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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Brings 'Queens' To La Jolla Playhouse

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July 3, 2018 1:32 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Brings 'Queens' To La Jolla Playhouse

GUESTS:

Martyna Majok, playwright, “Queens”

Related Story: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Brings 'Queens' To La Jolla Playhouse

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>>AMERICA HAS TRADITIONALLY CALLED ITSELF A TO -- NATION OF IMMIGRANTS. BUT NEW POLICIES HAVE SELDOM BEEN WELCOME WITH OPEN ARMS. WAVE AFTER WAVE OF IMMIGRANTS, STARTING WITH THE IRISH TO TODAY'S DESPERATE CENTRAL AMERICANS ALL HAVE FACED AN UPHILL CLIMB IN MAKING AMERICA THEIR HOME. A NEW PRODUCTION AT LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE TAKES US INTO THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE THROUGH THE LIVES OF TWO GENERATIONS OF WOMEN WHO FOUNDED THEIR FIRST NEW HOME IN AMERICA IN A BASEMENT APARTMENT IN NEW YORK CITY. THE SHOW IS CALLED QUEENS. JOINING ME IS QUEENS, MARTYNA MAJOK. WELCOME TO THE SHOW.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> THE NAME OF THE PLATE REFERS TO THE BOROUGH WITH A PLAY IS LOCATED. BUT IS IT ALSO A REFERENCE TO THE WOMEN THEMSELVES?
>> YES. IT IS A DUAL MEANING. THEY ARE THE HEADS OF THEIR OWN DOMAINS. THEY RUN THEIR FAMILIES. I HAD ONE PERSON ASK ME HOW THIS WOULD BE DIFFERENT IF IT WERE ON THAN. -- ALL MEN. I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND HIS QUESTION. WOMEN ARE PAID LESS, WOMEN ARE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF THEIR FAMILY, FOR CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY, ETC. THE STAKES ARE HIGHER FOR THEM. THEY ARE SEEN AT THE -- AT THE QUEENS OF THEIR FAMILIES. A DUAL MEETING -- MEANING.
>> THE CHARACTERS SHARE THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING IMMIGRANTS, BUT THEY ARRIVED HERE APART.
>> ONE OF THEM IS A POLISH WOMAN WHO CAME BEFORE 9/11. RIGHT BEFORE THERE WAS A BIG SHIFT, MORE OF AN AWARENESS OF IMMIGRANTS AND SCAPEGOATING OF IMMIGRANTS. SHE GOT IN BEFORE THAT PERIOD. INA IS FROM THE UKRAINE. SHE COMES OVER THROUGH A FIANCÉ VISA AND GETS TRAPPED INTO A RELATIONSHIP THAT IS ABUSIVE. SHE BECOMES UNDOCUMENTED BECAUSE THE MAN IS HOLDING HER DOCUMENTS. SHE HAS TO MANEUVER HER WAY THROUGH AMERICA AND GET HER WAY TO QUEENS WHERE SHE THINKS HER MOTHER IS WHO ABANDONED HER 20 YEARS AGO IN THE UKRAINE. THEIR JOURNEYS ARE DIFFERENT IN SIMILAR BUT THE TWO GENERATIONS ARE A HOPE TO LOOK AT HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE 9/11.
>> IS THE BASEMENT APARTMENT ITSELF AND THE BUILDING ALSO LIKE A CHARACTER IN QUEENS?
>> YES. AS WE GO BACK AND FORTH IN TERM OF MEMORY AND TIME, YOU ARE ALSO THAT'S ALWAYS ASKING WHOSE MEMORIES THESE ARE. THERE IS THE COLORING ABOUT WHAT THE TRUTH OF THE SITUATION IS. HOW SOMEONE PERCEIVES MEMORY. YOU CAN HAVE A SAME EVENT PEOPLE SEE IT COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY. AT A CERTAIN POINT, SOME OF THESE MEMORIES ARE OF THE HOUSE AND THE BASEMENT ITSELF. 70s OPINION ON WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW THEY ARE DEFENDING THEIR DECISIONS AND CHOICES IS A LOT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE SEE HAPPENING. THE HOUSE PRESENTS ITSELF IS THAT.
>> THIS IS YOUR FIRST PROJECT IS AN -- PRODUCTION SINCE WINNING THE PULITZER PRIZE. HAD IS WINNING AN AWARD LIKE THAT CHANGE THINGS FOR A PLAYWRIGHT?
>> IT IS THRILLING BECAUSE THIS PLAY COST-OF-LIVING HAD TWO PRODUCTIONS. THE LAST ONE WAS IN 2017. I HAVE NO WAY TO PROVE WHETHER THIS IS WHY BUT THERE ARE TWO DISABLED CHARACTERS THAT I SPECIFY AND I HAD THEATERS TELL ME THAT THEY WANTED TO DO THE PLAY BUT THEY DIDN'T KNOW ANY DISABLED PAPER -- PEOPLE. I HAVE LISTED AGENCIES BUT STILL. I HOPE THAT, SPECIFICALLY FOR COST-OF-LIVING, I HOPE THIS TAKES AWAY SOME OF THE EXCUSES PEOPLE HAVE FOR NOT DOING THE PLAY. ALSO, THAT IT VALIDATES STORIES ABOUT THE WORKING-CLASS EXPERIENCE. AND THE LOW INCOME EXPERIENCE. THERE ARE IMMIGRANT CHARACTERS, DISABLED CHARACTERS, LOW INCOME, I HOPE THE PRESTIGE OF THE PULITZER VALIDATES THE STORY. THERE THE STORIES OF WHAT THIS COUNTRY IS.
>> WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR YOU?
>> I HAVE DREAMED ABOUT THIS MY WHOLE LIFE. A WHEN I FOUND OUT ABOUT IT, I DIDN'T BELIEVE IT. MY AGENT CALLED ME AND I WOULD LIKE, HOW DARE YOU? YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS TO ME. I WAS IN DISBELIEF. IT HASN'T CHANGED MY LIFE THAT MUCH BECAUSE I STILL HAVE TO DO THE SAME WORK. CERTAIN DOORS HAVE BECOME MORE OPEN, NEW OPPORTUNITIES. BUT I AM STILL STAYING UP MOST OF THE NIGHT AND DOING THE WORK THAT I HAD SET OUT TO DO ALREADY. HOPEFULLY, IT WILL INCREASE VISIBILITY. I AM STILL DOING THE SAME STUFF. [ LAUGHTER ]
>> YOU ARE PRESENTING THIS PLAY ABOUT IMMIGRANTS DURING A TIME WHEN THE NATION IS IN TURMOIL OVER IMMIGRATION. WHAT YOU THINK QUEENS ADDS TO THE NATIONAL DISCUSSION ABOUT THIS?
>> THE COST OF QUEENS WENT TO THE RALLY LAST WEEK IN DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO. I FEEL LIKE, YES I READ POLITICAL PLAYS THAT ARE PERSONAL, BUT FOR SOME CONVERSATIONS TO BEGIN, IT HAS TO BEGIN AT A PERSONAL LEVEL. IT HAS TO BE AT A LEVEL OF BEING DISARMED. IF I ENCOUNTER SOMEONE THAT HAS A DIFFERENT OPINION THAN ME LYRICALLY, BOTH OF US GET DEFENSIVE. I FEEL IT IN BOTH OF US. THAT IS A DIFFERENT -- DIFFICULT PLACE TO START A CONVERSATION FROM. YOU'RE WAITING FOR THEM TO FALTER AND THE TO PROVE HOW MUCH YOU ARE RIGHT AND SO FORTH. I AM GUILTY OF THAT ALSO. SO I THINK THESE PLAYS WILL HOPEFULLY WELCOME AN AUDIENCE AND TELL THEM A STORY THAT HOPEFULLY AN AUDIENCE WILL REALIZE IS NOT THAT DISSIMILAR FROM THEIR EXPERIENCES. WE ARE MORE ALIKE THAN WE ARE DIFFERENT'S -- DIFFERENT. WE HAVE ALL EXPERIENCED LOSS AND MOSTLY IMMIGRANTS, ALL IMMIGRANTS WERE FIRST-GENERATION FEMALE CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY. MY HOPE IS THAT SOMEBODY WILL COME TO THE THEATER AND BE DISARMED BY HUMOR AND BEAUTY AND PEOPLE HAVE ENJOY AND EXPLAINED -- PEOPLE EXPLAINING FOR THE BEST VERSIONS OF THEIR LIVES. THAT THAT WILL GET INTO PEOPLE'S DNA. THAT IT WILL SHOW THEM PEOPLE THEY HAVE NEVER HAD A CONVERSATION WITH. I HOPE THAT IS WHAT WHAT -- THESE PLAYS WILL DO.
>> IT OPENS AT THE POTIKER THEATER. I AM SPEAKING WITH PLAYWRIGHT MARTYNA MAJOK.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.