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Story/Teller Arts: Martyna Majok on Cost of Living with Naveen Kumar and David Zayas

November 16, 2022

The Center for Fiction was proud to welcome Martyna Majok, the playwright behind the 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, which premiered on Broadway this fall season. Born in Poland and raised in New Jersey, Majok is a creative powerhouse with three other extraordinary plays — Ironbound (2014), Queens (2018), and Sanctuary City (2020) — and an impressive assembly of accolades, including the Lucille Lortel Award and Lanford Wilson Award, to her name. Deemed “immensely haunting” by the New York Times and “perfection” by the New York Theatre Guide, Majok’s masterwork Cost of Living tackles the biases and perceptions of those living with disabilities and explores the divisions set by class, race, and nationality that hinder our simple, innate desire to connect as people. Majok was joined in conversation by theater critic and journalist Naveen Kumar following a reading by Cost of Living actor David Zayas.

The Center for Fiction was thrilled to continue its collaboration with Theatre Communications Group for this seventh event, with past events featuring Jackie Sibblies Drury and Claudia Rankine, Annie Baker and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Heidi Schreck and Paula Vogel, Sarah Ruhl and Matthew Aucoin, Aleshea Harris and Nissy Aya, and Lynn Nottage and Damon Tabor.


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    Martyna Majok

    Martyna Majok

    Martyna Majok was born in Bytom, Poland, and raised in Jersey and Chicago. She was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play, Cost of Living, which debuted this fall on Broadway. Other plays include Sanctuary City, Queens, and Ironbound, which have been produced across American and international stages. Other awards include the Hull-Warriner Award, the Academy of Arts and Letters’ Benjamin Hadley Danks Award for Exceptional Playwriting, Off-Broadway Alliance Best New Play Award, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, the Hermitage Greenfield Prize (the first female recipient in drama), the Champions of Change Award from the NYC Mayor’s Office, the Francesca Primus Prize, two Jane Chambers Playwriting Awards, the Lanford Wilson Award, the Lilly Awards’ Stacey Mindich Award, Helen Merrill Emerging Playwright Award, Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play from the Helen Hayes Awards, Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, ANPF Women’s Invitational Prize, David Calicchio Prize, Global Age Project Prize, NYTW 2050 Fellowship, NNPN Smith Prize for Political Theater, and Merage Foundation Fellowship for The American Dream. Martyna studied at Yale School of Drama, Juilliard, University of Chicago, and Jersey public schools. She was a 2012–13 NNPN Playwright in Residence, the 2015–16 PoNY Fellow at The Lark Play Development Center, and a 2018–19 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. Martyna is currently writing a musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, with music by Florence Welch and Thomas Bartlett, and developing/writing TV and film for Plan B, Pastel, and MRC. Majok is pronounced My Oak, like the tree. Or like Cinco de Mayo-k

    Photo Credit: Josiah Bania

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    Naveen Kumar

    Naveen Kumar

    Naveen Kumar is a theater critic for the New York Times and Variety. His recent work as a journalist has been published by, the Daily Beast, Town & Country, InStyle, the Hollywood Reporter, and many more. He has twice served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 2020 (Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop) and 2021 (Katori Hall’s The Hot Wing King). Prior to journalism, he worked in the theatrical literary department at CAA. He earned his B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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    David Zayas

    David Zayas

    David Zayas is best known for his role as Angel Batista on the Golden Globe-nominated psychological drama Dexter (Showtime). David was recently seen as Sal Maroni on Gotham (Fox), Sheriff Aguirre on Bloodline (Netflix), Eduardo Magana on Shut Eye (Hulu), and El Alma del Diablo on Deadly Class (SyFy). His other TV credits include Saint George (FX), Seven Seconds (Netflix), Blue Bloods (CBS), Quantico (ABC), and The Guest Book (TBS). While working on the crime drama The Beat, Zayas met Emmy Award-winning TV writer and producer Tom Fontana, who then went on to create the role of Enrique Morales on HBO’s Oz especially for him. On film, he has starred in The Expendables, Skyline, 13, Michael Clayton, Sixteen Blocks, The Savages, Bringing Out the Dead, The Yards, Undefeated, Wit, Angel, and The Interpreter. David also starred opposite Helen Hunt in the indie feature Ride, starred opposite Elliot Page and Allison Janney in the feature Tallulah, and as Ramon in Shine. He appeared in the film remake of the 1982 movie musical Annie opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. Most recently, David starred as Sgt. Kesper in Body Cam and John the Baptist in Force of Nature. He plays Fernando Capulet in the upcoming film R#J. A former New York City police officer, Zayas began his acting career with LAByrinth Theater Company in 1992. He has starred in more than thirty theater productions, most with LAByrinth: Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, In Arabia We’d All Be Kings, Our Lady of 121st Street, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics on Broadway. David is currently starring as Eddie in the Broadway production of Cost of Living.

    Headshot Courtesy of Zayas