Women’s History Month: Highlighting Playwright Martyna Majok

Martyna Majok

Martyna Majok (pronounced My-Oak) is a Polish-American playwright. She was born in Bytom, Poland before immigrating to the U.S. at the age of five. She grew up between New Jersey, and Chicago and had her first experience at the theatre when she was seventeen (buying her first ticket with money she won playing pool). As a high school student, Majok helped her community through an English Learning Program by writing dialogue for them to recite. She later realized that this was a form of playwriting.

Majok went on to study playwriting at the Yale School of Drama and at The Juilliard School before writing Ironbound, the true-to-life play centered on a pragmatic Polish immigrant who is working as a cleaning lady and finds herself trying to survive life and love in America. It is a heartbreaking piece that spans twenty-two years of the protagonist’s life and ultimately introduced the world to the words of Majok in 2014.

Majok’s work often features the use of time, structure, politics, dry humor, and relatable characters that ask the same questions that we all wonder about life. Her plays have been performed all over the U.S. and internationally. She has won a plethora of awards including the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Cost of Living. Cost of Living tells the story of two relationships between disabled and able-bodied persons: Eddie, an unemployed truck driver, and his quadriplegic wife Ani, and Jess, the caregiver to John, a graduate student with cerebral palsy.

Other plays by Majok include Queens (about a group of immigrant women living in an illegal basement apartment together in New York) and Sanctuary City (about a newly naturalized teenager who decides to marry her undocumented best friend so he can remain in the country). Throughout her work, Majok makes sure to include underrepresented groups and provides them with authentic characteristics as well as showcases the strengths and weaknesses of all. She prides herself and her plays on centering people and stories that are often used as secondary characters in theatre. She writes about her experiences growing up in an immigrant community, taking memories of assiduous neighbors, peers, friends, and from her home environment, and turns them into stories that people can not only relate to but learn from. She is currently writing the book for a musical version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, working alongside musicians Florence Welch and Thomas Barlett and director Rebecca Frecknall. To follow more of Majok’s work, be sure to visit her website.