The Office – Theater J Style

From the desk of Grace Overbeke,  Theater J’s Director of Marketing and Communications

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 [Imagining Madoff Playwright] 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 BuffaloDavid 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!

August 31–September 25

A Mainstage Premiere
By Deb Margolin
Directed by Alexandra Aron
Featuring Rick Foucheux, Mike Nussbaum and Jennifer Mendenhall

The much anticipated premiere by OBIE Award winner, Deb Margolin. Unrepentant Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff sets the record straight from his prison cell, recounting an all-night study session with Holocaust survivor, poet, and investment client, Solomon Galkin. With testimony from Madoff’s personal secretary before the Securities and Exchange Commission, we delve into the minds of two towering men, as their mutual will to confide and confess accelerates through the night.

2 Responses

  1. […] Mifflin on 16th Street: On the Theater J blog, publicist Grace Overbeke invokes The Office ("The Office: Theater J Edition") en route to introducing some of the people involved in the […]

  2. Thanks for including us in your blog post Grace! We are also excited to have IMAGINING MADOFF as Theater J’s season opener! One of the characters even quotes a Talmudic passage about fish, “…just as the fish of the sea die immediately if taken onto dry land, so too human beings die immediately when they separate themselves from Torah and mitzvos.” (Avodah Zarah 3b) See, there’s a lot to be learned from your scaly, finned friends.

    However, we were just a LITTLE BIT hurt to be referred to as props. Shirley, our director, always claimed that we were integral characters in MIKVEH, creating stage life and atmosphere in a way that only we could achieve. She also talked a lot with the wonderful Israeli set designer Kinereth Kisch who came up with the idea of casting us, about our relation to the women on stage: living within limitations, but watching carefully what was going on outside our walls, and something about being symbolic of gender constructs, blahty-blah blah–we stopped listening then so that we could focus on learning our blocking.

    We’re glad to be a part of the Theater J family, and we never grow bored with what goes on in the office. Of course, our attention span only lasts nine seconds, but nonetheless–we’re thankful to be kept well-fed and well-cultured.

    all best,

    Celine and Lionel (but mostly Celine)

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