DONALD MARGULIES: Greetings, Minnesota Jewish Theatre.
KATIE: Greetings, Mr. Margulies! And thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions on behalf of MJTC. We're thrilled to hear from you. Let's just jump right in, shall we? MJTC is producing Collected Stories this season, twenty-two years after the play was first produced. How might the play resonate with audiences in the context of today’s world?
DONALD MARGULIES: I suspect that the themes explored in the play are just as resonant today as they were when it was first produced over twenty years ago, arguably even more so. Cultural appropriation, intellectual property, who has the right to tell certain certain stories and who doesn’t - all of these topics may be more part of our social discourse than they were in 1996. Set in the nineties, it even contains a then-current discussion of Woody Allen’s boundary issues which are very much back in the news. But at the heart of the play is the universal relationship between a mentor and her protégée, which I think reveals as much about the parent-child dynamic as it does the teacher-student.
"the themes explored in the play are just as resonant today as they were when it was first produced over twenty years ago, arguably even more so."
KATIE: One of the reasons our artistic director chose the play for production revolved around the question of who has the right to tell a story - specifically, if someone has the right to tell a story from another's culture. Where did this initial idea come from? Was there a personal experience that led to you writing Collected Stories?
DONALD MARGULIES: At the play’s inception, I was already teaching. I had become intrigued by a controversy in the literary world that involved a young American novelist, David Leavitt, and his post-modern take on a chapter from the life of the English poet, Stephen Spender, an action the poet laureate viewed not as homage but as libel. At the same time, I had had my own private skirmish with one of my own heroes, Arthur Miller, over a play I wrote called The Loman Family Picnic.
DONALD MARGULIES: The Leavitt-Spender case echoed my situation and I began to see the dramatic possibilities. Changing the gender of the players in order to gain perspective, and raising the stakes by putting them in an intense, personal relationship instead of one at a remove, created the foundation for what became Collected Stories, my meditation on what the literary critic Harold Bloom called "the anxiety of influence."
KATIE: I'm glad you decided to write women characters. It makes the play even more relevant in today's world. One last thing - I heard that you’re working on a new play. Any inside news you’d be willing to share?
DONALD MARGULIES: My new play, Long Lost, about the fraught relationship between estranged middle-aged brothers who took very different paths in life, will have its New York premiere in 2019.
KATIE: I can't wait to learn more about it! Thanks again for your time. (Check out this recent article with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.)
DONALD MARGULIES: Best of luck with the production!
KATIE: Thank you!