||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
Guare at the 2009 premiere of PoliWood
February 5, 1938 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Georgetown University,
Yale School of Drama
|Notable works||The House of Blue Leaves; Six Degrees of Separation|
John Guare (rhymes with "air"; born February 5, 1938) is an American playwright. He is best known as the author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Landscape of the Body. His style, which mixes comic invention with an acute sense of the failure of human relations and aspirations, is at once cruel and deeply compassionate.
In the foreword to a collection of Guare's plays, film director Louis Malle writes:
Guare practices a humor that is synonymous with lucidity, exploding genre and clichés, taking us to the core of human suffering: the awareness of corruption in our own bodies, death circling in. We try to fight it all by creating various mythologies, and it is Guare's peculiar aptitude for exposing these grandiose lies of ours that makes his work so magical.
Guare was born in New York City and raised in Jackson Heights, Queens. He was raised a Roman Catholic, but is apparently now a lapsed Catholic. He was educated at St. John's Preparatory School and Georgetown University (BA, 1960), where in 1958 he contributed a song to an original musical revue entitled The Natives Are Restless and presented by the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society. The song humorously attributed the success of many famous people to the syllable "O" in their names. Under the direction of Donn B. Murphy, his play The Toadstool Boy, about a country singer's quest for fame, won first place in the District of Columbia Recreation Department's One-Act-Play competition.
In 1949 his father suffered a heart attack and subsequently moved the family to Ellenville, New York while he recovered. His father's beloved Aunt Teen and other relatives lived there, making it an idyllic experience for John. John did not regularly attend school in Ellenville because the school's daily practices were not in keeping with the recommendations of the Catholic Church, causing his father to suspect the school had communist leanings. Instead of attending school, John was assigned home study and took exams intermittently, which allowed him time to go to the movies and see all the hits of the time. This had a lasting influence on John, and his career, later in life (SLM).
In 1960, the Mask and Bauble presented The Thirties Girl, a musical for which Guare did the book, much of the music and the lyrics, again under Murphy's tutelage. Set in Hollywood's turbulent 1920s, it dealt with the dethronement of a reigning diva by a fresh-faced starlet. Guare went on to the Yale School of Drama (MFA, 1963).
Guare's early plays, mostly comic one-acts exhibiting a flair for the absurd, include To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza (1964), Muzeeka (1968), and Cop-Out (1968). The House of Blue Leaves (1971), a domestic drama by turns wildly comic and despairingly poignant, moved Guare into the front ranks of American dramatists. Chaucer in Rome, a sequel to The House of Blue Leaves, received its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 1999 and was produced Off-Broadway in 2001 at Lincoln Center Theater's Newhouse Theater.
Later plays include Marco Polo Sings a Solo, Bosoms and Neglect, Moon Over Miami, Six Degrees of Separation, and Four Baboons Adoring the Sun. Lake Hollywood and A Few Stout Individuals (2002) both received their world premieres at Signature Theatre. Six Degrees of Separation (1990), an intricately plotted comedy of manners about an African-American confidence man who poses as the son of film star Sidney Poitier, has been the most highly praised and widely produced of Guare's full-length plays. It was made into a film in 1993.
Guare’s cycle of plays on nineteenth-century America, Gardenia, Lydie Breeze and Women and Water, has been performed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., London and Australia. A Few Stout Individuals returns to nineteenth century America, with a cast that includes Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, soprano Adelina Patti and the Emperor and Empress of Japan. These historic dramas investigate the violence at the root of American identity and the failure of utopian aspirations.
Guare has also been involved with musical theatre. His libretto with Mel Shapiro for the musical Two Gentlemen of Verona was a success when it premiered in 1971 and was revived in 2005 at the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. It won the two men the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical. He wrote the songs for Landscape of the Body. Guare wrote narration for '"Psyche,"' a tone poem by César Franck, which premiered at Avery Fisher Hall in October 1997, conducted by Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic. In 1999, he revised the book of the Cole Porter musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate for its Broadway revival. He also wrote the book for the Broadway musical Sweet Smell of Success (musical).
He was a founding member in 1965 of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut and Resident Playwright at the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1976. He is a council member of the Dramatists Guild, co-editor of the Lincoln Center Theater Review, co-produces the New Plays Reading Room Series at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts and teaches in the Playwriting department at the Yale School of Drama.
All dramas for the stage unless otherwise noted.
- 1971: The House of Blue Leaves
- 1971: Two Gentlemen of Verona
- 1974: Rich and Famous
- 1977: Landscape of the Body
- 1977: Marco Polo Sings a Solo
- 1979: Bosoms and Neglect
- 1980: Atlantic City (screenplay)
- 1982: Lydie Breeze
- 1982: Gardenia
- 1986: The Race to Urga
- 1990: Six Degrees of Separation
- 1990: Women and Water
- 1992: Four Baboons Adoring the Sun
- 1999: Lake Hollywood
- 2001: Chaucer in Rome
- 2002: A Few Stout Individuals
- 2010: A Free Man of Color
- 2011: Erased/Elżbieta
- 2012: Are You There, McPhee?
- 2013: 3 Kinds of Exile
Awards and honors
- Muzeeka won an Obie in 1968.
- The House of Blue Leaves won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play in 1971 and four Tony Awards for its 1986 revival at Lincoln Center Theater.
- Two Gentlemen of Verona won both the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical in 1972. Guare also received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics.
- Six Degrees of Separation won an Obie Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and London’s Olivier Award for Best Play; it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
- Mr. Guare received the Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his plays The House of Blue Leaves, Rich and Famous, Marco Polo Sings a Solo, Landscape of the Body and Bosoms and Neglect.
- In 1989, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters elected him a member.
- In 1993 he was elected to the Theatre Hall of Fame.
- In 1996 he received the New York State Governor’s Arts Award.
- Signature Theatre honored him with a season 1998 - 1999.
- In 1999 he was honored at the William Inge Festival.
- In 2003 he received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a Master American Dramatist.
- John Guare. Three Exposures. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. ISBN 9780151901784. Page viii.
- " Chaucer in Rome Listing" lct.org, accessed June 30, 2015
- Anne Cattaneo (Winter 1992). "John Guare, The Art of Theater No. 9". The Paris Review.
- John Guare at the Internet Movie Database
- Biography at theatredatabase.com
- John Guare with poster for his Caffe Cino production
- John Guare Papers at Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.