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Interview with PERICLES WET playwright Ellen Margolis

December 13, 2017

One of our beloved resident companies, Portland Shakespeare Project, is wrapping up a stellar run of a World Premiere play, Pericles Wet, by local playwright Ellen Margolis. Portland Shakes had the chance to sit down with Ellen and talk about this reimagining of an age-old tale. Don't miss your chance to see Pericles Wet on our Alder Stage! The show runs through Sunday, Dec. 17. Learn more here.

Portland Shakespeare Project: What excites you about telling this story, Pericles Wet?

Ellen Margolis: When I started writing Pericles Wet, I was interested in some big questions about our responsibilities as witnesses or bystanders. Today, when I watch the play unfold, I still feel those questions under the surface, but I may be more excited about simply watching an expansive story with all the twists and turns of a life. 

PSP: What is it like writing an "adaptation” of a known play?

EM: This play is my first adaptation, and I’ve found I really love the process. Immediately, you’re in a partnership with another creator, which is energizing. 

PSP: How do you feel Pericles Wet relates to Pericles, Prince of Tyre? Where did you diverge from the original story and what inspired you to do that?

EM: When I first encountered Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, I both fell in love with its storytelling and walked away with a sense of unfinished business. As a writer, I wanted to push the question of what Pericles witnesses in the first scene, and that led to a kind of parallel journey. If you know Shakespeare's play, you'll recognize some people and some moments, but they play out in different ways. The title characters are driven differently.

PSP: How do you feel Pericles Wet relates to today's contemporary world?

EM: Because of the incest that's alluded to in the first scene, we look at every powerful man in the play with suspicion.  As one of the characters says "There's no safe place to set down a child." Meanwhile in our world, stories are emerging every day of prominent men abusing young men or women in their orbit. I wish the play were much less timely--meaning I wish our time were gentler and more just.

PSP: There's debate about if Shakespeare’s Pericles should be categorized as a comedy or a history -- how did you intend Pericles Wet to be viewed?

EM: I would call it a Romance.

PSP: What inspires you to write?

EM: Really, I write plays for the chance to be in a room with talented artists! The plays I write are like a passport to an experience I dearly love, which is collaborating with directors, designers, and actors, and then getting to share our work with audiences.

PSP: How challenging is it to get a play fully produced these days?

EM: It's so hard! New plays are risky for theatres to produce. I’ve been so fortunate that Portland Shakes has committed to Pericles Wet from commission through full production. That is rare!

PSP: Do you have advice for young or new playwrights?

EM: Write a lot! Write every day if you can. Produce your own work with your friends.

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