ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Dinner With Friends

Interview with Playwright, Donald Margulies

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by Ted Sod

 

Ted Sod: I was wondering if you’d tell us where you were born, where you were educated and when you decided to become a playwright.

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


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Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies, directed by Pam MacKinnon, the second production of the 2013-14 season at the Laura Pels Theatre begins previews January 17.

What I love about this play is how very sneaky it is. On the surface, the premise is simple: two couples, one trying to break up and the other trying to stay together. They eat, they drink, they laugh, they cry. Some things will change, and some things will stay the same. End of story, right? Yes, on one level, these are the events of the play. But if that’s all there is, then why do we leave the theatre feeling so deeply unsettled?

For me, that feeling is the result of how strongly Donald taps into our deepest fears about relationships. Being in a relationship is inherently risky, as we put our hearts on the line with the very real possibility that they will be broken. It’s scary, so we feel better and more confident about our own pairings when we see other couples going through the same things. From declarations of love to marriage to children, it’s comforting to travel the path side by side with not only your own partner, but with a whole other parallel pair.

This is what we see in Dinner with Friends – the need for Karen and Gabe to move through life with Beth and Tom beside them. But when one of these couples heads in a new direction, it throws the other off track in a way that catches them completely off guard. And it’s this moment when the play really sneaks up on you: the moment that you realize you will never know what another couple is like when they’re alone together, that you can never really understand their relationship. How they behave at a casual dinner party may make you believe that you’re all on the same page, but what happens when the dishes are washed, the public faces put away, and each is back in their own private world?

This discovery can very easily spiral into an even more frightening realization: if you can’t truly know another couple, can you truly know your own partner? Being in a relationship requires a great deal of trust – you can only ever have access to the person in front of you, but you’ll never see into their head and know what they’re really thinking. You just have to have faith that what they say is what they mean. That’s another scary proposition, and once a seed of doubt about a relationship has been planted, can it ever be removed?

I think this is why Dinner with Friends has such resonance with audiences, and why I wanted to give the play its first New York revival. We root for these characters to find their happiness, and we root passionately for them. We do this because they are so real, so incredibly accessible, and so terrifyingly close to us. To hope for their happy ending is to hope for our own.

I hope you’ll be as drawn into the world of this play as I am. I will, as always, be eager to hear your thoughts and reactions, so please share them with me by emailing artisticoffice@roundabouttheatre.org. Your feedback is always welcome and is something that I greatly value.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,

Todd Haimes
Artistic Director


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2013-2014 Season, Dinner With Friends, From Todd Haimes


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Heather Burns joins the cast of Dinner With Friends

Posted on: December 11th, 2013 by Roundabout

 

Heather Burns

We are thrilled to announce that Heather Burns (“Bored to Death”) will join the company in the role of “Beth”. Dinner with Friends by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, directed by Tony Award® winner Pam MacKinnon will also feature Marin Hinkle as “Karen”, Darren Pettie as “Tom,” and Jeremy Shamos as “Gabe.”

The design team includes Allen Moyer (Sets), Ilona Somogyi (Costumes), Jane Cox (Lights), and Josh Schmidt (Original Music & Compositions).

Wryly funny and richly layered, Dinner with Friends is a modern masterpiece about the path you choose, the millions you don’t and the detours that make it worth the ride.

For more information and tickets, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, Dinner With Friends


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