Dinner with Friends: About the Playwright

Jan 11, 2007

Born in Brooklyn in 1954, Donald Margulies grew up in Trump Village, a middle-class Jewish community in Coney Island. His father, who sold wallpaper for a living, loved plays and movies, and regularly took his family to Broadway shows. Margulies saw his first Broadway play at the age of nine and in a conversation with Elizabeth Farnsworth of the PBS show News Hour with Jim Lehrer, said that for his family, “religion was show business. We didn’t go to synagogue, but we went to see Hello, Dolly.”
In the early seventies, Margulies studied graphic design at the Pratt Institute and then started to write plays. This new interest made him reconsider his major, and he transferred to State University of New York at Purchase to pursue a degree in playwriting. Following his collegiate years, he was commissioned to adapt a Delmore Schwartz story for the Jewish Repertory Theater. He chose In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, which served as inspiration for Luna Park which debuted in New York in 1982. In 1983, Jewish Rep staged Gifted Children, his first full-length play to be produced. After seeing the production, one audience member was so impressed that she introduced Margulies to her husband, Joseph Papp, who then produced Found a Peanut at the Public Theatre. Margulies then moved with his wife to New Haven, Connecticut, so that she could attend Yale Medical School.
In 1992, Margulies’ career really began to take off when Sight Unseen (PSC 1994, directed by Mark Nelson) won an Obie Award for Best New American Play and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
In 1997, he was nominated for the Pulitzer again for Collected Stories (PSC 2000, directed by Christopher Grabowski), but did not win until 2000, when he finally received the award for Dinner with Friends.
Elected to the Dramatists Guild Council in 1993, Margulies has received grants from Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS), New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. His plays have premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Repertory, the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Jewish Repertory Theatre. He has been a playwright-in-residence four times at the Sundance Institute Playwright’s Lab in Utah. He is also a frequent contributor to the 52nd Street Project, a not-for-profit organization that matches kids from the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of NYC with professional theater artists to create original theater. He lives with his wife, Lynn Street, and their son Miles in New Haven, where he teaches playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.