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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Aug 26, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 973: Deb Margolin

Deb Margolin

Hometown: Mamaroneck, New York

Current Town: Montvale, New Jersey, don't tell anyone

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm working with a jazz band; this cool composer Jawanza Kobie got a residency in Phila for his project of bringing kids into the world of jazz the way Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev does with classical music. So I wrote the story, the piece is called The Bird Stories, and I perform it with this jazz band. I'm also whittling away at a piece for a chamber musical that I was invited to write by a man I'd met only once before the invitation.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  My parents weren't big on taking us to cultural events. In fact, they didn't. Except for once: we were taken, with some friends of my parents and their kids, to see Oklahoma! on Broadway. I was 8 years old. We sat in the very last row of a 1,200 seat theater; the characters onstage, carrying on with their business, looked the way cars look when a plane clears the last cloud cover as it's coming in for landing. These people were singing OK! lahoma where the Bears go Leaping from the Trees! or whatever it is, and don't even TRY to tell me the lyrics, and I realized with stunning clarity in my little 8 year old mind how ridiculous these songs were, and yet how magnificent the opportunity to sing them was! The stage! Such a place! Such a space! And I thought to myself: someday I'll go stand on one of those and I'll say lovely things! Not surrey with the fringe on top! What a sacred space I realized I was beholding! I made a vow to myself then and there. I don't like that musical; please forgive me.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A:  That more people, and in particular, women, were given the right to FAIL, and then offered the same stage a year later. We need the right to fail. Not just famous playwrights: ALL playwrights. I would wish for the restoration of inexpensive small clubs and spaces that g/littered New York as I was coming of age as a playwright, actor, performance artist. You could try out anything. It was a glorious freedom!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A:  Dario Fo and Franca Rame. Samuel Beckett, the mother of performance art, and Caryl Churchill, the father of it. Spiderwoman Theater. My colleagues in Split Britches Theater Company. Jim Turner, who is so funny his company is painful.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I believe that good comedy is all-encompassing. All plays are about love; all plays are about death. Comedy hits all those spots. I love a deep investigation of character. I think we go to the theater to stare at people. I like to look deeply into the architecture of someone's character. When a play/playwright gives me that, they have done an honor to me.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Figure out, search for within yourself, those things that you can't die without having talked about. Work from your deepest desire for speech; when speaking from that source, you are always original and resonant. If theater is about the revelation of humanity, we all have enough, as we are human. Pay attention to your obsessions; they are clues to parts of you you may not have realized are artistically viable and revelatory of your humanity. Do automatic writing. Write without stopping. This shakes the tree, and the oddest, highest fruits will fall down. Be careful who you talk to about your work. People can't wait to tell you not just what's wrong with your play, but what's wrong with your hair, your telephone manner, your shirt, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your non-binary friend, your jokes, your style of grieving. Write from a place of desire. No critic should be in the room when you write. Never put the critic before the playwright.

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing utensil? When on computer, what's your font?

A:  I have various journals I write in, and a small notebook I carry with me at all times, in case I think of something, overhear something, or something makes me laugh. Camus said that at any street corner, the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face! On computer, I'm usually in Times Roman out of laziness; having been in the type business to support my theater habit for years in my 20's and 30's, I know and love many typefaces, Perpetua, Garamond, Futura, Gill Sans.

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