An Interview with Playwright MJ Halberstadt

Meet MJ Halberstadt, Antarctica enthusiast, educator, and just one of seven playwrights working on ATB’s new documentary theatre project This Place/Displaced to give voice to stories of displacement, gentrification, and housing inequity in Boston.

We touched base with MJ to learn about his play, Kung Pao Something, and what it was like to write based on interviews.

Join us at Charlestown Working Theater August 17-25 to see Kung Pao Something and six more new plays!


Have you ever worked on a play based off of interviews before? What has this process been like for you?

Not until This Place/Displaced! The process was fascinating — I like having a place to begin from, rather than a blank slate. My partner provided lots of material to draw from and adapt, which made my task easier and more tangible.

Can you talk about your choice to center your play around a moment of making food?

Lisa and I talked a lot about food during our [interview]… it’s where we drifted after a little too-much staying strictly “on-task.” I had to turn the chicken in the over over while I was on the phone, which prompted five minutes of trading recipes, and then I thought to myself, “What is this is the task?” and enough doors opened that I ran with it.
What is your connection to the Boston area and how has this city impacted your life?
I moved to Boston in 2007 to attend Emerson, and have lived here ever since. It’s been the place I’ve discovered myself as an adult, a professional, and a playwright, but I also recognize it as a transient stopping-point for my generation; I feel both anxious to leave and guilty for wanting to try someplace else before I have kids. As a theatre-maker, it’s been very rewarding because, given its size, it’s possible to make an impact and to have access to the other theatre-makers I admire.
The spaces we’re talking about in This Place/Displaced are more than just places; they’re homes. What does home mean to you?
Home is a location of secureness in one’s self, one’s community, and one’s family. And “location” need not be a place.
And finally, who is your playwriting hero?
Paula Vogel.

Thanks MJ!

MJ Halberstadt is a playwright, educator, and Antarctica enthusiast based just outside Boston. He is a Huntington Playwriting Fellow and recipient of the Elliot Norton Award for “Outstanding New Script”. His plays have been produced by Bridge Repertory Theater, Fresh Ink Theater, Boston Teen Acting Troupe, The Arctic Group, The Survivalists, and Pingree School. Acknowledgements and support from Assets 4 Artists, BCA/Company One PlayLab, Boston University’s Creative Writing Global Fellowship, Flat Earth Theatre, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and Last Frontier Theatre Conference. He is an Adjunct Professor of Writing for Film & TV at Emerson College, Playmaker Emeritus of Bridge Repertory Theater, member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc, and alumnus of Emerson College (BA Theatre Education) and Boston University (MFA Playwriting). Learn more at

This Place/Displaced is performing at the Charlestown Working Theatre on at 8pm August 17, 18, 24, and 25. Tickets from $10. Join us to hear the stories of our eight amazing community partners from across the city of Boston. Plus, check out an exhibit of our community partners’ own artwork and writing in the lobby and pick up ATB’s original zine about the history and current climate of gentrification in Boston.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.