Dale Wasserman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Dale Wasserman (November 2, 1914 – December 21, 2008) was an American playwright. [1]

Early life[edit]

Dale Wasserman was born in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and was orphaned at the age of nine. He lived in a state orphanage and with an older brother in South Dakota before he "hit the rails". He later said, "I'm a self-educated hobo. My entire adolescence was spent as a hobo, riding the rails and alternately living on top of buildings on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. I regret never having received a formal education. But I did get a real education about human nature.[2]

Career[edit]

Wasserman worked in various aspects of theatre from the age of 19. His formal education ended after one year of high school in Los Angeles. It was there that he started as a self-taught lighting designer, director and producer, starting with musical impresario Sol Hurok as stage manager and lighting design and for the Katherine Dunham Company, where he invented lighting patterns imitated later in other dance companies. In addition to U.S. cities, he produced and directed abroad in places such as London and Paris.

In the middle of directing a Broadway musical; which he later refused to name; he abruptly walked out, later saying he "couldn't possibly write worse than the stuff [he] was directing", and left his previous occupations to become a writer. "Every other function was interpretive; only the writer was primary."

Matinee Theatre, the television anthology which presented his first play, Elisha and the Long Knives, received a collective Emmy for the plays it produced in 1955, the year that Elisha and the Long Knives was telecast on that series (it had originally been shown in 1954, on Kraft Television Theatre, another anthology). Wasserman wrote some 30 more television dramas, making him one of the better known writers in the Golden Age of Television. "Man of La Mancha," which first appeared as a straight play on TV,is frequently and erroneously called "an adaptation" of "Don Quixote": It is not. It is a completely original work that uses scenes from "Don Quixote" to illuminate Miguel Cervantes' life. Don Quixote was Cervantes' Man of La Mancha; it was Cervantes himself who was Dale Wasserman's Man of La Mancha. Man of La Mancha ran for five years on Broadway and continues worldwide in more than 30 languages.

Dale Wasserman adapted Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest into a play also titled One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which ran for six years in San Francisco and has had extensive engagements in Chicago, New York, Boston and other U.S. cities. Foreign productions have appeared in Paris, Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Belgium, and Japan. Kesey is said to have told Dale that but for the play, the novel would have been forgotten.

Dale Wasserman was a founding member and trustee of The Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and was the artistic Director of the Midwest Playwrights Laboratory, which encompasses 12 states in its program and awards fellowships and production to 10 playwrights yearly.[citation needed]

Recently, research by Howard Mancing, a Miguel Cervantes scholar and Professor of Spanish Literature at Purdue University, uncovered an earlier use of the line "To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe," which were made famous in Wasserman's Man of La Mancha. The lines were actually invented for publicity matter that accompanied an earlier stage adaptation of Don Quixote by the American playwright Paul Kester, first performed in 1908. The phrase "To each his Dulcinea", featured in Wasserman's play, was also first used in the Kester play.

At the time of his death, Dale Wasserman had, arguably, some fine and thought-provoking work ready to be produced: "Players in the Game", set in 1316 Prague, poses the question: Is fiery, incorruptible zealotry necessarily to be preferred to benign corruption. The operative word here being "benign"? ; "Montmartre,"' is a musical set in early 20th century Paris, the two main protagonists are Kiki, the most sought-after model of her day (an actual person), and a cynical mature man being confronted by his idealistic younger self.

Personal life[edit]

Reclusive by nature, Wasserman and his wife, Martha Nelly Garza, made their home in Arizona ("because it's the one State which refuses to adopt Daylight Saving Time"). Dale's first marriage, to actress Ramsay Ames, ended in divorce, He married Martha Nelly in 1984. She survives him, is his executrix/executor and holds the rights to all his work.

Wasserman died of heart failure on December 21, 2008 in Arizona, aged 94. [3][4]

Works[edit]

Plays[edit]

  • 2001 How I Saved the Whole Damn World — A sailor on a drunken spree welds items from a junkyard into the mast of his ship. A plane flying overhead explodes, creating an all-powerful weapon and, indirectly, world peace.
  • Boy On Blacktop Road — An investigation takes place related to the arrival and subsequent disappearance of a young boy.

The latter two plays comprise the World Premiere of Open Secrets which opened In June 2006 at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, California.

Musical theatre[edit]

Screenwriter Credits[edit]

Television Writing Credits[edit]

Dale Wasserman's did not begin his writing career until 1954; his first offering, "Elisha and the Long Knives," which was acclaimed as one of the best television scripts of the year [Irviing Settel] was shown in 1955 Any dates below that are earlier than 1955, are the dates the series began, not when Dale's work was shown on them.

Book[edit]

Honors & awards[edit]

"As to awards, I have received the usual quota of Emmys [Wasserman is mistaken here; according to the Emmy Awards website [1], he received only one Emmy nomination], Tonys, Ellys and Robbys and, for all I know, Kaspars and Hausers. I’m unsure of the number because I don’t attend awards ceremonies and so receive the knick-knacks by mail if at all. Ah, yes, one exception: when the University of Wisconsin offered an Honorary Doctorate, I did appear in cap and gown to address the audience in the football stadium at Madison, because a scant quarter-mile from where I was being Doctored, I had hopped my first freight at the age of 12. Irony should not be wasted."

Writers Guild of America Award

  • 1959 Television Anthology, More Than a Half Hour: Winner--I, Don Quixote (episode of DuPont Show of the Month)

Tony award

  • 1966 Musical: Winner—Man of La Mancha. Book by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion. Produced by Albert W. Selden and Hal James

Three honorary degrees, including:

  • 1980 University of Wisconsin — Madison, L.H.D.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Weber, Bruce."Dale Wasserman, Playwright, Dies at 94",The New York Times, December 27, 2008
  2. ^ "Dale Wasserman, 94; Playwright Created 'Man of La Mancha'" obituary by Dennis McLellan of the Los Angeles Times printed in The Washington Post December 29, 2008.
  3. ^ Gans, Andrew."Dale Wasserman, Playwright and Librettist, Is Dead at 94", playbill.com, December 26, 2008
  4. ^ Hoffman, Michelle."Dale Wasserman, 94, creator of 'Man of La Mancha'",The Arizona Republic, December 27, 2008

External links[edit]