Written & Performed by Deb Margolin
The Kimmel Center’s Theater Residency program
SEI Innovation Studio
Apr 24 - 27
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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?
Developed as part of a theater residency with celebrated poet and performance artist Dael Orlandersmith at the Kimmel Center, this rousing world-premiere work will leave you with classical questions about the nature of compassion and the limits, and the limitlessness, of human endurance.
What sparked your interest for playwriting and performance?
Storytelling! I love storytelling! Storytelling is to the person awake as dreaming is to the sleeper! Through the telling of stories, we have more lives than our own! Since I was a small child, I made up worlds in which my baby sister lived; there was a whole land in which she lived which was a Telephonocracy! The Board of Directors of the phone company were the rulers of the land! There was a king, but he was a figurehead. And I portrayed her husband, her children, the people in the town; she just had to play herself! Something about this enabled me to endure what’s difficult about childhood, and celebrate what was wild and anarchic about it. This passion for creating meta-levels and sub-levels on which to interpret waking life has followed me directly into adulthood. I fell into theater at 27 by writing for a theater company that needed some script help, and the next thing I knew I was IN the play I’d helped write, and the next thing after that, I was on tour in Europe with this play, and the rest just followed. There are too many tiny miracles and tragedies every day to be left to the simple quotidian recounting of things! Our lives are littered with beauty, and performance/playwriting is a way to call attention to them, to make of a group of strangers a concerted community of citizens and witnesses. It’s just lovely! What a great life I have!
What was your most memorable moment working with Dael?
Dael is an incisive, generous, remarkable thinker and dramaturg, in addition to her extraordinary gifts as a storyteller, writer, and performer. It was beautiful the way she met each writer involved in the residency precisely on the level of greatest dramaturgical need, and saw, as great writing teachers and dramaturgs do, what each writer was trying to talk about before s/he did. I brought a piece I’d already performed to the residency to work on, and Dael pressed me to go deeper, gently but powerfully reflecting back to me that the themes my piece most evinced were not the themes that were most delicate, most important. She saw this and, through questioning me, challenging me, enabled me to drop down to the delicate level the true nature of the work required.
What is your stance on the feelings of compassion after working on this piece?
O compassion, that old ragtag nuisance and beloved friend! I think working on this piece, 8 STOPS, has called me down from the mountain and into the bustling town of thought on the subject of compassion, and shown me, somehow, the inheritability of it, the hard-wired nature of it! The work on this play has helped shore up my compassion for myself, fool for love that I am; has helped me see what I’ve passed down to my children, and somehow put compassion in the most tender, daily light for me to think about.
What was it like to win the OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance?
What a great honor that was! The OBIE people told my friend Madeleine Olnek to somehow get me to show up at the awards evening, without telling me why it was urgent that I be there, or mentioning to anyone else that I was going to win one. My children were very young at the time, and my husband wasn’t home yet, and didn’t know about this, because Mad took them very seriously, and didn’t tell him either. She SOMEHOW managed to talk me into LEAVING MY KIDS ALONE for the 5 minutes it took my husband to get home, keeping them on the telephone the entire time until he arrived, which fortunately was more like 3 minutes. Then I was sitting there, well into the presentation of awards and fairly late in the evening, unclear why my friend had acted as if it were a matter of life and death for me to get there, when I heard the presenter quoting from one of my solo pieces, and slowly, slowly, it dawned on me that I was being honored! It was shocking and exciting! I was awestruck; I went to receive the award and babbled my head off; I did manage to end my rambling remarks by telling the story of a time my father heard a homeless man talking, and when he got up close enough to hear what this man was saying, the man, smiling madly, was repeating, over and over again, “I LOVE MY LIFE!” That is how I felt, exactly, the madness and the joy of such an honor! I’m not over it at all!
The Kimmel Center’s Theater Residency program is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. We would also like to thank The Hearst Foundation and Linda & David Glickstein for their generous contributions.