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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Martyna Majok
Majok in 2018
Born1985 (age 35–36)
Notable work
  • Ironbound
  • Cost of Living
  • Queens
Spouse(s)Josiah Bania[1]

Martyna Majok (MY-oʊk; born 1985[2]) is a Polish-born American[3][4] playwright who received the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Cost of Living. She emigrated to the United States as a child and grew up in New Jersey. Majok studied playwriting at the Yale School of Drama and Juilliard School. Her plays are often politically engaged, feature dark humor, and experiment with structure and time.

Her breakthrough came with the play Ironbound (2014). As her work gained wider acclaim and recognition, Majok, who has a diverse writing style, debuted Cost of Living (2016), Queens (2018), and Sanctuary City (2021). In April 2021, it was announced that she would adapt The Great Gatsby for the Broadway stage, with Florence Welch and Thomas Bartlett writing music.

Early life

Majok was born in Bytom, Upper Silesia and emigrated to the United States with her mother as a child. [5][1] She was raised mostly in Kearny, New Jersey, and has a half-sister born in Newark.[1][6][7] She grew up in a working-class, multicultural immigrant neighborhood; she recalls: "My mother began learning English when she came over. Everybody was working similar jobs. They had factory jobs together; they were cleaning houses, and taking care of the elderly."[8] She went to public school. Majok won a playwriting contest for students from New Jersey as the only winner not from a private school that year; it was her first foray into drama.[9] In high school, she wrote skits for an English language learning program for immigrant parents and children.[8] At age 17, Majok was inspired by Sam Mendes' production of Cabaret at Studio 54, her first time in the theater, where she went with $45 she had won hustling pool.[8]


She attended the University of Chicago on scholarship, where she attended drama classes. Initially unsure of herself, Majok began to take part in theatrical performances when she discovered Sarah Kane’s plays in the library.[10] She discovered that she preferred to write for the theater, in order to create roles she could identify with.[11] To support herself, she worked as a waitress and personal care giver for the disabled. She was also awarded the Merage Fellowship for the American Dream, an award for immigrant students, to help fund an education in writing.[10] Majok then went on to attend the Yale School of Drama and the Juilliard School, all on stipends.[5][12] She was a 2012–13 NNPN playwright-in-residence, the 2015–16 Playwrights of New York (PoNY) Fellow at The Lark, and a 2018–19 Hodder Fellow at the Princeton University.[13][12]

Career, style and themes

Majok is known for exploring underrepresented communities in her writing. She often gives voices to immigrants or displaced people, women with appetites and drives orbiting around their limitations, the working class, and persons with disabilities. Her work touches on class, yearning, loneliness and the journey towards connection with other human beings in America. While her subject matters can be tough, humor is important for her and Majok's characters brim with life and complications. Her women are strong and fight for their dignity. Reviewing her 2018 play Queens, an LA critic stated: "Majok specializes in anti-sentimentality."[4]

Talking about her working method, she emphasized: "Workshops, whether in the 'traditional' playwright-of-a-play method or in a room with artists and no script, are my favorite part of making theatre."[13] Discussing her inspirations, Majok pointed out her mother, and also said:[14]

Aside from being an amazing production, Cabaret was a story set in dark times. It was funny and sexy and inviting, and didn’t compromise on any of that. That informs how I approach writing. People hear the description of my plays and say, 'Oh, that sounds sad.' And I swear to them that, actually, it’s funny. My friend calls them hear-me-out plays.

Her breakthrough play, Ironbound (2014), depicts the illusion of the American Dream and fighting for a place in the world through the eyes of a hard-working, barely-getting-by immigrant woman, living in the industrial wastelands of New Jersey. It is based on experiences from the author's mother.[15] The play was praised by critcs, won several awards including the 2016 Helen Hayes Awards's Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical, and was featured in the top-ten of the 2014 Kilroys' List.[16] Ironbound opened Off-Broadway in 2016 at the WP Theatre/Rattlestick.

An honest, original work that invites audiences to examine diverse perceptions of privilege and human connection through two pairs of mismatched individuals: a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his new caregiver.

Pulitzer Board (2018), Cost of Living[17]

Cost of Living (2016), the winner of 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, explores the interactions of abled and disabled individuals. Majok takes a broader look at class division, financially precarious characters, and the delicate emotional balance of need and care. It played Off-Broadway in a Manhattan Theatre Club production at City Center in June and July 2017. Jesse Green of The New York Times wrote: "in the play, two characters chafe against the way that a wheelchair, like color or language, can be a marker of disfavored status within the larger, normative society... it would be a mistake to see Cost of Living as an identity play about people with disabilities. Rather, it’s a play about disabilities with people. In both of its stories, which eventually collide, the biggest handicaps are the universal ones: fear and disconnection."[18][19] This piece also won Outstanding Play at the Lucille Lortel Awards, got nomination for Outer Critics Circle Award's Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play, and was featured in the top-ten of the 2016 Kilroys' List, among other accolades.[20]

Cost of Living has been produced around the world including in New York, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Poland, Israel, and Cyprus.[21]

In 2018, Queens (queens) premiered Off-Broadway at the Lincoln Center's LCT3/Claire Tow Theater. The play encompasses 16 years during which documented and undocumented women of two generations and different origin live together, in a basement apartment in Queens, New York, trying to support each other in their struggle with everyday life. The choices they have made come back to confront them. Queens is being developed into an original series for HBO; Majok is penning the adaptation and is set to executive produce.[22]

In Sanctuary City (2020), she looks at a pair of teenage immigrants, one recently naturalized and the other undocumented, who hatch a plan to keep the latter in the U.S. The action takes place in Newark during the early 2000s when the DREAM Act was proposed and young immigrants hoped it might be a resolution to their uncertain status. "DREAMers, friends, and lovers negotiate the promise of safety and the weight of responsibility in America."[23] Majok's story asks what we’re willing to sacrifice for someone we love, she said: “some of the things I'm exploring are the extent to which we help when we can, how much we are willing to care for and sacrifice for another person, and the cost of that, for both sides, particularly when coming from a world of limited means and guarantees.”[24] Sanctuary City, produced by New York Theatre Workshop, had a world premiere Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in March 2020, but was suspended after a few days due to COVID-19 pandemic.[25] It received an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.

Majok's works has been presented and developed with many other theater companies, including La Jolla Playhouse, Round House, Kennedy Center, Geffen Playhouse, Fountain Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre. International productions include London, Toronto, Sydney, Poland, Israel, and Cyprus.[12][3][26][21]

Among her other accolades and fellowships, she received Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jury in Drama in 2018 (as first female recipient of this commission), New York Theatre Workshop's 2050 Fellowship, and Puffin Foundation grant.[27][28][13] She is alumna of 2014–16 WP Theater Lab, Ensemble Studio Theater's Youngblood, and Ars Nova’s Uncharted programs.[29][30][31]

She has taught playwriting at Williams College, Wesleyan University, and SUNY Purchase College; in education projects such as Primary Stages ESPA, and NJ Rep; and as an assistant to Paula Vogel at Yale. Publications: Dramatists Play Service, Samuel French, TCG, Playscripts, and Smith & Kraus.[12]

Other work

In April 2021, it was announced that Martyna Majok is set to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for the Broadway stage, with Florence Welch and Doveman writing music. Rebecca Frecknall, with whom Majok worked on Sanctuary City, will direct.

"Martyna and Rebecca are two of the most exciting theatre artists of their generation and, together, this extraordinary team brings a thrilling new perspective to one of the most culturally significant books of all time," producers said.[32]


Full-length plays

2014: Ironbound

Ironbound is the story of a Polish immigrant, Darja, living in New Jersey working as a house cleaner and factory worker, as Majok's mother used to do. It examines the American Dream from Darja's eyes throughout 22 years. When asked how much Darja is like her mom Majok said: "A lot of the circumstances are hers, but the personality is more mine".[1]

The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago in July 2014.[33] In the fall of 2015, it was shown at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland as a part of the Women's Voices Theatre Festival, where on opening night 300 people gave a standing ovation.[34] Ironbound went on to an Off-Broadway run at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2016, in a co-production with Women’s Project Theater. It started previews March 3, opened March 16, and closed April 24. The play featured direction by Daniella Topol, sets and lighting by Justin Townsend, costumes by Kaye Voyce, and sound by Jane Shaw. The cast included Marin Ireland as Darja, Shiloh Fernandez as Vic, and Morgan Spector as Tommy.[35] The drama was also staged at the Geffen Playhouse, and National Theatre of Warsaw, amongst other theatres in America and abroad.

Nelson Pressley of The Washington Post called Ironbound a "knockout" and stated: "you seldom see plays that are both harsh and wonderful." BroadwayWorld's Jennifer Perry emphasized: "Majok proves exceptional at writing (a) richly-drawn character(s).", and it was The New York Times critic's pick.[36][37][38][35][39] In 2013, the play script won the Smith Prize for Political Theater, a joint commission/award supported and administered by the National New Play Network, and it has also won the Aurora Theatre's Global Age Project Prize, the David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, and the Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical at the 2016 Helen Hayes Awards.

2016: Cost of Living

Cost of Living, for which Martyna Majok won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2016, and then transferred Off-Broadway in a Manhattan Theatre Club production at City Center in June and July 2017. The drama includes Eddie and Ani – an ex-truck driver and his wife who is quadriplegic, John – a witty doctoral student with cerebral palsy, and Jess – his over-worked caregiver.[40][19] Cost of Living began its life as a one-act called John, who’s here from Cambridge which premiered in 2015, and was expanded and renamed.[41] Majok dedicated the play to her grandfather who died in 2012.[42]

So the first of many great things about Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living [...] is the way it slams the door on uplifting stereotypes. [...] What Ms. Majok most successfully dramatizes are workarounds: not just the kind that a person in a wheelchair must devise but the kind that anyone must. Race and class and temperament come into it, all interlaced. [...] If you don’t find yourself in someone onstage in Cost of Living you’re not looking.

— Jesse Green, "Review: In ‘Cost of Living’, a Familiar Alienation", N.Y. Times critic's pick (June 7, 2017)[19]

Cost of Living received its West Coast premiere at the Fountain Theatre in November 2018, British premiere in January and Polish premiere in March 2019.[43]

The play won Outstanding New Play at the 2018 Lucille Lortel Awards (tied with Jocelyn Bioh's School Girls: Or, The African Mean Girls Play), Edgerton New Play Prize, The Kennedy Center's Jean Kennedy Smith Award, and the Women's Invitational Prize, among others.[43] It was nominated for the 2018 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play. Both performances were directed by Jo Bonney, who was nominated for Outstanding Director of a Play at the Outer Critics Circle Awards. They also both featured actors with disabilities – Katy Sullivan as Ani, who was nominated for a Lucille Lortel award and Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance, and Gregg Mozgala who portrayed John. Mozgala was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award and won a Lucille Lortel award for his performance.[44]

2018: Queens

On 5 March 2018, Majok's production of Queens (stylized queens) premiered Off-Broadway at the Lincoln Center's LCT3/Claire Tow Theater. The story centers around a group of immigrant women which come from different countries and live in an illegal basement apartment in Queens, New York. It featured direction by Dayna Taymor, scenic design by Laura Jellinek, costumes by Kaye Voyce, lighting by Matt Frey, and sound by Stowe Nelson. It closed on March 25, 2018.[45] The cast included Jessica Love, Nadine Malouf, Ana Reeder, Andrea Syglowski, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Sarah Tolan-Mee, and Nicole Villamil.[18] Before its premiere, the play spent two summers in development workshops. The first summer (2016), it was the WildWind Performance Lab of Texas Tech University School of Theatre and Dance, and the next summer, these were The Ground Floor at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference.

This time Jesse Green of The New York Times called Majok's play a "knockout".[18] Queens received West Coast premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in July 2018, in a new two-act version. The play is being developed into a series for HBO.

2020: Sanctuary City

Sanctuary City, a play produced by New York Theatre Workshop "that blends the personal and political in its depiction of a newly naturalized teenager who decides to marry her undocumented best friend so he can remain in the country", had a short Off-Broadway engagement in 2020. Previews started on 4 March at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and it was set to open on 24 March, but the run was suspended due to the city-wide shutdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.[46] The production was directed by Rebecca Frecknall and designed by Tom Scutt, Mikaal Sulaiman, and Isabella Byrd. The cast consisted of Jasai Chase-Owens, Sharlene Cruz, and Austin Smith. The stage management team was Merrick A.B. Williams and Veronica Lee.[23] The production officially opened on September 21, 2021.[47]

The project received an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, and was supported by a Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Theater Development Grant and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.[48]

Awards and honors

Majok's awards include:[13][12]



  1. ^ a b c d Collins-Hughes, Laura (17 February 2016). "Q. and A.: Martyna Majok, Putting Immigrant Lives on Center Stage". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  2. ^ Sańczuk, Anna (2018-06-11). "Martyna Majok: The Girl with a Pulitzer Prize". Vogue. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  3. ^ a b "Performances: Ironbound". National Theatre, Warsaw. 2019-03-30. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  4. ^ a b Mcnulty, Charles (2018-07-25). "Critic's Notebook: For Pulitzer winner Martyna Majok, 'Queens' is the latest play shining a light into society's shadows". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  5. ^ a b Cygielska, Krystyna (2014-08-04). "Polskie rozterki na deskach chicagowskiego teatru. Sztuka Martyny Majok w teatrze Steppenwolf". Polish Daily News (in Polish). Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  6. ^ "6 Theatre Workers You Should Know". American Theatre. American Theatre Editors. 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2021-05-09.CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ "Everyone was from Somewhere Else: An Interview with Martyna Majok". Vilcek Foundation. 2019-01-23. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  8. ^ a b c Finn, Hayley (2016-12-09). "An interview with Martyna Majok". The Playwrights' Center. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  9. ^ Wróblewski, Szymon (2019-03-31). "An Interview with Playwright Martyna Majok". Retrieved 2021-05-15.
  10. ^ a b Lovett, Emily (2018-04-22). "Path to Pulitzer: An Interview With Playwright Martyna Majok (A.B. '07)". The Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  11. ^ Obarska, Marcelina (ed.). "Martyna Majok". Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Martyna Majok". New Play Exchange. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  13. ^ a b c d "Exclusive interview with Martyna Majok". PoNY - Playwrights of New York. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  14. ^ Gray, Katti. "Martyna Majok on Living Through Chernobyl, and Writing About Betrayal and Loss with Humor". Pulitzer Prize Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  15. ^ Mcnulty, Charles (2018-02-09). "Review: 'Ironbound' at the Geffen Playhouse: An immigrant's portrait, painted with piercing realism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  16. ^ "The List 2014". The Kilroys. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  17. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes | Drama". Pulitzer Prize Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  18. ^ a b c Green, Jesse (5 March 2018). "Review: In 'queens,' 11 Immigrant Women and What They Left Behind". The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  19. ^ a b c Green, Jesse (2017-06-07). "NYT Critic's Pick | Review: In 'Cost of Living,' a Familiar Alienation". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  20. ^ "The List 2016". The Kilroys. 2016-06-05. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  21. ^ a b Serratore, Nicole (2020-03-17). "Playwright Martyna Majok: 'I want fluid to leak from your face. That's what I want theatre to do'". The Stage. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  22. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (2020-05-20). "'Queens' Immigrant Drama Based On Play In Works At HBO From Martyna Majok & Prentice Penny". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  23. ^ a b Clement, Olivia (2020-03-04). "Martyna Majok's Sanctuary City Begins Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  24. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (2019-07-12). "Pulitzer Prize Winner Martyna Majok Reveals Her Latest Work, Sanctuary City". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  25. ^ Skethway, Nathan (2020-03-10). "Check Out Exclusive Production Photos From Martyna Majok's Sanctuary City Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  26. ^ Shand, John (2018-09-06). "Ironbound review: A migrant dream becomes a black-eye reality". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  27. ^ "Greenfield Commissions". Hermitage Artist Retreat. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  28. ^ "2050 Artistic Fellowship At New York Theatre Workshop". New York Theatre Workshop. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  29. ^ "WP Theater Lab". WP Theater. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  30. ^ "Youngblood | Members & Alumni". Ensemble Studio Theatre. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  31. ^ "About Uncharted". Ars Nova theater. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  32. ^ Evans, Greg (2021-04-28). "New 'The Great Gatsby' Musical From Florence Welch & Oscar Nominee Thomas Bartlett Headed For Broadway". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  33. ^ "Ironbound". Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  34. ^ Morisseau, Dominique (2016-12-20). "Martyna Majok Shines a Light on the Invisible in 'Ironbound'". American Theatre. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  35. ^ a b Isherwood, Charles (2016-04-24). "NYT Critic's Pick | Review: 'Ironbound' Stars Marin Ireland as a Struggling Immigrant". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  36. ^ Ritzel, Rebecca (2015-09-15). "A late night of pizza leads pair to team up on 'Ironbound,' an immigrant's tale". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  37. ^ Pressley, Nelson (2015-09-16). "A Polish immigrant fights American hard times in absorbing 'Ironbound'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  38. ^ Perry, Jennifer (2015-09-16). "BWW Review: Round House Theatre's IRONBOUND Simmers Quietly". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  39. ^ Blanchard, Jayne (2015-09-17). "Ironbound at Round House Theatre (review)". Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  40. ^ Borak, Jeffrey (2016-07-08). "Stakes are high in haunting "Cost of Living" at Williamstown". The Berkshire Eagle. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  41. ^ Collins-Hughes, Laura (2017-05-10). "Martyna Majok's 'Cost of Living': Scrambling to Survive, Together". The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  42. ^ Sławińska, Kamila (2018-10-01). "Ci ludzie | Martyna Majok". Tygodnik Powszechny (in Polish). Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  43. ^ a b "Martyna Majok Will Engage L.A. Audiences, Theater Professionals at Two Fountain Theatre Events". BroadwayWorld. BWW News Desk. 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2021-05-15.CS1 maint: others (link)
  44. ^ Arons, Ben (2018-04-04). "'KPOP' Tops the 2018 Lucille Lortel Awards Nominations (Full List)". Variety. ISSN 0042-2738. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  45. ^ Clement, Olivia (2018-03-05). "Martyna Majoks 'Queens' Begins Previews Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  46. ^ Soloski, Alexis (2020-02-27). "13 Plays and Musicals to Go to in N.Y.C. This Weekend". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  47. ^ Mcphee, Ryan. "Martyna Majok's Sanctuary City Resumes Off-Broadway Run September 8". Playbill. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  48. ^ "Sanctuary City". New York Theatre Workshop. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  49. ^ "Awards | UChicago Arts | The University of Chicago". University of Chicago. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  50. ^ "2014 new American play prizes announcement". Marin Theatre Company. 2014-11-10. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  51. ^ "2016 Winners and Nominees". theatreWashington – Helen Hayes Award. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  52. ^ "The Legacy of Helen Merrill: A Love of Theater Lives On". The New York Community Trust. 2020-05-19. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  53. ^ "2016 - Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards". Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  54. ^ "The Dramatists Guild Awards". Dramatists Guild of America. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  55. ^ "WINNING WORK | Cost of Living, by Martyna Majok". Pulitzer Prize Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  56. ^ "2019 - Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards". Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved 2021-05-12.

External links

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