Donald Margulies: A baby-boomer born and raised in Brooklyn, I am the product of a middle-class, secular Jewish family and spent most of my childhood (between the ages of nine and 19) living in Trump Village, a high-rise, middle-income housing development in Coney Island. I was educated during the Golden Age of New York City’s public school system, and was in the first graduating class of John Dewey High School, then a highly-touted, “experimental” school that, thankfully for a kid like me, eschewed team sports but celebrated eclecticism and creativity. I had discovered from a very early age that I could draw and dazzle people with elaborate book report covers and Brotherhood Week posters. When it came time to go to college, I went to Pratt Institute, the art conservatory in downtown Brooklyn, because they gave me financial aid. I lived at home and commuted on the F and GG trains to college. I always had an interest in reading and writing but, at Pratt, there were no mentors for me to talk to . I ended up transferring to SUNY Purchase, where I continued to be an art major but where I pursued my curiosity about playwriting, with Julius Novick, who became my first champion in the theatre.
TS: Novick was a critic.
DM: For The Village Voice; his was a byline that I knew. I read his criticism, so when I met him I felt very privileged. I knocked on his office door and introduced myself as an art major who wanted to write plays and he said, “Have you ever written a play before?” I said, “No.” And he said, “I would be delighted to work with you.” It was as if I had suddenly been given permission to write plays.
TS: Did you get writing work right away?
DM: I finished college in 1977 (with a BFA in Visual Art) and, the following year, was accepted into the MFA program in playwriting at Brooklyn College, which I left after eight weeks. While supporting myself as a freelance graphic designer in publishing, I joined a group being started by Jeffrey Sweet that came to be called The New York Writers Bloc. We were a plucky band of playwrights, performers and directors, who met in living rooms and, as we grew, in rented spaces, every Monday night for more than a decade. Among the members were Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, who were at that time looking for a non-Writer’s Guild writer to work on a monthly program they were hosting on HBO. I wrote a spec script, was hired, and quit my day job as an art editor at Scholastic Magazines. That was 1980. I have earned a living as a writer ever since.
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2013-2014 Season, Dinner With Friends