Peter Shaffer

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Sir Peter Shaffer
Born Peter Levin Shaffer
(1926-05-15) 15 May 1926 (age 88)
Liverpool, England
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter

Sir Peter Levin Shaffer (born 15 May 1926),[1] is an English playwright and screenwriter of numerous award-winning plays, several of which have been filmed.

Early life[edit]

Shaffer was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool, the son of Reka (née Fredman) and Jack Shaffer, an estate agent.[2][3] He is the twin brother of fellow playwright, Anthony Shaffer.

He was educated at The Hall School Hampstead and St Paul's School, London and subsequently he gained a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study history. Shaffer was a Bevin Boy coal miner during World War II, and took a number of jobs including bookstore clerk, and assistant at the New York Public Library, before discovering his dramatic talents.

Theatrical career[edit]

Shaffer's first play, The Salt Land (1954), was presented on the BBC. Encouraged by this success, Shaffer continued to write and established his reputation as a playwright in 1958, with the production of Five Finger Exercise,[4] which opened in London under the direction of John Gielgud and won the Evening Standard Drama Award. When Five Finger Exercise moved to New York in 1959, it was equally well received and landed Shaffer the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.

Shaffer's next piece was a double bill, The Private Ear/The Public Eye, two plays each containing three characters and concerning aspects of love. They were presented in May 1962 at the Globe Theatre, and both starred Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams.

In 1963, the National Theatre was established, and virtually all of Shaffer's subsequent work was done in its service.

Shaffer's canon contains a unique mix of philosophical dramas and satirical comedies. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964) presents the tragic conquest of Peru by the Spanish, while Black Comedy (1965) takes a humorous look at the antics of a group of characters feeling their way around a pitch black room — although the stage is actually flooded with light.

Equus (1973) won Shaffer the 1975 Tony Award for Best Play as well as the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. A journey into the mind of a 17-year-old stableboy who had plunged a spike into the eyes of six horses, Equus ran for over 1000 performances on Broadway. It was revived by Massachusetts' Berkshire Theatre Festival in the summers of 2005 and 2007, by director Thea Sharrock at London's Gielgud Theatre in February 2007, and on Broadway (in the Sharrock staging) in September 2008. The latter production, which ran in New York until February 2009, required the stableboy to appear naked; its star, Daniel Radcliffe, was still associated with the Harry Potter films intended for general audiences, and this led to mild controversy.[5]

Shaffer followed this success with Amadeus (1979) which won the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics Award for the London production. This tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and court composer Antonio Salieri who, overcome with jealousy at hearing the "voice of God" coming from an "obscene child", sets out to destroy his rival. When the show moved to Broadway it won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play and, like Equus, ran for more than 1000 performances.[citation needed]

Screen adaptations[edit]

Several of Shaffer's plays have been adapted to film, including Five Finger Exercise (1962), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), The Public Eye (1962), from which he adapted the 1972 film Follow Me! (1972), Equus (1977), and Amadeus (1984), which won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Shaffer received two Academy Award–nominations for adapting his plays Equus and Amadeus for the big screen. For writing the screenplay for Equus, he was nominated for the 1977 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar but the award went to Alvin Sargent, who wrote the screenplay for Julia. For writing the screenplay for Amadeus, Shaffer received both the 1984 Best Screenplay Golden Globe and the 1984 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

Awards[edit]

Shaffer received the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater in 1992. Two years later he was appointed Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University.

In 1993, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Letters) by the University of Bath.[6]

Honours[edit]

Shaffer was named Knight Bachelor in the 2001 New Year's Honours. In 2007, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[7]

Selected works[edit]

  • Whom Do I Have The Honour Of Addressing? (1990)
  • The Gift of the Gorgon (1992)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014. "Sir Peter Shaffer, playwright, is 87" 
  2. ^ "Peter Shaffer Biography". Filmreference.com. 1926-05-15. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  3. ^ "The Jewish Daily Forward". Forward.com. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  4. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 377. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  5. ^ "Naked stage role for Potter star". BBC News. 28 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  6. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "Hall of Fame: theater veterans get a night in limelight". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

External links[edit]