Donald Margulies Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The second son of Robert and Charlene Margulies, Donald Margulies was born on September 2, 1954, in Brooklyn (Coney Island), New York. His father was a wallpaper salesperson who unhappily worked long hours for forty years at the same company yet was always frightened of being fired. His mother was a positive, education-oriented woman who worked in various offices when her children were young.

An exception to Robert Margulies’ often withdrawn nature was his love of Broadway musicals. He enjoyed listening to original-cast recordings during his rare free time, and when his son was nine, he took his family into Manhattan for a Broadway vacation. Although the young boy loved musical comedies, he felt privileged to enjoy Herb Gardner’s A Thousand Clowns. This comedy introduced Donald Margulies to art as a representation of life, specifically the complex relationship between fathers and sons that would eventually inhabit his early work.

Another seminal work in Donald Margulies’ intellectual evolution was Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (pr., pb. 1949), which he read at age eleven. Miller’s deeply moving drama of a frightened father, mother, and two sons in Brooklyn resonated loudly with Margulies as a reflection of his own life. Other inspiring literary “fathers” were J. D. Salinger, who understood the youngster’s adolescent angst and confusion, and Philip Roth, whose writings honestly taught Margulies about being a Jewish man.

Margulies got an odd bit of encouragement about his own writing abilities in 1972 when his school principal censored a short story the John Dewey High School senior had written, only to have the U.S. District Court rule in favor of young Margulies. Art was another great talent and interest for Margulies. He earned an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute, where he studied for...

(The entire section is 763 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Donald Margulies (MAHR-gyuh-lees) was born in Brooklyn to a middle-class Jewish family on September 2, 1954. Despite a forty-year career as a wallpaper salesman, Margulies’s father, Bob, always feared that he would lose his job. Constantly working, Bob Margulies never developed a close relationship with his two sons. However, he tried to provide them every opportunity. The Margulies house was filled with show tunes, and the family attended as many Broadway plays as they could afford. His father’s love for theater helped to mold Margulies’s writing.

Margulies’s mother also shaped his writing by fueling his passion for reading. However, as Margulies became more engrossed in literature, his illiterate father felt threatened and grew more distant. Many of Margulies’s early plays explore the relationship between sons and their detached fathers.

Margulies attended the Pratt Institute, then transferred to the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase, where he attained a bachelor of fine arts degree in visual arts. He wrote his first plays while a student at SUNY-Purchase. After graduation, he worked as a graphic artist but continued to write.

In the early 1980’s, the Jewish Repertory Theatre produced many of Margulies’s plays, including Luna Park, Resting Place, and Gifted Children. The latter play was his first full-length work and received very negative reviews. However, Joseph Papp, producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival, saw promise in the young playwright and produced his next play, Found a Peanut.

Following his mother’s death in 1978, Margulies wrote several plays that delved into a strained relationship between father and son. In What’s Wrong with This Picture?, Mort and Artie struggle with the grief they feel over the death of...

(The entire section is 758 words.)