Zack Walsh and David Koenigsberg have their way with our questions. Well now, really, what did we expect from two guys who titled their show I’m Margaret Thatcher, I Is!
Tell us about the moment where you said to yourself: “I just have to do this!”
ZACK – If memory serves me right, this began with a conversation during a rehearsal for our company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. David, who for the record played a brilliant Lady Bracknell, brought in a copy of that year’s Fringe catalog and we were joking around flipping through it. We seemed to decide that in order to succeed at Fringe you either had to be a far-out concept with a funny title or a deeply important experimental art piece. The outlandish funny title idea grew and became last year’s Amelia Earhart… IN SPACE!, and the self-serious idea became this.
DAVID – I believe a subconscious seed was planted during another one of our projects, in which I watched Planes: Fire and Rescue one hundred times in a week. In preparation for that endeavor, I researched if there were any historic examples of people functioning on a cripplingly small amount of sleep. The answer to that was yes, and Margaret Thatcher. After that, she was just kind of this looming figure in the back of our minds, and when it came time for us to write again, she took center stage.
Why this play now?
DAVID – I wouldn’t necessarily say that there’s any reason as to why this is happening, nor is it important in any way, but I guess this show, like everything else we do, is just a joke that went a little too far. The idea for I’m Margaret Thatcher, I Is! came from our frustration with our previous show, Amelia Earhart. We just didn’t like having to take such a silly thing so seriously in revising it. So we decided to write a new show, in which nothing was too dumb and we wouldn’t need to change anything.
ZACK – While we certainly set out to be as irreverent as possible, we definitely did accidentally stumble backwards into some pretty topical areas. We committed ourselves thoroughly to never researching anything about the real Thatcher, thinking it would be funnier to write a biographical play about someone we know nothing about. In doing so, we definitely created a Trumpian politician in our fictionalized Maggie. And one could certainly pull some “fake news” commentary out of our factless historical reenacting. Wasn’t necessarily our intention, but it was certainly subconsciously on our minds in writing.
What story are you telling?
ZACK – Well, certainly not a historically accurate one. That’s for damn sure.
DAVID – It’s your classic rags to riches tale, of one loveable underdog who overcomes great odds to pursue the American Dream. You know, but British.
ZACK – It’s also just a huge joke on pretentious artsy types we’ve worked with before. The type of people who would sincerely believe that they should tell Margaret Thatcher’s story even though they know nothing about her. It’s a sort of loving hate letter to poorly thought out avant garde theater pieces.
What have you been learning about yourself during rehearsals?
DAVID – From a writer’s standpoint, it’s hilarious to make the actors’ lives a living hell. From an actor’s standpoint, some writers are just the worst, and you just have to live with it. Also, I’m funnier without pants.
ZACK – For me, I’ve learned over the course of this six-days-a-week rehearsal process that I am a very tired man.
If you won a Tony for this show, who would you thank?
ZACK – To the love of my life, Ali Loewy, I love you. I love you so much, to my family, Mama, Papa, Jeff, everyone. Matt Plouffe, you kicked this off — and Damien Chazelle, we’re standing on your shoulders. We lost, by the way, but, you know…
DAVID – What? You guys, I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake. “Moonlight,” you guys won.
When the performance is over, what do you want the audience feeling?
ZACK – You know that artificial sand stuff they sell at Brookstone? They should go feel some of that. It feels really nice.
DAVID – Or perhaps that warm resting feeling you get after eating a large bowl of soup after a long day of play out in the snow. Both because the soup was warm, but also because you know it was prepared with love.
ZACK – Fluffy kittens and puppies also feel lovely. But don’t pet them too hard or they’ll run away.
DAVID – Maybe that feeling you get when you put your finger too close to the wall socket, and then you’re like “Owch! I think I was just electrocuted.” And then you realize that you definitely were, and now you’re pretty damn grateful to be alive, but at the same time it was a pretty cool feeling, so you half think about doing it again, but don’t for your own safety.
ZACK – That smooth feeling of paint filling your mouth.
DAVID – Oops, it looks as though we’ve gone too far again. Please see our show 😀
ZACK – Help. I’m trapped in a Fringe Peek factory.
Zack Walsh is a multi-hyphenate art guy from around DC. He works for AnyStage Theater, writes for punchdrunkcritics.com, and suffers existential crises in his darkened bedroom.
David Koenigsberg just found a chunk of blue plastic in his chicken nugget. He remained unphased. He is also AnyStage Theater’s Head of Creative Concepts.