January 2, 1949 |
Montclair, New Jersey
Christopher Ferdinand Durang (born January 2, 1949) is an American playwright known for works of outrageous and often absurd comedy. His work was especially popular in the 1980s, though his career seemed to get a second wind in the late 1990s. His play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2013. The production was directed by Nicholas Martin, and featured Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Billy Magnussen, Shalita Grant and Genevieve Angelson.
Durang was born in Montclair, New Jersey, the son of Patricia Elizabeth, a secretary, and architect Francis Ferdinand Durang, Jr. He grew up in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. He attended Catholic schools as a child, including the Our Lady of Peace School in New Providence, New Jersey and the Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey. He received a B.A. in English from Harvard and an M.F.A. in playwriting from Yale School of Drama. He lives in Bucks County with his partner, John Augustine; they have been together for more than 20 years. Durang is openly gay.
His work often deals critically with issues of child abuse, Roman Catholic dogma and culture, and homosexuality. While Durang's use of parody and his criticism of many social institutions might appear overly cynical at times, he states:
...when I say everyone is crazy that means it’s a very bad day where the amount of crazy people in the world has spread out to the entire universe and it doesn’t seem possible to cope with anything... I think we’re all neurotic. And I do think relationships are certainly difficult. Nonetheless, those lines in the play do get a laugh, so there’s something. It’s not as despairing as it sounds, but I don’t not believe it.
His plays have been performed nationwide, including on Broadway and Off-Broadway. His works include Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Beyond Therapy, Baby With the Bathwater, The Nature and Purpose of the Universe, Titanic, A History of the American Film, The Idiots Karamazov, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, Laughing Wild, 'Dentity Crisis, The Actor's Nightmare, The Vietnamization of New Jersey, Betty's Summer Vacation, Naomi in the Living Room, Adrift in Macao, Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, Miss Witherspoon, Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and a collection of one-act parodies meant to be performed in one evening entitled Durang/Durang that includes "Mrs. Sorken", "For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls" (a parody of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams), "A Stye Of the Eye", "Nina in the Morning", "Wanda's Visit", and "Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room".
Durang has performed as an actor for both stage and screen. He first came to prominence in his Off-Broadway satirical review Das Lusitania Songspiel, which he performed with friend and fellow Yale alum Sigourney Weaver. Later he co-starred in one of his own plays as Matt in The Marriage of Bette and Boo, as well as Man in the original production of Laughing Wild.
Durang has denounced the Robert Altman 1987 film adaptation of Beyond Therapy, calling it "horrific" and accusing Altman of totally rewriting the script "so that all psychology is thrown out the window, and the characters dash around acting crazy but with literally no behavioral logic underneath."
Awards and honors
He received Obie Awards for Sister Mary Ignatius, The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Betty's Summer Vacation. He received a nomination for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for A History of the American Film and won a Tony Award for Best Play in 2013 for his play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'.
Durang has been awarded numerous fellowships and high profile grants including a Guggenheim, a Rockefeller, the CBS Playwriting Fellowship, the Lecomte du Nouy Foundation grant, and the Kenyon Festival Theatre Playwriting Prize.
On May 17, 2010 he was presented with the very first Luminary Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards for his work Off-Off-Broadway.
He was awarded the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award in 2012. In that same year, he was also inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
- "Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program". Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- Biography at FilmReference.com
- Dunlap, LucyAnn. "A Play That Asks, 'What Happens After?'", U.S. 1 Newspaper, August 17, 2005. Accessed May 12, 2007. "He wrote his first play at age eight. His Catholic grammar school cancelled class one afternoon and put on his play. Later while he was attending Delbarton School in Morristown, he and a friend wrote two musicals, "Banned in Boston" and "Businessman's Holiday." You won't find these in his collected works but they certainly suggest a young man with an active imagination and a penchant for writing."
- Smith, Dinithia (2005-11-26). "Christopher Durang Explores the Afterlife, Including His Own". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- Villarreal, Daniel (April 28, 2013). "Laugh Out Loud With Sigourney Weaver and Snow White". The Advocate.
- Gholson, Craig. "Chris Durang Interview" BOMB Magazine Summer, 1987. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
- http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=4832 "Internet Broadway Database: Christopher Durang Credits on Broadway" on IBDB
- "EXCLUSIVE: Betty Buckley, Sam Waterston, Trevor Nunn, Christopher Durang, Andre Bishop Among Theater Hall of Fame Inductees". www.playbill.com.
- Official website
- Christopher Durang at the Internet Movie Database
- Christopher Durang at the Internet Broadway Database
- Christopher Durang - Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org
- BOMB Magazine interview with Christopher Durang by Craig Gholson (Summer, 1987)