An Interview with Donald Margulies

by Kate Walat

in In the Trenches,Interviews

Post image for An Interview with Donald Margulies

[pictured - Donald Margulies with TCG's Kate Walat]

TONY TIME

Donald Margulies’ “absorbingly intelligent” (Los Angeles Times) play TIME STANDS STILL, available now from TCG Books, has received two Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Play. As Tony night, June 13, fast approaches, Donald shared some thoughts on his play, which will re-open on Broadway this September.

TCG: Like many of your previous plays, your latest work TIME STANDS STILL delves into the complexities of a relationship—and in this case, the couple is a photojournalist and print journalist, in the aftermath of covering the war in Iraq. What was the spark for their story? How did the political backdrop shape the personal story?

Donald Margulies: I’m leery of plays with political agendas.  My plays always start with the personal. As TIME STANDS STILL took shape, the backdrop of the current world of foreign correspondence provided a rich, high-stakes context for what is essentially a love story. I set out to dramatize the effects of time and circumstances on partnerships built on shared passions. What happens when people who love each other no longer want the same things? I suppose TIME STANDS STILL is as much about marriage as DINNER WITH FRIENDS.

TCG: TIME STANDS STILL has had a rich production history, from its premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, to its Broadway debut this winter at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater. And there’s a lot of excitement about the recent announcement about the play’s return to Broadway this fall. Did the play, or audience responses to it, change much between LA and NYC?

DM: The play’s world premiere production at the Geffen Playhouse gave me the opportunity to see the play performed many times. Upon repeated viewings in front of an audience I was able to gauge what was working and what was not, what was discursive and what was essential to telling the story. I did a lot of cutting and shaping and rearranging in the year between L.A. and New York. By the time the play opened on Broadway, it was fifteen minutes shorter, and more clearly dramatized the love story I had set out to tell.

TCG: Your play COLLECTED STORIES is also currently running on Broadway, in a revival (also at MTC) with Linda Lavin. What are some of the connections between this earlier work and TIME STANDS STILL?

DM: Some people who have followed my work for a long time have pointed out the thematic connections that run through my plays: loss, responsibility and the conundrum of being an artist. I wasn’t conscious of those resonances when I set out to write them but they seem to exist. Sarah and James, the photojournalist and the correspondent in TIME STANDS STILL, question their roles as observers and chroniclers of strife-torn, faraway places; Ruth and Lisa, the acolyte and mentor in COLLECTED STORIES, grapple with issues of loyalty and creative freedom.

TCG: Congratulations on TIME STANDS STILL’s Tony nomination for Best Play. It’s also exciting that Laura Linney’s performance in that play got her a nomination for Best Leading Actress, and that Linda Lavin was nominated in the same category for her performance in COLLECTED STORIES. What are you most looking forward to about Sunday night?

DM: When I was growing up in Brooklyn, watching the Tony Awards telecast, like the Oscars, was an annual event that provided a glimpse into a vast, glamorous world that broke down the walls of my family’s Coney Island apartment. So, now that I’ve been nominated for one of those mythic awards, it’s pretty exciting. This is my first nomination, so it feels particularly sweet. It’ll be delightful to hear my lovely double-L leading ladies’ names announced. I’m proud to have given them roles that made their career-topping performances possible.

-Interview by Kate Walat

Kate Walat is a playwright and the Marketing Associate at TCG Books.