Meet Deb Margolin:
A Public Interview With Lisa Jo Epstein, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance, Tulane University


October 21st, 1997
Anna E. Many Lounge
Newcomb College Center for Research on Women
Tulane University
New Orleans, Louisiana


Interview text copyright 1997 Deb Margolin and Lisa Jo Epstein. All rights reserved. This text may not be circulated, published or archived in print or digital form without the express consent of Deb Margolin and Lisa Jo Epstein.

Color photographs by David Rae Morris. Copyright 1997 Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. All rights reserved.




Beth Willinger: WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION (Photo l-r: Beth Willinger, Director, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women; Deb Margolin; Lisa Jo Epstein, Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance, Tulane University)

Lisa Jo Epstein: Welcome. Thank you for joining us on this gorgeous afternoon. Being inside I feel like we should open all of these shades instead of having them closed. I feel like...

Deb Margolin: It must be horrible, though, for people to look into a glare.

LJE: And anyway, this is "Meet the Playwright," and before I move any further, Crystal Kile, for those of you who don't know her, that's Crystal right there. We were planning Deb's arrival, when Crystal and I were talking about Deb's imminent arrival, and Crystal mentioned to me, was like, "Well, we've never done a 'Meet the Playwright' before, what does that mean?" And, we had a sort of run up rehearsal last week when I had a little session with another playwright in this space. And I thought the best way to introduce you Deb would be with a question. As opposed to saying, "Meet the Playwright," one, I want to say it's "Meet Deb Margolin." And two, if you were to describe what you do to someone from a foreign planet, via a universal translator, you know one of those Star Trek things, how would you describe what it is that you do?

DM: I would start by saying, I believe that anyone, from our planet, or any other planet (and Crystal and I did talk about extraplanetary visitation), who has the desire to do what I do can do it. I would start with that statement. If they have the desire to do it, they would be able to do it. I would then go on to say that I work from a place of desire, a place of shrieking, loneliness, a place of amazement, and high humor. I rake experiences from my daily life, those things that I observe, those things that compel me, those things that move me, those things that I can't shut up about, and I use my body, I use the language I know best, which is English, to talk about them, to make sure that other people see them. I always think of what I do as another way of turning to the stranger in the bus, and saying "Excuse me, did you see that, am I the only weirdo that saw that? Did you see that?" It's my desire to make sure that I'm not alone with the vast, almost unspeakable, small things I observe in my daily life. And that is what I do. I use language, I use my body. I create ways of talking about those things in daily life that compel me.

LJE: (scribbling furiously) I take notes so as not to forget.

DM: So what am I going to do? I forget everything. I'm so old and mysterious.

LJE: Writing from a place of desire. There's been...How many of you know about any of Deb's history in the world of performance? A halfway arm. I'm going to let you talk about what the fifteen years of work in with Split Britches was, and the impact it had on your life as a thinker and a person who desires to speak about desire.

DM: In a certain way, I don't know what else there is to talk about. Often, my writing students, I myself, people I speak with, are worried about their creative work not being original. I often respond by saying, "There isn't anything original left to talk about. We have been talking for thousands of years, and many years before that unrecorded. And what is there to talk about? There's desire. There's death, there's desire. And what else is there to talk about?"

That having been said, there was something about my Split Britches experience that changed my life insofar as it enabled me to see that we don't need to have any more than we are in order to be able to speak articulately, and to speak about life.
I was... I'll just talk about my personal history, a little bit of the story I told you yesterday. I was born in Manhattan, in New York City. I was raised outside the city, in a suburb. A basically nerdy individual who didn't get invited to dances and parties, just kind of read too many books, and didn't wear the right clothes. I always loved language. I always thought of language as the one way we have to clearly scream for help. I always wanted to be ready to scream for help as articulately as I possibly could, and language was my way, just as piano is my instrument because you touch a key and you get a note. You don't have to fiddle or blow or hoo-ha or froofroo. You touch the key, the sound is made. The same with language, you say a word, and if you're fully fluent and resident inside the meanings of that word, you can use it towards whatever end you wish. You can use it to scream for help.
So language was my medium. Although I didn't, you know I wasn't really a particularly popular kid, and I didn't like childhood very much. I found that it... I did not like being dependent on flawed other people to get the Cherrios for me, I did not like that. For me, life has just gotten better and better and better as I have gotten older. I went to high school. I was writing, doing a lot of writing. I had a nomadic love of language. I wrote a lot of poetry as I continue to do, I wrote short stories, I wrote these weird plays in which people turn into hairdryers and this king of thing. When I went to NYU, which is where I got my undergraduate education -- my father taught there, so it was free; we all went there -- suddenly the world, everything came to life for me. I started to read classic literature. I was studying Shakespeare. I was studying beat poetry, beat writers, French literature and translation. I met people who also thought about the kinds of things I like to think about. Suddenly, my bra and girdle didn't matter so much. I was in a world of ideas. And I really, I was thrilled, I really came to life.
I got out of school, I had no idea what to do. I got a job working for this magazine, this very low brow publication about cosmetic products. This was the lowest publication, it had no integrity at all. In fact, I wrote all the articles, and I know nothing about cosmetic products. I am allergic to them all. I wrote all the articles, I type-set the articles, I pasted them up, I wrote around asking perfumers what kind of ingredients they used, or I don't know. It was a fabulous job. I also answered the switch board.
I left that magazine and went to work for another magazine which was far less interesting, even than this one, about greeting cards. It was a trade magazine about Hallmark greeting cards or something. And I remember about that job that the guy couldn't hear -- he had a hearing impairment -- and he had a horn that came out of his phone, whose purpose was to amplify his phone calls. But all it did was make everybody else hear his phone calls. He never was able to quite hear his phone calls. He used to send his text to the printer in batches, so there was the Smith batch, the Johnson batch. And one time printer called to ask a question about the Sullivan batch, and the guy thought he had called him a son of a bitch. I remember that from this job, and he was very offended. That job lasted about three weeks, and I got a job writing a newsletter about automatic teller machines, which I also knew nothing about.
Meanwhile, a couple of very shocking things happened in that period. Firstly, I met this man. I was living in the city and I met this man named Joe Friendly. Now, Joe Friendly was this weird guy. This sounds irrelevant, I do take the local train to the point, you'll have to excuse me. This guy Joe Friendly, Joe Friendly. I'll say about him first of all that he was the Messiah, he truly did. Although he's a Jewish man, he thought he was Jesus, he thought he was Jesus. This wasn't a metaphor for him, it was very real for him. Additionally, I'll say about Joe that he was by profession a moving man. He was a moving man, he was very tall man, he could lift a piano on his shoulder. And I met Joe, and Joe had this whole theory about birthdays. This is how I came to meet Joe. he believed that you had to marry somebody whose birthday was exactly six months form yours, exactly if you hoped for happiness. He had this whole horoscope thing, and he held this big event in Central Park, and the Village Voice covered it. and the reason I came to his attention was that lucky me, my birthday was exactly six months form his, and he was considering me as a prospect for a bride. What a shame he didn't pick me.
Anyway, Joe was a very interesting man. I remember once, these were formative experiences...I was in his moving van. We were going across the Brooklyn Bridge, and he stopped his moving van on the Brooklyn Bridge in rush hour traffic in New York City. He stopped, he put it in park, he turned off the van, and he said, "Let us pray." Now people have guns in New York. I mean, you don't stop your van on the Brooklyn Bridge. He stops his van and he turns it off, and he says, "Let us pray." And he bowed his head, and he prayed the following prayer, so beautiful: "Almighty God, may our efforts amuse you enough." Isn't that beautiful? Then he turned the truck back on and we kept going.
Joe Friendly, I have to say on his behalf, took me to see two pieces of theater which completely changed my life. The first one was the Women's Experimental Theater Project. Now I was always interested in theater, but I didn't look good enough, and my nose was too big, and I didn't wear the right bra, and I didn't dance the dance, or walk the walk, or talk the talk, so I was never admitted into theater in high school. Joe took me to see Women's Experimental Theater Project. I don't know where he got the genius to do that. But this was women, just women, just dressed in like ordinary clothes. they weren't, you know, they didn't have little turned up noses, they weren't little frou-frou the hoo-has. And they did this piece called "Electra Speaks," and I only have, I have two vivid images from that. One of them was that one of the women drew a line and stepped over it, an it was like the most radical political act, I can't even express. And the other image I retained form that experience like twenty five years ago, whatever it was, was this other woman sat there like this, for like five or ten minutes doing the following thing: "Get married, get married, get married, great married, get married, get married, get married, get married, get married, get married."
It was, I don't know what to tell you about this. It was women working from some very primary, very unembellished, personal impulse. And I walked out of there just dazzled by this piece of theater. I never saw theater like that before. the other formative thing that happened at that time -- I am getting to the Split Britches part -- was that my closest friend Ginny stopped talking to me. This was really very upsetting. She just stopped, this is my dearest friend. She just stopped returning my calls, can you imagine something like that, your oldest friend. And, she reemerged a year later having gotten involved in theater. She just didn't want to talk to me because I am a person who will poke fun at what is beyond them. that's one of the ways I deal with what frightens me, I just stand it up.
So after a year, she reemerged and told me that she had become involved in theater, and that she was now the business manager for a group called Spider Woman Theater. And she took me to see Spider Woman. Here again was a shocking example of what is possible in the world. Spider Woman was a group of six or eight women. these were women of color, white women, women who weighed three hundred pounds, women who weighed ninety pounds, straight women, lesbian women, women of all manner and kind and shape, and so on and so forth, in a show called "An Evening of Disgusting Songs and Pukey Images." It was exquisite. it was so funny. And the women were taking images from their own lives, and creating theater out of them. And I remember at the end of this production, each woman came forward and took a place on the stage. Lois comes up and says, "My name is Lois Weaver, and I have a fat ass." And another woman comes up and says, "My name is Lisa, and I have rotting pee." And one by one, they took their place, and stridently announced what was wrong with them in the eyes of the conventional world, an it was hysterical, and it was radically political. And it made me think that I wanted to do that, and furthermore, that I could. That it didn't matter that I look kind of ethnic, or I wasn't this or that.
Then what happened was two of the women from Spider Woman, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver , decided that they were going to write a piece about Lois's ancestors. Lois has these three weird ancestors. These three women -- two aunts and a great aunt or something, who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in one room of a house. They had a whole house, but they only lived in one room, and they never changed their clothes, and there were cows, and chicken, and pigs in the room, and so forth. And they wanted to start to explore the lives of these women, whom they considered to be forgotten women. So Lois -- this is literally, these women really existed, they were not fictional characters -- so Lois went down to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and she interviewed her relatives about these women. And she asked a lot of questions, and when it came -- their was the great aunt who was kind of senile, and there was Cora, who was kind of maybe retarded, or something, and there was Della. Della was the caretaker of these women. And whenever they asked relatives, "What about Della, what was she like?" They would just say, "Well she was tall. She was handsome." And everybody said how tall she was. And you see the pictures of Della looking kind of butch and everything. So this intrigued the women, and they began to work on investigating the lives of these women, both from the information that they got, and from their own, from themselves as well.
They hired a scriptwriter to help them put together, from their workshop effort, a script. A week before the show was supposed to open, the scriptwriter took the payment she had received, and went to Europe, and that was the end of her.
So they called up Ginny, and they said, "Look, bring that little Jewish friend of yours who likes to write, and bring her to a workshop effort we're making, maybe she can help us with the script." And Ginny says, "You want to go?" And I was like, "Yeah, I want to go." So she brought me to this rehearsal in the hopes that I would be able to help them pull a script together, and I watched this rehearsal. It mad no sense to me, this rehearsal, at all. It was just people cackling and throwing pie dough at each other, and I really did not understand the main chance of this experience at all. But I remember, as we got up to leave the room, my friend Ginny said, "That's going to be a great piece of theater some day."
I did not really...I was not aware of any understanding of this material, at all, on my own part. That day Ginny and I went up to Boston. We left New York, and we got on an Amtrak train, we went to Boston. And I thought no more about it, and then on Thursday Lois Weaver tracked me down up at Ginny's. She's like, "Well did you do anything? Have you written anything?" And I don't know why, but I said, "Oh yes, please don't worry about it, I've written the whole thing. You girls can relax because I've got the whole thing done." And I hung up, and I don't know why I told that lie, at all. It was a big lie. And I didn't even sweat it when I hung up. I was perfectly relaxed about it.
And then, I went to sleep that night, still feeling of sound conscience, but I could not, I could not sleep for two reasons. First of all, there was a cat that kept going like this to me, you know how cats do that, but I never had a cat, and I didn't know, I thought it was trying to kill me, and I was frightened and annoyed. And then there was a mosquito that kept going, "Na, na ,na." You know how they do that, like the Doppler effect of a motorcycle. And finally, at like two or three in the morning, I just got out of my bed, I took a pad, I took a pen, I went into Ginny's bathroom, I shut the door, I sat down on her rug. I still remember, it was a circular rug and everything...dirty circular rug with colors, and I sat down on that rug, and I wrote. And I wrote scenes, and I wrote monologues, and I wrote dialogues, and I wrote...oh I just, songs, just I wrote for eight straight hours. And I can say about that night that it was a truly, it was an apocalyptic evening in my life. It was an evening, a very cusp, an evening when my life changed completely and forever.
I had this realization in that bathroom, which I was telling Lisa Jo about yesterday, and I'll try to tell you about it. It was the realization that as writers, as human beings, we have collapsible boundaries, that we are not made of the kinds of steel and solidity that we think we are, that our experiences can go effortlessly into the mouths of characters, that things that we see in the world can come into our bodies and out onto the stage.
I had this clear realization that we have collapsible boundaries. Here's the example that comes most easily to mind of the texture of that realization. I'll tell you a little story: When I was a junior in college, I was walking down University Place in Manhattan, New York, with a suite mate of mine, this kind of beatnik chick, and everything, and I was wearing a jacket I thought was real cute. It was from like junior high school or something. It was a little red, waist length jacket with a zipper, it was kind of pert, so I liked it. And I don' know, we were walking down the street, and I reached for something in my pocket, and it really hurt. I yanked my hand out reflexively like something really hurt. And I looked in my pocket, and there was a fire in there. Like little fires, really cute, just like that. I don't know why there was a fire. I don't know if someone lit a cigarette and just didn't put it out, or if somebody dropped a match in there, what...there was a fire in there, and the smoke coming out of it. So I tried to get the zipper undone, but the zipper jammed, and I couldn't get it off. So I just dropped and started rolling. People stepping over me. You know in New York, nothing matters much, and I ...anyway.
So anyway, there I am, years later, in this bathroom, and we were thinking about the character Della. We were thinking about how she...who was she? She was tall, you know, and...and Peggy and Lois had projected that she was a lesbian, that she was a lesbian without foremothers, without role models. A person that had desires that she couldn't even name by virtue of not having seen them, by virtue of not having known anything about them, who had nothing but this old senile woman and this tender retarded sister to explore her impulses with. And anyway, there I am sitting in the bathroom, and I wrote the following monologue for Della's character. I don't know it that well. Forgive me, I'll do my best:
"Fire ain't just a thing. It's a person. Well I mean, it ain't a person, it's a living thing, it's got a mind of its own. I seen fires. I heard 'em crackling in my ear, even in the rain. Fires think, they've got purposes. I saw a farmhouse burn down all the cows and the chickens. And there was big black birds flying upside down next to the fire, and the fire held them there by a string to their wings in order to scare all the animals to death. I saw a chicken fall over, and the fire went up to its body, ate its whole body, and burped out a big white smoke. I hear dogs barking, but there wasn't no dogs. And I got fire inside of me. I can feel it, but you can't see it. And that makes me be a person with a secret. I can feel it with in my eyes, I can feel it in my chest, and I can feel it other places. Once I had fire in my pocket. I put my hand in, I pulled it out real quick, and I said, 'Why'd I do that?' And I looked in my pocket, and there's the fire looking up at me, just cute and sweet, just like a pretty girl. But then it starts to hurt, you've got to beat it, you got to beat it. You got to put it out."

This experience that I had just went effortlessly into it, like it was waiting all its life to go into the mouth of this character. I cannot tell you. I was crying in this bathroom. I was like, "Oh, this is how it works. This is how we create theater."
I realized simultaneously that my experiences could lend themselves effortlessly to any context/humanity/character offered me, firstly. And secondly, that I didn't need any more than I had to understand with my whole being the lives of these characters. That I could go from myself, that my love of language was completely at home in the theater, where I was able to take my experiences, and lend them to whoever, in the world I chose. And likewise, that I was able to take from the experiences of these women -- I am not a lesbian-- and incorporate that condition into my own spiritual vocabulary.
It was a night of complete transformation. I got up, after eight hours writing in the bathroom, had a cup of coffee, I had this complete package of scenes, monologues, text, whatever. I got on a Greyhound bus, and went down to New York City. They were crying and sobbing in a cafe on 19th Street; the place has since been torn down. These women, just sitting there. the show was opening the next day. And I walked in real casual, and I said, "Here you are, girls. Hope this helps." And I kissed them all, and I left. They used every piece of this text because it... I didn't know that I understood what they were trying to do. I've now come to see that you don't always know what you're talking about right at the moment. you don't always know it, you can't.
Anyway, they used all this text, and I remember the pride I felt when the Post, who came to review the piece said, "This is a group with fire in their pockets." That is how the group was described in the mainstream press. and it was because of this bizarre experience on University Place years before. This was...OK. So then one of the actors dropped out, and the next thing I know I'm in the play, playing the eighty-seven-year-old senile lady. That was eighteen years ago, and I never left the theater since then.
These women taught me a way of life. They taught me about going from my own experience to create theater. We would make lists. When we were going to create a show, we'd make a list of everything that pissed us off. We'd make a list of all the things we'd ever wanted to do on stage, a list of ten performance fantasies -- dance on toe, sing the Aria from "Rigoletto", whatever it was. They taught me that desire, desire is the surest source of material for theater. It never fails you. The only moments when you have no talent are the moments when you don't know what you want. As soon as you can want it, you can have it. they taught me this way of life, and it's heart breaking, and it's grueling, and nobody gives you a 401 (K) plan, and there's no retirement program, but it's a passion, and if you have to do it, they taught me to do it form a place of desire. And so this is how we'd create shows: We'd make spaghetti, and somebody would cry, and the phone would ring, and then we'd make a list of people we hated and we'd talk about those people, and then somebody else would start crying, and then we'd have a fight, then we'd go home. And then we'd come back together, then somebody would bring a record that we all thought was funny, a recording. And we'd all start laughing, and somebody would stand up and start dancing, or, that, we created these things out of what we yearned, what we could not die without talking about, out of what we yearned to do on stage. I wanted to dance en pointe. I was damned if I was not going to do that. And I did. Never mind, I did it dressed as a Hasidic rabbi, with a yarmulke, you know, and a suit with sitzes and payees and everything. I wanted to dance en pointe, and I did. I wanted to play Hamlet, and I did.
These women taught me a way of life. We are no longer working together. However, the work that we did, I think was very generative, and it contributed to that sort of matriarchal line of people who were out there showing women that they can do this despite the fact that they don't weigh a hundred pounds or they don't sing "Rigoletto", or whatever the problem is. You can be a downtown type and do work that is as uptown as your soul. It totally changed my life, my work with these women. They taught me how to teach, they taught me how to live. And I think that the work that we have done has...I'm very proud to say that I think it has taken its place, its historical place in the canon of women's literature in the sense that it speaks primarily and powerfully to the fact that we have the right, that, that...I mean the minute you stand up on stage, it is a radical political act because it assumes the beauty and the importance of your personal experience. And they taught me how to recognize that, how to totally embody that, and how to support others as they go to make that life-changing realization for themselves. Simple question, right?

LJE: As you can tell from that passionate and brilliant description of her history, and how she found her way into the theater, and has created a theater that if you're studying feminist theater and performance, you can't not read and learn about Split Britches. On of the remarkable things about you, and I'm speaking specifically from my perspective, about you and your writing is that you can take an ordinary experience, a moment, an object, a hangar, a dress, some fire in your pocket, and find something extraordinary and revelatory about. And then, she, you for me, weave language in such a way that I start seeing that object not only in a new way, but I start thinking about how that object might exist in my life, and you give me, you empower me to say, "Ah, yes, I want to try that." Or, "Let me think back to an experience in my own existence that's a parallel", or "It's a place that I haven't wanted to touch before, but you've given me license because you are dancing so close to the flame", she's like inside the flame. playing with fire, that it's like saying to me, "Maybe I want to step into that flame a little bit, and feel the lick, and how does that feel, and it's OK to want to do that, instead of putting up my fire proof ship, like a wall." Saying "No, I want to go through it, and I want to follow where that fire's going to take me." That it's a very empowering language, and use of language and performance, that to the audience makes you start thinking, and redesiring your own desires. And, and...I've read Deb's solo work , I've seen pieces of it. I haven't seen the videos, but I've seen her in strange contexts that are not normally like theaters where everybody's there. it's more like academic theater, conference faces, where the critics are at their most pointed, I should day. And I've still come out of these experiences hankering for life again.

DM: That's a lovely compliment.

LJE: It's like your kind of, I mean, all the Messiah stuff that you talk about. It's kind of like you have been a Messiah who can't, who are following in the generation, and are hoping to capture...

DM: I'm so glad because that's what was given to me, and I want to pass it on. You know it's like those info-circles we did in class. You get it, you give it. And certainly, if my work empowers people in that way, I'm very pleased. I am thoroughly, invincibly involved in the belief that anybody can do this work. Desire is the only requisite. There is no more required than that. And I think that desire and ability, desire and talent, as it is defined, are synonyms. I don't think there is any difference between your desire for anything and your ability for that same thing. Very rarely are desire and talent separate. I've really never seen it, with the possible exception of my desire to know where I'm going, which I never do.

I feel like, when it comes to the joy in life, not when it comes to the terrible things like illness or accidents, but when it comes to the joyous things, the achievements, if we can want it, we can have it. Desire is a very powerful agent for change, and for achievement. That's how I go about my business life, my work life, and that's also how I go about my artistic life. I allow desire to lead me. The thing about daily life, the mystical, the revelatory aspects of daily life is that I will allow myself to explore something if it compels me. I don't have to know why it compels me. I don't even have to be able to defend the compulsion. As I was telling some students outside, I once became aware that everything... I just have this incredible desire to stand in silence next to a vacuum cleaner. I just thought that was so funny. Every time I thought about it, I started laughing. the whole...it just struck me so funny. I can't clean. I try to clean, but it doesn't work. I like things to be clean, but cleaning doesn't achieve that for me. Like I just finished vacuuming and the place is a wreck, or I just sweep and there's crap everywhere, or I wipe off the table and it's filthy. I don't know what that's all about. But the idea of standing in silence next to a vacuum cleaner just filled me with mirth and glee. And I pursued that image, and I got a whole show out of it. That I will pursue it, if it strikes me funny, I will go for it. If it moves me to tears, even if it's just a piece of ice in a glass, I will pursue it. And it never fail to yield mysteries. It just never fails. And so it's really my willingness.
There was a wrong number message that was left on my answering machine by this imperialist lawyer. I heard this message from a pay phone, and I thought, "Holy Jesus," anyone else would have just fast forwarded this thing. But I could not believe the coldness and rudeness of her tone of voice. It was a wrong number, but it completely changed my life. I just decided I was going to create a whole piece of performance around this wrong number message, and I did. I played the message, I danced to it. I made everybody recite it from cue cards. I analyzed the texture, the social meanings of this message. And I became highly aware of the power, during that performance exercise, of how beautiful it is to set it up so people are listening, not just to what I say, but my desperate desire to say it. So when people were laughing at this piece, they weren't just laughing at how bizarre the message was, which I just thought it was very far out, they were also laughing at how incredible it was that somebody could be so moved by such a banal thing.
So that between what I was saying and my desire to say it, inhered to the whole second meaning of the piece. And I really became aware of the power of performance art, as opposed to theater, in its ability to allow us that. In its ability to allow us that, to allow us, not just to be responsible for what we say, but to include, in the theatrical experience, the burning need we have to say it. And that, that's...it adds an instantly political dialectic to the work, and it also gives people who seem ordinary, a chance to express themselves because we see the humanity. We don't just see the statement, we see the humanity behind it. And that, that is what makes every single person have a story to tell, and makes every single person unsinkably beautiful, when it comes to art. And so, that Bonny Joseph's piece crystallized that theory for me. People were hysterical, people needed medical help. And it was really not just because the message was so bizarre, but because I seemed so compelled by the message. That was at least half the humor, of the piece.

LJE: Taking that step from standing next to the vacuum cleaner and delving into the minute exquisiteness of that experience, and putting it on stage becomes a political act. Can you talk a little bit about what you call "banishing the judge"? So that, "Okay, yeah, I'm free, I've found this terrain where I can stand next to a vacuum cleaner," and I want to share this excitement so badly, and it's so urgent that I'm hoping to but it in stage. But then the act of putting it on-stage, and having all these people come to see it. I think that is the moment of politic.

DM: Well that is the moment, but that...I...Politics is the right word. I believe that creativity is a pre-political act. It must be. The creative act is pre-political, and once it emerges past the boundary of the self and on to the stage or onto the page or on to whatever, canvas, or whatever the medium is, it becomes a political act by virtue of its existence. However, the creative act is blind, it's stupid, it's gross, and it is pre-political. You don't know what you're talking about. You just want to watch TV. It makes you sick. You'd rather do anything else. You feel like an idiot. you don't know. You're afraid, you're ashamed. Then when you can get rid of the critic -- and the critic is institutionalized, we all have it, everybody has it. It's archetypal. I read my students a list of voices that they have inside them, and I know they have it because I have it, because everybody has it. Who cares about that? That's not original, it's been done before. This is self-indulgence, and all this list of archetypal things that we tell ourselves that keep us from getting our work done. I have various things techniques for banishing the critic. We can talk more about that later. But in any case, there I am. I am in love with this idea of standing in silence next to a vacuum cleaner. I was talking to a bunch of very lovely students about it this morning. So what is that? What is with the vacuum cleaner?

Well, I'm aware that cleaning is a completely ineffective way to achieve cleanliness for me. I'm aware that the vacuum cleaner is a representative for that complete futility. And I stand in my imagination, and perhaps, actually next to the vacuum cleaner. It just slays me. I'm laughing, and when I stop, I look at my body and I think, "What is this...what do I feel in my body?" And I realize it's that kind of bent over posture I have at parties. I'm very bad at parties, and I don't "ha-ha" and I always ash, put my ashes in somebody's million dollar Ming vase. Or I'm the person that knocks things over, and it's very humiliating. Once I was at a party and the hostess said, "Oh go explore the house." And because I felt so awkward in the main room, I went to do that. And I opened a door, and there was nothing there, and I fell ten feet, and this kind of thing. That was awful. You know , I don't like parties very much. So as I'm standing next to this vacuum, I'm aware that that awkwardness, that way that I don't stand up, I bend over, and I have one foot forward as if I'm going to bolt any minute. You'll see me like this if we going to some social functions around here. That it's a party...All of a sudden, this seen with a vacuum is a party, and I hear cocktail music, and the vacuum cleaner and I have some sort of elicit relationship. And all of the sudden it's my ex-lover. And my husband is a boom box, and I'm greeting guests, and I just let this take me wherever it wants to take me, and the result of my passion for this image illuminates the entire experience in terms of theater.
And I trust that process. it's an old friend to me now, and yet it never ceases to amaze and move me. But I completely trust that if something compels me, there is something in that for me. And I will not hesitate to pursue it, and I know that it will reveal itself if I pursue it. The politics of that comes later. The politics is afterwards, after I've explored this, I've written some text, I have music. I have triptych of pieces that each includes a vacuum cleaner. And I... then, that's when you see a woman who has the nerve to place herself with all her physical and spiritual imperfections before us, and assume that the aspects and fantasies of her daily life contain enough resonance and importance to hold our attention.
You know, one of the best reviews Split Britches ever got, we were down in Baltimore, and we did the play "Split Britches" about those three ancestors in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and one of the critics wrote about our efforts: "Not even Shakespeare would put three women on the stage for an hour and think that it could hold our attention." Not even Shakespeare would put three women on the stage for a full hour and think that it could hold our attention. And that review, I remember, it ended, "Call me a Republican, make my day." That's how it ended. I still have that review at home. That was a very empowering review, you know. Because, bloody hell, I mean I do get on stage, and I do hold your attention for an hour, and I do it, and I do it, and I do it, again and again and again.
And I invite anybody who wants to do it to do it. It is radical, it is political, it is brave, it is disgusting, it is gross, it is confusing, and it is everything to me. and it belongs to everybody in this room who wants it. And that's what I believe, and that's what I teach, and that is the basis of my faith. If I can be said to have a religion, it is that there is resonant beauty in daily life, and that anybody who wants to admire that beauty and make use of it, for any artistic purpose can do so.

LJE: Has it gotten easier?

DM: Yeah. I mean look, it's still disgusting, it's still ... there's that moment right before going on stage when I just want to barf. I just want to bolt. It never goes away, that has never gone away. There's also that awe and terror as I sit before a project. The way I do a show is I make a booking to do it and I make up a title. That having been done, I just use these two things as excuse to aggregate talking everything I feel like talking about under the rubric of that particular thing. And there's always that moment of awe, that desire to cancel. "Well, I'll cancel. Well maybe... I'm expecting a headache that day or something." And having... then there's the critic. "Well, what if The Times comes again like they did last time? What is Ben Brantley going to say?" And there's all that stuff. And after that, there's just joy. I love this work. I couldn't do it if I didny't love it. A lot of my colleagues hate writing. And I don't know how they keep doing it because it pays so badly, and there are so few ....This is one of the tangible rewards of working, of being invited to come here and talk about work, and... you know...those rewards, you have to wait often between them. And so if I did not love this work, if I were not driven to do it...And I do not advise anybody to pursue it, unless they are driven to do so. Go to Wall Street, get a job, get something that pays, you can provide for you family. Otherwise, if you're driven to do this, it has such ecstatic pleasures about it, and ...it's just my life, that's all I do, that's what I do. I teach, and I do it, and I work.

LJE: Since we're starting to run out of time... Can you talk about "O Wholly Night [and Other Jewish Solecisms]" a little bit? It was a piece commissioned by the Jewish Museum. So you came up with the title first, and then had a week to put it together?

DM: Well I had more than a week, but not much more. It came....the creation of the piece, the writing time...I cut it close sometimes. I sometimes thrive under pressure, as a writer. I don't know what that's all about. But it's only...it seems like pressure because I actually, I find when I sit down to write that I've actually been working on it for a long time, and that when I...by the time I sit down to write, I am no stranger to the intimacies and eroticisms and weirdnesses of what it is my subject contains. So, it just came at a very hard time in my life. My husband had just had this major car accident, in which he shattered his kneecap completely. He was in the hospital, he had pneumonia and this broken leg. And the woman who was like a mother to me, who helped taking care of the kids, had broken both her arms in an accident the week before. And so I have this show to get up. It's been commissioned. It's being advertised all over the city. My husband has a shattered leg, is in the hospital. Cruz both broke her arms, and I had to get the show up somehow. And I had made the title "O Wholly Night and other Jewish Solecisms." I had thought of a few titles that were more flip, but they were rejected by the very conservative museum. In fact, they made me come up to a censorship sort of meeting -- that's what I called it -- where they asked me to defend my desire to speak about Jewish life. It was very strange because Richard Elvich was on the bill with me doing his old piece called "Somebody Else is Queer in Brooklyn," and I thought, "Well, you know, good..."Somebody Else is Queer in Brooklyn," I'm glad that they're very relaxed about that. Why are they so tense about my desire?" I hate to say it, it was a feminist issue up there.

Anyway, I sat down at my machine. I put everyone to bed, I went and visited my husband, I got the children to bed...I sat down in front of this word processor, and I just started to write, I just wrote. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I got two thirds of it written in two days, just sitting there. And I realized that I had really been doing this writing for seventeen years, that this writing had been going on. It was effortless. it was joyous. It was a relief. It was like milking a cow that was supposed to be milked two hours ago. It felt good, you know, and...But I still had the last part of it, the part of it that you could see was going to come all the way back around, but it hadn't come back around. But it was a question of time, not a question of inability. I was dealing with the infant... my little child fired like eight people I tried to get for childcare. She did like, "Nnnwwww!" And they left, and you know, my husband was on crutches. He came home...it was just really awful. Then the director of the piece, she called me, she said, "You come to my apartment. You come over to my apartment." So I got my parents to take care of my husband, the children, and everybody else. I took a bus to her apartment in the city. She took me across the street, there was a computer place, Computer Friendly something, or I don't know. And she sat me down at a computer, opened up a file. She slammed a quarter down on the counter. "Here's a quarter, you call me when the piece is finished." And she left.
And I finished the piece. I sat there, and I finished it up...just brought it right back around. It was effortless, like it was waiting to happen. And I put the quarter in the phone, and I called her, and she came over and got the piece. And we ran it out, and we each had a copy, and we went home. And there was the piece. It is as you will hear it on Thursday. And the reason it came out this way is that this work had been going on forever. That I had been musing on the beauty of the idea that we're waiting for the Messiah all the time for years. You can see it in other videotapes. The image arose in other works. I love the idea that any of us here in this room could stand up as the Messiah, that the most unpresupposing looking among us could be that person. I'm so...I think that's so humorous and so exquisite. And I had been, in fact, musing on that image for a long time. And, the piece was a sort of...somebody asked me this morning in Rebecca Mark's class about what my relationship with Judaism is, and it's twofold: It's firstly that I am Jewish, I look Jewish, I was brought up with people who spoke Yiddish. It's not that we run to synagogue, or light candles, or wear kerchiefs, or have any of the trapping of ritual Judaism. It was a cultural and genetic thing, firstly. and secondly, I enjoyed the freedom to make metaphors between what my true religion is, which is how beauty lurks everywhere and how belongs to all of us to make use of, and the conventional vocabulary of Jewish thought. And I made that analogy, tongue in cheek, with great respect and with great levity, both. and that's what "O Wholly Night" is a celebration of. It bridges the traditional religion with the religion that I found just growing up and trying to live my life.

LJE: How was it received at the Jewish museum?

DM: At the Jewish Museum was one of the exalted performance experiences of my life. You have four or five of those in your life. One of them was at Hampshire College. I was the Commencement speaker there, and that was just exalting, in 1990. The second unbelievable experience of my performance life came at that Jewish Museum. We just rose to the occasion. It was so traumatic. My husband was so sick, and the kids were screaming, and Cruz broke her arms. There was no possibility of getting the show up, and yet it rose up out of its own possibility, and everybody followed me there. There were hundreds of people there. It was magnificent. I finished, the lights went down, they came up, I was just standing there...tears coming out of my eyes. We all just rose up. It was just one of those beautiful experiences. You don't have many of those, and they are worth waiting for. It was very warmly received there, and the piece went on to have a life in the theater, another theater in Manhattan, where it was the cause of much controversy, actually. I surprised me because it's a piece that's all about love. that's all it is about. But it frightened some liberal Jews, reformed Jews, people who were... who had worked very hard to put Judaism behind them and get on with their lives, were very upset by the dust that flew around the issues that were raised. It offended some people. The easy analogies between Jesus Christ and Gold Bond Medicated Powder offended some people. But that was made very respectfully, that analogy, I can promise you that. And...most people loved it. It was very warmly reviewed. It got a lovely review in The Times. It got a lovely review in The Jewish Press. But it was not without its controversy.

LJE: Well what's interesting when you talk about how...what elements were considered controversial, and you say that you were saying it respectfully and from a place that was real, that no matter what the critics say... (cut off)

DM: ...that very real, very tangible kind of power, and on the other hand, it is absolutely, makes absolutely no difference at all, none. You know, whoever said that this was...critics are like us, they feel different things about things they see, and that's just fine. The truck I can take with a critic is when he or she fails to have the humility of his or her own limitations. That's when I lose it over criticism. Apart from that, it's fine, made no difference at all. I believe a show worth its salt is going to be controversial on some level. It is going to stir conversation. It is going to require a review, in the sense that you come back and see it again -- a re-view. That if it's that deep and if it's that provocative, that's good, and it should have that kind of power to stir up issues.

LJE: Because it asks the audience to ask questions of themselves.

DM: That's right.

LJE: ...that are above and beyond the performance.

DM: Right, and a lot of liberal Jews did not want to ask those questions. They worked very hard to put those questions at bay. And this work, once again, laid the burden upon them, and they were pissed about it, and offended by it. So, that was pretty interesting and very surprising to me. I was naive, and I had not anticipated that. I only saw the inside which was all about love. That's all it was about.

LJE: I want to sink back into Split Britches, but keeping hold of the Jewish identity and the exploration of that in performance. In reading articles about Split Britches, one note that there's always this talk about, the sort of butch-femme couple and then the Jewish woman. And I was wondering if you could address sexuality and identity in that negotiation in the work that you did with Split Britches.

DM: Well I considered Split Britches my education, my school, my theater school. We pay very dearly for our education. My education with Split Britches was very excellent and very expensive. One of the things I paid for that education was the complete ceding of a sexual identity. They were the butch-femme. They covered the sexual spectrum, as a lesbian couple -- butch-femme -- about which a great deal has been written in academia. I really wasn't admitted to a sexual place. I did not have a sexual location. I was Jewish. I was the Jewish woman. Sue Ellen Case offended me repeatedly by referring to me as "Jewish-identified," which really pissed me off because I am not "Jewish identified." I am Jewish -- period, you know. But never mind that. So yeah, I was...I was in this company...I was the writer. I was the person who gave language to collective ideas. I was Jewish, that was my aspect. This was beautiful. It was three weirdoes who just didn't fit in anywhere. That was just right for me. Peggy was tall, she was tall, you know -- tall, the way Della was tall. And Lois was this little Southern belle who could really pass because she was already beautiful, but she was always in love with the preacher's wives instead of the preachers. The church being the main source of theater for her, as somebody who was growing up. And me, some weird Jewish person from Westchester, who never fit in, who didn't get asked to dances or parties, who read books, and used words that were too big, and I'm just, you know, not quite your mainstream element. So there was great beauty in that.

But I was asked to, and willingly gave up, a sexual identity, in favor of my being able to put language to a collective ideal. And in service of my learning theater and in service of my exploring other aspects of my identity where I was not mainstream and where I wasn't comfortable. And for me, that was the Jewish identity, it was the brainy one, it was the one who talked to much, it was whatever. So, that was that dynamic. And I really didn't....then we finally came to do "Little Women: The Tragedy", which is a piece loosely based on the work of Louisa May Alcott. Now, I don't like Louisa May Alcott very much, and although I scripted that piece, I don't really understand it. Louisa May Alcott filled me with dread and boredom as a young girl. I couldn't read Little Women. It just depressed me: "Oh, Marmie..." and all that. It just depressed me. I didn't....but Lois was really hot to explore it. And OK, so I ended up in that piece playing a prostitute. We had full frontal nudity in that show. I did not invite my parents to it. But the full frontal nudity was nothing compared with how I had to wear this corset, like the push up boobs, and this little high heels, and everything. It was horrifying for me.
Now I am not a person who has had trouble behind closed doors. I really enjoy the pleasures of the flesh, and I consider them one of the compensators for mortality. However, in performance, this was really scary for me, and I didn't really fully know how to get behind that. And it was really...I don't even have time now to go through the stages of revelation that came to me as I sought to embody the emblem of sexual, you know, desire and sexual freedom and sexual expression. It was the first time I had been given permission by the company to take that particular role because Lois was busy being Louisa May Alcott. And I think I got best of the deal, to tell you the truth. But it was a difficult dynamic. It's difficult in any situation to work with a couple -- when you're one person and there's a couple. It doesn't matter if they're lesbian, straight, gay men, whatever that configuration is. It's very challenging.
I was always the person...I was voted down all the time. There was them...it was two against one, you know. It was a challenging dynamic, but it was a very utopian and exquisite relationship because I did not feel any limitation in terms of my ability to use language to express what must have been sexual imagery in their relationship, from my point of view. I felt very free and easy with language, and I was allowed into a world. I was educated politically, and I was able to, again, enjoy my collapsible boundary. I felt like I could fall in love with a woman, I could fall in love with an apple or a plum, if it were presented attractively. There's a continuum of experience that really doesn't need to know categories or boundaries or walls. And that I was able freely to traverse that sexual boundary with language. It was joyous, which is why it was particularly annoying to me that Sue Ellen Case, in the Split Britches book, as the editor, sought to marginalize me and to make me into a non-person, seeing my straightness or my heterosexuality as an obstacle to her theoretical agenda. She denied herself a look at a very curious, very utopian, very powerful alliance which was the Split Britches Company. She never investigated it ...from a scholarly point of view, from a literary point of view. She never investigated it....and needed to push me out of the picture, as the cover of the book will show. There are...it was a three person theater company from its inception, and there are only two people on the cover of that book. And I am not one of them, and I think that that's tragic -- not just from my point of view, but from a historical point of view. I think it deprives readers of a sense of the history of the company. And I was real hurt by that.

LJE: Can you talk....oh, there's so much to...I want to say in response to that, and to recapture your presence in, and to put your picture on that cover of the book. So that, historically speaking, when people pick up that book, they don't just see the two of them. They don't have to turn the book on the back to see...

DM: And get a magnifying glass to see me covering my face with binoculars....

LJE: I've brought this picture [at right (copyright Donna MacAdam)] for you all to see that, in print....

DM: Oh, I love that picture. People still have it, it's so demented. This demented photograph....the dementia of this photo gives me such delight. Look at that. Would you let that person in if they knocked at your door to sell girl scout cookies? No. I love it. It's so demented. Donna MacAdam -- I was so proud. People still have that picture on their refrigerator from the show. It was years ago that I used this on a postcard. It's just so psychotic. I love that. That is arguably the most ugly dress ever made. You can't see from the picture. It is pink and purple silk flowers. It is hideous. And it's got this little ruffle on the bottom.

LJE: You said that you willingly ceded your sexuality, in order to let yourself explore your own linguistic boundaries.

DM: To learn the world of the theater. It was so interesting to be learning how to use desire as a source, while cutting of one's sexuality. But I think, as with most things in life, my own inner life drew me to that dichotomy because, as I say, I was terrified of performative...the performative nature of sexuality. As I say I have no trouble behind closed doors, thanks very much. But the performative aspects of that act were very frightening to me. So it was right, it made sense that I was willing to make a sacrifice of that kind. It fit into my own sort of complex spectrum of fear anyway. And certainly, it paid off, because I have gone back and reclaimed that aspect of my identity, as soon as I could. I got involved with this comedy group -- me and two guys. I was the femme on that stage in a big way. I was the only one wearing a dress, it was really thrilling. And I played all the girls' roles, and all the silly roles I wanted. And of course, that was one of the reasons why I went solo, was that I could explore ideas as far as I wanted to explore them , and so I could be femme or butch or any point in between or denied or ignored or celebrated, at will, without compromising anybody's idea of what the company was all about. So I had various other outlets. I went back and got myself as a sexual....you know, the performative aspects of my sexuality were reclaimed in other forms, after I had learned a craft, which was that of taking my life and learning what was resonant about it for theater. So I learned a craft, at that expense, and other expenses, you know. It's not easy working with a couple. Touring was hard for me. I didn't have my world around me. I often had to "come out" as a straight person because there weren't any straight people, and I would have to make the embarrassing revelation after a while that I was straight. I mean, I've seen all sides of that. I was gay-bashed many times in the company of Split Britches. I was educated about an entire community, which was invaluable to me. It was a feminist education. It was a lesbian education. And it was, you know. So it was an OK thing, you know...I mean....It was a sacrifice well worth making, and I couldn't have made it if in some way it wasn't...you know, it didn't fit into my personality profile anyway.

LJE: It seems as if performing the Jewish identity came far sooner than working on the sexual side. Have you thought at all about why that was easier?<

DM: Because it was about comedy. It was all about comedy. Comedy is the weapon of the powerless. I've been relaxed with comedy since I was four months old. I'm no different than I was then, I've just read a few more books and have a few more outfits, that's it. And I was always relaxed with comedy as a weapon, as a tool, as a way to break through what was unbreakable. And the whole thing with the Jewish, that whole Jewish angle, it was about comedy.

LJE: There's a history of it too...

DM: Yes, very much so.

LJE: ...Being Jewish and performance....

DM: Yeah, and I played that rabbi who always dreamed of being a stand-up comic in "Beauty and the Beast." And he has this pathetic stand-up comedy routine he tries to do. It's just ludicrous. Again, an example of how it's not just what the rabbi says, but his desperate desire to be a stand-up comedian that we are laughing at. And, so it was easier. I'm more fluent. It was less embarrassing. It was less personal. It was native. And it, by many years, preceded my willingness and ability to recover my whole sexual self.

LJE: And now in "O Wholly Night" you bring the two together.

DM: Yeah, that's true, and it's so satisfying. You know when that evening finishes up, if I have been fully present, I am very satisfied at having...at a certain unity of idea, of body and spirit. It' s very satisfying that way. Thank you for pointing that out. I hadn't quite verbalized it to myself that way.

LJE: To remind everybody, Thursday night, at 7:30, in the Freeman Auditorium, which is right over here, "O Wholly Night and Other Jewish Solecisms," Deb Margolin. Should we continue?

DM: It's right next door, isn't that true? That building?

LJE: Let's open the floor to questions. Rebecca...

REBECCA MARK (Associate Professor of English, Tulane University): As somebody who grew up with Split Britches, watched their performances, wrote about it. I mean always, always I knew that you would be writer or collaborator. It is very disturbing now that sit and just think about this, that when it goes into print culture, when this book Split Britches is put unto print culture, that you will be erased, in many ways, erased from that role. When the communal knowledge is always at your presence there. And, I'm thinking...I remember as a young lesbian, growing up, thinking, "Isn't that cool? You know, there's this collaboration going on. Doesn't that make it even cooler? Isn't that better than what it is?" So do we, as we move into print culture, just rigidify into the ....this group or this group or this group. How do we change that? I mean, as a literary scholar, that really bothers me. I mean, how can we get you back in the picture. That isn't history, that's not the story.

DM: No. it isn't....

REBECCA MARK: That's not what I lived with, at least.

DM: I mean that Sue Ellen Case had a major agenda. It was an agenda editing that she did. She had...she's fighting the wrong spirit, you know. I feel like she just keeps punching, and keeps fighting, and keeps fighting, and keeps punching. Meanwhile, I was not a proper candidate for that type of erasure. In fact, it was all about, through the education and the work I did with Split Britches, it was all about supporting...all these women's cultures. And, you know, now it's in print, and it's indelible in some way. I just cried for months. I sobbed for three months that fifteen years of my work had marginalized me to this extent. And now, you know, I'm just back doing my work. Linda Hart is editing a book of my performance texts. Linda and I have laughed a great deal about the idea of, you know, putting me on the cover, and then putting a little picture of her on the back with binoculars. We've laughed about...that was her suggestion. We've laughed about it many times. And I will address, you know...I have such.... I am so angry and hurt, but a lot of the anger and hurt has been mitigated by the continuing pleasure I have in my own work, by the fact that I now have a book coming out of my own work. And I don't know, I mean Ginger Strand, a very interesting and bright young scholar from Princeton wrote a review of the Split Britches book that appeared in a small journal, whose name I can't remember, and it was beautiful. It just addressed this issue: "What have we done here? Why have we taken a utopian situation, in other words, a situation where women of different sexual orientations are going to the deepest possible level, without exclusion, are transmuting that boundary between their alleged sort of categories -- why have we forsaken that? Why have we failed to look at that?" And that is the flaw of the book. And this review, which I carry with me, helps me. She took the burden away from me and put it out in the world. I could not have written...people said, "You should address it in a public forum." But I didn't know how to do that. I was too angry. I didn't know how to write about it. I didn't know what to say. I just wanted to beat her up in an elevator, I don't know. So this really helped. This review, Ginger, took that burden off my chest. And I have been able to go on with my work. I think it's tragic, you now. I think it's too bad that we...for reasons...that we feel that we have to fight so hard for something that's right in front of us. I don't know what the answer is.

SUSANNE DIETZEL (Visiting Assistant Professor of Women's Studies, Tulane University): You know, I think that it is so beautiful how desire is dangerous. And how expression of desire becomes this political tool, or it becomes this manifestation of politics. Yet, everything in this society urges us to quench our desire, to not express it because it so dangerous, because it collapses the boundary that makes experience, pain, mortality, whatever, it makes that transparent. So, how can we enrich our own personal lives by letting desire just flow, by expressing desire within teaching, for instance?

DM: That's the whole basis of the way I teach, and it gets results. Forget about...I don't believe in, I don't believe that criticism, formal criticism, group critique, is a way to get results. It doesn't get results, that's my experience. It shuts people down. It paralyzes them. It frightens them. "Oh I can't do this. I don't have the talent. I don't know. I can't . I won't . What shall I do? I don't know. How can I?" What I find works is reminding people of where their impulses and desires lie. It gets results. It works. It does not fail. You know, if...this is how I teach. I see the most exquisite results from people from all walks of life. And I don't just teach...you know, writers. I teach air conditioning repair men, whoever wants to take my class takes it. And without exception, people who dedicate themselves to the personal inventory, and the revelations of that personal inventory, do beautiful work. I believe that desire is the thing that gets result. It's what gets you out there. it's what gets you up in the morning. There's no point otherwise. And I find that's the fastest way to shut people down in any effort, whether I'm teaching somebody how to set type on a computer, or whether I'm trying to empower somebody to get up and do a performance. My best strength lies in pointing them in the direction of their own deepest desires. Desire does not fail. It is bottomless. It is ever-present, and it does not fail to yield humanity. And what do we look to the arts for? A reflection of humanity. That's my definition of it anyway. So I find that...not only in my life, but in my work, it's the thing that gets results, whether I'm working with myself or my students. "Well that's, you know what that doesn't work. That fails. It doesn't advance the plot." This doesn't help somebody. It's like "Well what does? Or what shall I...? Oh, I can't do this!" It just doesn't work. What works...I mean, we all have a critic, we all have to study the classics. I don't mean to advocate for slouchy scholarship. You have to read the classics. You have to read Shakespeare. You have to understand English. You have to understand your native language or whatever language you're working in. You have to be able to parse a sentence. You have to know words. You have to study language. Read poetry, read literature. I don't mean that...but that having been done, when you go forward to commit a creative act, and I like the word "commit" because it goes with commit a crime usually. When you go forward to commit a creative act, you have to...desire is the only thing that is going to get you past the institutionalized and inner obstacles that wait for you. So, I firmly believe that.

LJE: Any other questions?

BW: Thank you very much.

DM: Thank you very much.

[.....APPLAUSE.....]

DM: Don't forget to come to the show. Come to the show on Thursday night. I'll be looking for all of you there. OK?





Back to the Deb Margolin Zale Page