NEW YORK — Moving to a new home is said to be one of the most stressful events you can endure — up there with death and divorce — but Julia Stiles has just done it and looks radiant.
The Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-nominee sat down before rehearsals of her new play only hours after moving from her longtime three-bedroom apartment on 15th Street to a new one-bedroom East Village space.
"I feel great about it. Downsizing. Simplifying. I gave away lots of stuff. It feels like shedding your skin," she says. "It was time for a change."
Gone were books she'd already read. Gone was most of her furniture she'd accumulated over a decade. She even donated her piano to a music school. A lot of stuff went out on the street. "I had to be brutal," she says.
Change is not something Stiles is uncomfortable with, having jumped into projects as diverse as William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," to being a serial killer on "Dexter," to her own scripted show on YouTube.
"I'm such a child that I just want to show up and play dress up. I'm not very good at the long term plans," she says. "I've kind of embraced that my work is always in flux."
This summer, the flux has put Stiles at the intimate Cherry Lane Theatre for a production of the one-act dark romantic comedy "Phoenix" by Scott Organ, which the actress calls "really charming and really romantic."
Stiles and co-star James Wirt play one-time lovers who meet several weeks after a one-night-stand to discuss the consequences. "I thought it was refreshing that it's not cynical," she says.
Stiles, 33, had been looking for a play that she and director Jennifer DeLia could work on together. They wanted something small and something downtown — where the actress began her career with the tiny Ridge Theater company.
"For me, it makes sense because it's getting back to my roots and also why I wanted to be an actress in the first place," Stiles says. "At its core, it's very simply what I find delightful."
Rising star Wirt, who was a fan of Stiles from "Dexter," soon rented "10 Things I Hate About You" to learn more about his co-star. He says her love of acting is clear in her decision to pick a 180-seat theater to showcase a new playwright.
"You see it just to do this play. This little play, in the summer, in the West Village, for the love of the game," says Wirt, who also stars in DeLia's film "Billy Bates." ''That's what it is: For the love of the game. Period. That's a joy to be around."
Stiles' credits also include being in the "Bourne" franchise with Matt Damon, David Mamet's play "Oleanna" in the West End and Broadway and the films "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Mona Lisa Smile."
More recently, Stiles has been among the first A-list actresses to embrace online storytelling, starring in the hit WIGS web series "Blue" as a mother juggling raising her son with being a high-end escort, and writing and directing "Paloma," another WIGS series which stars Grace Gummer navigating modern life. Both are available on YouTube and Hulu.
"Years ago, it seemed like the content wouldn't be as sophisticated as a proper TV show or proper movie, but I could feel that was changing," said Stiles. "I feel like my decision to do that without being able to predict the future was rewarded because it was for the right reason."
On the horizon is a movie directed by DeLia about silent film star Mary Pickford in which Wirt will play Charlie Chaplin and Stiles will star as Frances Marion, one of the top screenwriters during the early 20th Century.
"My work is a little bit of a hodgepodge," says Stiles. "My career has been this conglomerate of all these different mediums. I'm believing more and more in that expression, 'You don't pick the part. The part picks you.'"
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits