Deb Margolin’s Performance Composition: Writing and Embodying

“Deb Margolin’s Performance Composition: Writing and Embodying” investigates Deb Margolin’s process of performance composition as a playwright, actor, and teacher, working mostly in the Northeastern United States. This exhibit uses materials from the Deb Margolin Collection at the Newcomb Archives and Special Collections at Tulane University, which she donated to Newcomb Archives in August of 2018 after she participated in the Zale-Kimmerling Writer in Residence program in the 1990’s. The collection includes a wide variety of materials, ranging from journals, manuscripts, newspaper articles, flyers, ephemera, poetry, and correspondence that discusses a range of pursuits including performance contracts, script revisions, fellowship details, and speaking invitations. The collection’s materials span from the early 1970’s to the present, as late as 2016.

Deb Margolin’s notes and writing, handwritten and typed, comprises the majority of the collection. Her writerly and theatrical process is observable in her script revisions as well as her stylistic development that can be tracked from her early poetry to her later completed scripts. This exhibit seeks to view Deb Margolin’s performance composition as a two-part process that begins with conceptualizing performative writing, and culminates in the physical embodiment of the composition through performance. The exhibit is divided into three sections. The first examines her Performance Composition syllabus, from her time as a university professor, that outlines her approach to writing and the theater as two intertwined components of performance composition. The second section looks closer at the particular stylistic and technical mechanisms that Deb Margolin’s writing employs to achieve a performative effect. The third section presents materials that represent her corporeal embodiment of her performative writing, which is the physical execution of performance composition for Deb Margolin.

Deb Margolin’s literary approach to theater is a potent theme throughout the collection that catalogues her many drafts, revisions, performance and editing notes, and presents her development as an artist. Her early poetry and writings from the 1970’s are put into conversation with her published monologues in this exhibit. These materials are then juxtaposed with images of her on stage that aim to capture the essence of performance as a language of experience and embodiment. Since this collection is dedicated to her works that she has preserved, the materials in this exhibit present a privileged look at her personal archive of significant and cherished products of her artistry. This exhibit centralizes the personal nature of these materials presented here and also in the Deb Margolin Collection as a whole; these materials are instances in the evolution of Deb Margolin’s performance composition approach. Deb Margolin’s performance composition is revealed to be personal, performative, both an interior and exterior process, feminist, and importantly, it begins with writing.

All materials used for this exhibit are from the Deb Margolin collection, collection number NA364. Copyright is retained, by the Newcomb Archives and Vorhoff Library and Special Collections at Tulane University. Use of these materials is explicitly allowed, by the fair use provision in United States Federal Copyright Law. Any use other than private research may be subject to copyright restrictions.

Duration: Spring 2020

Curated By: Blair Reynolds

Location: 3rd Floor Commons, Newcomb Archives and Vorhoff Library and Special Collections

Acknowledgements: Michelle Kohler, Bernadette Birzer, and Chloe Raub

Exhibit Sections