nominated for a prestigious award. The award puts a spotlight on his academic credentials and inadvertently uncovers several inconsistencies. This leads to an uproar that has career-changing consequences for the professor, the dean of faculty, his graduate assistant and a student he teaches.

“It’s exciting building something from scratch and bringing the playwright’s vision to life for the first time and being a part of that collaboration,” said Lesley Fera, who plays the part of Jessica McGovern. “T.J. is so wonderful on this production. He is just so open to collaboration and finding the voice of each character.”

Fera plays the dean of faculty whose stellar academic career is thrown unfairly into scrutiny, despite the fact she has nothing to do with inconsistencies on Professor Dudley’s résumé.

“We want to show every angle of the argument of whether someone should completely go down because of one mistake and is that worthy of destroying a career,” said Fera. “I love what T.J. said, that he wants there to be a discussion after the play, he will be happy if everyone goes home and discusses this and takes different sides.”

Brady wrote “Two Dollar Bill” with the idea that those who see his play will not only be entertained by the intellectual debate unfolding on the stage, but also question their own morals and ask themselves how they would handle a similar situation.

“I hope this leads to questions among students about why they are in college and what they hope to take from it. Are they there to get a piece of paper and a pat on the back or are they there to learn something?” said Brady. “To me all great plays are really an argument and I hope students have that argument. I think it’s a great play for students to come see because it will spawn discussions among them.”

Tickets for “Two Dollar Bill” are on sale online at www.pioneertheatre.org and at the PTC box office. U students can get tickets for as little as $5 during “Student Rush” which begins an hour before any performance.

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