Apr 6, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 334: Israela Margalit
Hometown: Born in Haifa, a port town in the north of Israel.
Current Town: I’ve been a New Yorker for quite a few years.
Q: Tell me about your upcoming show with Kef Productions.
A: First Prize is a play about a female pianist in the cutthroat world of classical music, where passion, inspiration, and talent collide with intrigue, ruthlessness, and sexual harassment. She could just as well be a dancer, an actor, a lawyer: a young woman swimming upstream in the turbulent water of career making with all its pain and splendor. Four terrific actors play the larger-than-life characters that inhabit this world: the agents, the conductors, the entrepreneurs, the art patrons, the teachers, the aspiring performers. You don’t need to know anything about music to connect with it. I think lots of people will find a piece of themselves in the play, and hopefully will have a good laugh in the process.
Q: Tell me about your life as a concert pianist. Has that informed your writing?
A: There are similarities in timing, structure, building a climax, choosing your moment. Another similarity is the need for self-criticism and constant editing. There is a huge difference between the first time I’d play a new piece of music, and the time it’s ready to immortalize on a recording. You think it’s good, but is it really? Is it ever? You can say the same about a play. I cut a number of lines in rehearsal today, and that’s after some sixteen previous edits. Writing, like performance, is never quite as perfect as we want it to be. It’s a lifelong work in progress. When all the elements come together, it’s magical.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: Childhood stories are self-serving, aren’t they? When I was eight, I took part in a national writing competition. The winners, of which I was one, were hired as reporters for a year of a children’s magazine called “Our Land.” My first assignment was to cover the visit of the Israeli President to my hometown, Haifa. After my story was published, the editor told me I was not journalistic material, because “You’re a lot more into the atmosphere and the emotion of the event than the gathering of information.”
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: It would be nice to write for twelve characters and still have the chance of being produced. Imagine if Shakespeare had to write his masterpieces for three and a half characters! The economy of the theater is daunting. On the other hand, creating more with less is a welcome creative challenge.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: My heroes are not playwrights but plays. A Long Day’s Journey into Night. Skylight. Time Stands Still. These are perfect plays in their own style.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Evocative, character-driven, unresolved. Plays that continue to occupy my thoughts.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Prepare to throw out your best lines if they don’t serve the character. And don’t show your first draft to anyone who can make or break your career. It’s normally not half as good as we think it is.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: My play TRIO is having a sold out run in Los Angeles, following five years of sold out halls in Moscow and throughout Russia and Ukraine.