The Office: Theater J Edition

Grace here. It’s a pity that you can’t see what happens offstage at Theater J. It’s often just as entertaining as what happens onstage. I suppose that’s what blogs are for, so…

For one thing, my co-workers are currently dancing around ebulliently, which is occasionally how our office responds to good news. Other times, we ring bells or bring in donuts.


For another thing, we have pet fish! I bet you didn’t know this, but the goldfish that were used as props in Mikveh are now swimming happily around the Theater J administrative office. They are named Celine and Lionel (after Celine Dion and Lionel Richie).

In my capacity as playbill-maker and publicist for Imagining Madoff, I’ve gotten to know the cast, designers, and playwright a bit. First impressions ensue:

I met Deb Margolin briefly when Theater J  did a reading of Three Seconds in the Key last winter, and was immediately struck by her exuberance and creativity—she’s a walking, talking [exclaiming, interrogating, joking] creative inferno of passion, strength and insight.

Not only that, she’s one of the warmest artists I’ve ever worked with. Case in point: when she heard that she would be in town working on Madoff on my birthday, she instantly offered to take me out to celebrate.  How many people do you know who are that friendly? She must be Midwestern.

To give you guys a little preview of the awesome-ness that is Ms. Margolin, here’s a little bit of what she had to say about Imagining Madoff.

In writing for a character, one is forced to enter the body of that character, the mind and spirit of that character; one is thus enabled to look out at the world through those particular eyes, and to acknowledge the common humanity of even the most heinous villain…

 As theater serves as a probe of the deepest aspects of character, I could think of no better way of trying to understand Madoff’s incomprehensible willingness, his astonishing ability, to commit fraud and betrayal on this unprecedented scale than to sit quietly and listen for his voice.

I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m upset or frustrated with someone, I’m totally going to write a monologue from their perspective.  I suspect it will make it impossible for me to hold a grudge.

Mike Nussbaum I have not met yet, but I did have a phone conversation with him that left me more than a little star-struck.

I don’t know if you know of Mr. Nussbaum [I didn’t recognize the name, and then when I saw his picture I realized that he has been in almost every film I’ve ever seen], but this is Mr. Chicago, people! This is the man from the original cast of American Buffalo…David Mamet’s go-to-guy (evidently, he used to tease Mamet about not being a good actor), and a pioneer of Chicago’s famous theatre scene. And he’s completely charming.

So how did we get this living legend to come play with us this fall?  Mike shares:

I heard Deb Margolin discuss her play at a conference, and I immediately asked to read a copy. I knew at once that she has a powerful voice and a sensibility that informs the subject with a unique insight…

 The interplay between the two men is fascinating and terrible. I told Ari Roth–for this I’ll come to Washington.

 Then he told the following joke:

The Frenchman says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have wine!” The German says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have beer!” The Jew says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have diabetes”.

I can’t speak objectively about the director, Alexandra Aron, because she is a Wesleyan University graduate, which pretty much guarantees that I will find her brilliant and awesome. But….

Read a bit of the statement she wrote about the play, and you can see that even my Wes-colored-glasses reflect a very savvy lady:

[Imagining Madoff is], full of contradictory statements, discursive analogies, and perplexing symbolism. I view this play through a lens that celebrates both the elasticity and the Gordian knot-type of thinking that distinguishes Jewish philosophy.

A sentence that would make both a Classics Scholar and a Talmudist happy 😀

So, these are some of the motley crew who you won’t see onstage when you come to watch Imagining Madoff (well, I suppose you’ll see Mike, but only in the character of Solomon Galkin, not in his own equally snazzy persona).  But I hope you appreciate this little glimpse into the world of writers, directors, and the dancing admin-staff of Theater J. Come by and visit—there are donuts!


2 thoughts on “The Office: Theater J Edition

  1. Grace, i almost never look at blogs, as i find it too much of a distraction. But — just going through emails upon our return from abroad yesterday — and Ari’s email re your comments on preps. for Imagining Madoff peaked my curiosity. And i was well rewarded; your comments were delightful! Cheers, margot.

  2. Thank you Margot! I can’t take much credit, as most of that entry consisted of quotations pulled from other people, but I fully agree that there are some delightful artists working on this project! Can’t wait for you to meet them at opening night!

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