Paul Alexander (American writer)

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Paul Alexander is an American writer, playwright and stage director. He has published eight books, authored critically praised plays and directed plays as well as a documentary film. He is the founder and artistic director of The Artists Theatre Group, Inc., a New York-based not-for-profit theatre company.

Early life and education[edit]

Paul Alexander was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955. After graduating from The University of Alabama, where he studied with renowned Southern author Barry Hannah, he was accepted at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the age of 21. There, he studied with Marvin Bell and Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Justice. Following Iowa, he served as a reporter for the Houston bureau of Time magazine for two years.

Writing[edit]

Alexander is the editor of Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath. This book led him to write Rough Magic, a biography of Plath, the American poet who committed suicide in 1963, which the New York Times Book Review has called "essential reading" and Newsday has described as "galvanizing and bold ... a serious and sophisticated work." In 1993, Tipper Gore, the wife of the Vice President, selected Rough Magic as one of the most significant books published about mental illness in the last year.

Alexander wrote cover stories for The Village Voice and New York about the death of Andy Warhol and the battle over his estate, which became the basis of his nonfiction book, Death and Disaster: The Rise of the Warhol Empire and the Race for Andy's Millions. Alexander is also the author of Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean, an American bestseller that has been published in ten countries.

In 1996, John F. Kennedy, Jr. recruited Alexander to write for George magazine. His article in the inaugural issue (with Cindy Crawford on the cover) about the presidential campaign of Senator Robert Dole led to an association with the magazine that lasted until Kennedy's death. Afterwards, Alexander wrote a number of political articles for Rolling Stone, including "All Hat, No Cattle," the first major expose of George W. Bush that appeared in the summer of 1999, and "Ready for His Close-Up," the first presidential profile of John Kerry that appeared in 2002.

Alexander is the author of three political books: The Candidate, a chronicle of John Kerry's presidential campaign; Man of the People: The Life of John McCain; and Machiavelli’s Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Carl Rove. His journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, New York, The Nation, The Village Voice, Salon.com, Worth, The New York Observer, Cosmopolitan, More, Interview, ARTnews, Mirabella, Premiere, Out, The Advocate, Travel & Leisure, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Biography, Men's Journal, Best Life and The Daily Beast. In Europe, his nonfiction has appeared in Paris Match, Gente and The Guardian.

Broadcasting[edit]

In 2001, Alexander and writer John Calvin Batchelor began broadcasting a radio show on WABC in New York entitled Batchelor and Alexander, which was eventually syndicated by ABC Radio. It was the highest-rated late-night radio show in America.

Alexander left the show in 2003 to pursue work as a playwright and director.

Hollywood[edit]

Alexander is the director of Brothers in Arms, a feature-length film about John Kerry and his experiences in Vietnam. Released in 2004 during the presidential campaign by First Run Features, The New York Times described the movie as "inspired filmmaking."

In 2005, A-list screenwriter and producer Shane Salerno purchased the film rights to Alexander's Salinger, his 1999 book on the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger. The Boston Globe would later call Alexander's book "the only significant biography of Salinger." For five years, Salerno worked in secret on a feature-length documentary on Salinger, based on Alexander's book. When news of the documentary broke on Deadline Hollywood in January 2010, it made headlines around the world. Journalist Michael Fleming has described the film, which will be released in 2010[dated info], as "arrestingly powerful". Alexander is distinguished as having been the only biographer not prosecuted by Salinger during his lifetime.

Alexander is also the author of the original screenplay, Good Night, Dorothy Kilgallen, based on his forthcoming book that ties the syndicated columnist's death to her investigation of the JFK assassination. "The striking thing about Paul's book proposal was that Dorothy wasn't reporting on the death of a president as much as she was investigating the murder of a friend," said producer, Shane Salerno, who sold the project to Twentieth Century Fox in 2008. News of the deal made the front page of the trade publication, Daily Variety.

Theatre[edit]

Alexander is the author of the play Strangers in the Land of Canaan. Produced by the Sanctuary Theater Workshop, founded originally by the legendary actress, Geraldine Page, and directed by Rip Torn, the play had a successful Off-Broadway run in 1996, including a stint at The Actors Studio.

In 2003, Alexander wrote and directed Edge, a one-woman show about Sylvia Plath. Developed at the Actors Studio, Edge starred Angelica Torn, who received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for her performance when the play ran in New York. The play met with a rush of praise: "expertly directed by [Paul] Alexander" nytheatre; "a resurrected Sylvia Plath ... the showcase of a lifetime" The New York Times; "relentlessly watchable" Time Out New York; "breathtaking" Theatermania; "sexy and laceratingly funny" New York Post; "powerful" The New Yorker. Following the critically acclaimed New York production, Edge next ran in London where it was praised as "superb" Evening Standard and "a virtuoso performance" British Theatre Guide. Along with touring runs in Australia and New Zealand, Edge played a variety of U.S. cities, including Miami, where New Times named Torn Best Actress. In all, Torn performed Edge 400 times.

A second company, Method Machine, has begun performing Edge, mounting runs in Rochester, New York, St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Berkshires.

Alexander directed a production of Ariel Dorfman's play Death and the Maiden at The King's Head Theatre in London featuring Leigh Lawson, Angelica Torn and Rupert Wickam, as well as New York Stories, a night of one-act plays by Paul Manuel Kane that ran Off-Broadway. He has also directed numerous workshop productions and stage readings, ranging from classics such as George Bernard Shaw's Candida to musical "works-in-progress".

The Artists Theatre Group[edit]

In 2008, Alexander founded The Artists Theatre Group, a not-for-profit theatre company, based in New York, whose mission is "to nurture the voice of the artist — the actor, the writer, the director, the choreographer, the designer — while at the same time attempting to develop an ongoing audience who wants to be challenged and moved by the theatre".

ATG's initial production was a second New York run of Edge, which once again met with praise with The New York Post declaring, "Angelica Torn's mesmerizing portrayal brings to mind her mother, Geraldine Page."

In 2009, ATG presented, in association with Warren Baker and Sally Jacobs, the New York premier of Irish playwright Frank McGuinness's drama, Gates of Gold, which The New York Times raved was "an endearing love letter of a play" celebrating the founders of the Gate Theatre in Dublin, Michael MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards.

In 2010, ATG will next present a revival of Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the first time the play has been presented in New York since the 1977 production starring Frank Langella. That production won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play and went on to run 925 performances on Broadway. It also became the basis of the film featuring Langella, Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence.

In early 2011, "Dracula" opened at The Little Shubert as one of the worst reviewed shows in theater history. The New York Times described the production as a "comically creaky production, directed by Paul Alexander." [1] The NY Post points out the show "played less like a Gothic thriller and more like the backstage farce 'Noises Off.'" Paul Alexander and Alexander Morr failed to pay the designers of show a reported $100,000 in fees and expenses.[2] The stage manager's report from the second to last report reads: 7:15 p.m.: Willa Kim informed [assistant producer] Michael Alden that those costumes that have not been paid for have been removed from the building. I informed Joe Tantalo [theater manager] that some of our actors would be performing in street clothes this evening. I asked Joe how large our house was this evening. He replied “180 . . . 120 of those being comps.” 7:20 p.m.: Alexander Morr [producer] called on my cellphone asking to speak to Willa. 7:30 p.m.: I called the ½ hour explaining to the cast that Michel Altieri [Dracula] and Emily Bridges [Lucy] would be performing in street clothes. (The cast took this news more or less in stride.) 7:40 p.m.: Alex agreed to present Willa a check in the amount of $8,630.83 by tomorrow at 3 p.m. 8:08 p.m.: The red velvet curtain at The Little Shubert rose majestically on our handsomely costumed production of “Dracula.”

The next day designers arrived to claim their fees. Paul Alexander was screaming at the designers, threatening to call the police and having them arrested. The police arrived and took stock, deciding that backstage hissy fits aren’t punishable offenses. As this confrontation — caught on video by the fight director — played out, Alexander retreated to the bathroom, saying he was “not feeling well.”[3]

Other Accolades[edit]

A former fellow at the Hoover Institution in the fall of 2002 [4] at Stanford University, Alexander is a member of the PEN American Center, The Authors Guild, and the Playwrights and Directors Unit of The Actors Studio.

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]