Written and Performed by Deborah Margolin
Directed by Jay Wahl
April 16-22, 2015
OBIE Award winner Deb Margolin’s thought provoking new solo work is a comedy concerning the grief of endless compassion! It’s about death, the private lives of animals, the suburbs, the spiritual exurbs, illness, desire, and a subway ride with a motherless child who Deb realizes she has only 8 stops to raise! Isn’t that all the time we ever really have…8 Stops? This rousing new work from one of New York’s finest performance artists will leave you with classical questions about the nature of compassion and the limits, and the limitlessness, of human endurance.
“Lovely, offbeat [and] undeniably funny.”
-The New York Times
“Alternatingly funny and poignant…she elevates this commonplace tale to the level of heroism.”
“Deb Margolin makes us laugh about how hard life can be. It shouldn’t be funny, and yet, when we see the world through her eyes…we are willing to admit that maybe there is something to laugh about. It is impossible to keep your distance.”
-Broad Street Review
DEB MARGOLIN (Playwright/Performer) is a playwright, actor, and founding member of Split Britches Theater Company. She is the author of numerous plays, including Imagining Madoff, Turquoise, Bringing the Fishermen Home, as well as 10 solo performance plays which she has toured throughout the US. Deb was honored with an OBIE award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, the Kesselring Playwriting Prize for her play Three Seconds in the Key, the 2008 Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwright Award and the Richard H. Broadhead Prize for teaching excellence at Yale University, where she is Associate Professor (adj.) in the undergraduate Theater Studies Program. Commissions include the NY Public Theater and Actors Theater of Louisville. Deb has been artist in residence at Hampshire College, University of Hawaii, Penn State University, and many others, and was Zale Writer in Residence at Tulane University in New Orleans. A compilation of some of her solo pieces as well as a multi-character play, Critical Mass, is entitled Of All The Nerve: Deb Margolin Solo. Deb lives in New Jersey, which she denies.
The world premiere of 8 STOP was produced by The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This work was developed in part during the Dael Orlandersmith Writing Residency in the SEI Innovation Studio. The Kimmel Center’s Theater Residency program is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. They would also like to thank the Hearst Foundations and Linda & David Glickstein for their generous contributions.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Artistic Director Michael Wolk sat down with Deb Margolin to discuss her inspiration for 8 STOPS, the process of writing and developing it. It is a comedy concerning the grief of endless compassion, traversing her personal experience with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as an incidental part of life & raising children. Read more for a fascinating insight into her creative process for this incredibly engaging and moving new work.
Q: Why did you create 8 STOPS?
The theater I was raised in is the theater of desire – it’s the theater where you speak of those things that you truly and deeply wish to speak about.
Among other things [8 STOPS is] about the stem cell transplant I had to fight Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And the stem cell transplant, that sounds pleasant nice and everything – it’s actually fatally high doses of chemotherapy followed by the stem cells after your immune system is completely wiped out.
I’ve talked about other traumatic aspects to my…waltz with cancer, but this one was so big that I couldn’t find language. I would show up…I would try and have a tryst with language… I’d get intellectually all-dressed-up to meet language under a street-light…showing up in high heels to try and figure out a way to talk about this….Language stood me up again, and again, and again. And finally, it showed up.
The circumstances that enabled it to show up were when Jay Wahl from the Kimmel Arts Center invited me to join the Dael Orlandersmith writer’s residency. Dael, of course, an award-winning writer – an extraordinary monologist and performer, would challenge people. Her challenge was that we should invade our own privacy.
And I was ready, finally, to put language together, with that experience as well as to tie it into a number of other things I’d been thinking about: about the inheritability of certain ideas, about love, about motherhood, about the quotidian aspects of life that surrounded the trauma of waltzing with cancer.
And it’s actually a comedy – I call it a comedy concerning the endless grief of compassion, which my father has and my son has and I am the link between them. And that’s what the show’s about. It’s funny. It sounds like “oh death” or “oh cancer” – no, it’s funny! It really is. It’s about the absurd way that we have of aspiring to eternity when we have just a second.
Q: Why is this play timely for you – and for us? Why this play now?
These are hard times — it’s been a very hard winter, and a very contentious ten years in our country. We have been endlessly at war, we have struggled to find the humanity in one another. We are dealing with conversations about racism, about homophobia, about sexism; and when we can just look intimately at the struggle to be human, and to be alive, there is great healing in that.
Anyone who comes to tell their story in that spirit, I think is one of the many rescuers that we can count on at a very difficult time in our human career.
The desire to tell a story is a richly human impulse. And the return to seeing each other—to seeing the humanity in each other—if anything’s going to save us, I think it’s gonna be that.
Q: What was your process of actually getting this piece out and getting it down?
Just because you write something doesn’t mean you know how to do it. I mean, that’s a whole other process. And with director Jay Wahl’s help, I began to work my way through this piece as an actor. The dramaturge in me just kind of stepped back and went out for pizza and then the actor had to come forward and find a way to inhabit this material.
My mother died during that time, and it was so painful and so perfect to be working on a show about love and motherhood and death and the fear of death…. My mother [was] aware of what I was working on—and had said before her death, “You go down there and do that show! You do your work!”
I got through that with the help and love and support of the people who put that show together with me.
Q: How has working on the show, and opportunity to perform it, changed you?
These opportunities are so thrilling. And…to have finally found a way to talk about what felt unspeakable, unsayable, and ineffable…
It’s made my life so much better. It has brought me right up against…the things that I need to get close to in order to transcend their power to stop me in any way…. You can’t transcend what you won’t acknowledge. This is transcendent work for me.
I feel in a certain sense at this ancient point in my life unstoppable. And that was a result of the opportunities I’ve had. This one, to perform at the Cherry Lane, the one that the Kimmel Center offered me…they have been liberating, profoundly liberating opportunities, for which I am grateful beyond words, really.
I’ve always wanted to perform [at the Cherry Lane]. I have had my eye on that theater for thirty years…. I’ve always loved it. It’s both large and small, it’s both intimate and intense, you know, gladiatorial, it’s everything. And I’m absolutely thrilled that that is the venue I have been offered.