Deb Margolin, acclaimed performance artist and playwright, lead a playwriting workshop Wednesday afternoon at Joyce Cammilleri Hall in conjunction with USC Visions and Voices.
The event, which was capped at 20 attendees, gave Margolin the chance to converse with her audience and establish a rapport. Rather than mounting a platform and delivering a lecture, she directed everyone to sit together in a circle onstage, giving the event a more intimate, relaxed atmosphere.
Margolin began by reading a passage from a tattered horoscope book, which she had picked up while in line at a CVS drugstore the day before she was due to begin teaching at New York University’s graduate theatre program. Reading the passage had become a ritual for her before engaging in any activity related to theatre.
“‘Moon in Libra youngsters are quick-witted, clever individuals,’” Margolin read from the book. “‘Their artistic and musical talents will be used to teach and inspire others. Their students, in turn, gain far greater fame, to credit these individuals for the important role they play as teachers.’”
Margolin spoke passionately on the topic of how to draw writing material from real life. She recalled an anecdote where she was riding a bus and wrote down all the wild conspiracy theories that the woman sitting next to her was spewing, corroborating the aphorism that truth is stranger than fiction.
“I wanted to spend such time as we have together to work on reminding ourselves about the clear and lasting relationship that we can always tap between the desire to create material for the theatre and the source from which such material comes and can always come,” Margolin said.
Margolin also stressed the importance of keeping a notebook within reach at all times, because writers are constantly observing the world around them and inspiration could strike at any moment.
“As artists, we are working all the time,” Margolin said. “The work does not go on when you sit at your typewriter or notebook. The work is constant, the work is going on all the time. As writers, we need to elevate our consciousness to the fact that life is our source, we belong to each other and we have collapsible boundaries.”
Margolin emphasized that everyone experiences writer’s block, but one need only become aware of the wealth of information that surrounds us daily (and nightly) to realize that there is no shortage of things to write about.
“It is your birthright, it’s not specific to you, every single person has this. There is no such thing as writer’s block,” Margolin said.
“Every night you go to sleep and you dream in rich, resonant imagery. What we need to do as writers, what I need to remind myself and what I need to remind you about, is getting obstacles to that source, the constant poet, out of the way.”
After going around the circle and asking each participant their name and motivations for attending the workshop, Margolin then asked the audience to engage in an exercise called “Fill in the blank,” in which everyone completed a phrase that Margolin tossed out, such as: “I remember…” or “My relationship with God is like my relationship with…”
Margolin received the Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance in 2000. She currently teaches playwriting and performance as an associate professor at Yale University. Margolin is scheduled for two more events this week; she will perform her one-woman show 8 Stops on Thursday evening and she will lead another workshop about performing on Friday afternoon.