|Lee Knowlton Blessing|
October 4, 1949 |
BA in English (1971)
University of Iowa
MFA in English (1976)
MFA in Speech/Theater (1979)
|Spouse||Jeanne Blake (1986)
|Notable work(s)||A Walk in the Woods|
American College Theater Festival Award
Lee Knowlton Blessing (born October 4, 1949) is an American playwright best known for his 1988 work, A Walk in the Woods. A lifelong Midwesterner, Blessing continued to work in regional theaters in and around his hometown of Minneapolis through his forties before relocating to New York City.
Life and Work
Blessing was born in Minneapolis Minnesota and grew up attending Minnetonka area schools. He began his college education at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, but later transferred to Reed College in Oregon where he earned a BA in English in 1971. After he earned his degree, Blessing's parents offered the young graduate the choice between a used car or a trip to Russia. Blessing chose Russia where he found inspiration to write his best-known work, the award-winning A Walk in the Woods. According to interviews with Blessing, the play, which depicts the developing relationship between a Russian and an American arms limitation negotiator is based on fact. Apparently, during the 1982 talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Soviet Yuli Kvitsinsky and American Paul Nitze left the formal discussions to literally take a walk in the woods. Following its premiere in Waterford, Connecticut, A Walk in the Woods was nominated for both a Tony award and a Pulitzer Prize. Though the production won neither award, it was reprised produced in Moscow in 1989 and later adapted for television.
Upon returning from his tenure abroad, Blessing went on to study playwriting at the University of Iowa where he received MFA degrees in English and Speech and Theater. He would later return to teach at the Iowa's Playwrights Workshop and the Iowa Writers' Workshop in addition to his time as an instructor at the Playwright's Center in Minneapolis. He currently serves as Head of the graduate playwriting program at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.
Blessing's most recent plays include A Body of Water, Whores, The Scottish Play, Black Sheep, Fortinbras, and many others. He has also written one act plays including The Roads That Lead Here and Eleemosynary. Eight of his plays have been staged at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut during the prestigious National Playwrights Conference. Several of his most recent works produced in New York City including Thief River, Cobb and Chesapeake, received Drama Desk nominations and an award, plus nominations from the Outer Critics Circle.
- 1975: The Real Billy The Kid
- 1980: The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (revised version premiered Washington, D.C., 1979)
- 1983: Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music (premiered Louisville, Kentucky, 1982)
- 1985: Independence (premiered Louisville, Kentucky, 1984)
- 1986: Riches (as War of the Roses, premiered Louisville, Kentucky, 1985)
- 1987: Eleemosynary (premiered St. Paul, Minnesota, 1985 ; New York, 1989)
- 1988: Oldtimers Game (premiered Louisville, Kentucky, 1982)
- 1988: A Walk in the Woods (premiered La Jolla, California, 1987; New York and London, 1988)
- 1990: Two Rooms (premiered La Jolla, California, 1988)
- 1991: Cobb (premiered New Haven, Connecticut, 1989)
- 1991: Down the Road (premiered La Jolla, California, 1989)
- 1992: Fortinbras (adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet)
- 1993: Lake Street Extension (premiered New York, 1992)
- 1995: Patient A
- 1996: Going To St. Ives (premiered in Waterford, CT, 1996)
- 1999: Chesapeake (premiered in New York, NY, 1999)
- 2000: The Winning Streak (premiered in Waterford, CT, 1999)
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- 2000: Thief River (premiered in Waterford, CT, 2000)
- 2001: Black Sheep (premiered in Waterford, CT, 2001)
- 2002: The Roads That Lead Here
- 2002: Whores (premiered in Waterford, CT, 2002)
- 2003: Snapshot (premiered in Louisville, KY, 2002)
- 2003: Tyler Poked Taylor (premiered in Louisville, KY, 2002)
- 2003: The Road that Leads Here (premiered in Minneapolis, MN, 2002)
- 2004: Flag Day (premiered in Shepherdstown, WV, 2004)
- 2005: The Scottish Play
- 2005: A Body of Water
- 2006: Lonesome Hollow
- 2007: Moderation
- 2008: Great Falls
- 2008: Perilous Night'
- 2009: Into You
- 2009: Heaven's My Destination
- 2013 "Courting Harry," (premiered in St. Paul, MN 2013)
- American College Theater Festival Award (1979)
- Jerome Foundation Grant (1981, 1982)
- McKnight Foundation Grant (1983, 1989)
- Great American Play Award
- Oldtimers Game (1982)
- Independence (1984)
- War of the Roses (1985)
- Down the Road (1991)
- Snapshot (2002)
- The Roads that Lead Here (2003)
- Great Falls (2008)
- Wild Blessings (2009)
- National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1985, 1988)
- Bush Foundation Fellowship (1987)
- American Theater Critics Association Award
- A Walk in the Woods (1987)
- A Body of Water (2006)
- Great Falls (Citation, 2009)
- Marton Award (1988)
- Dramalogue Award (1988)
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1989)
- Humanitas Prize (1993)
- "Lee (Knowlton) Blessing." Contemporary Dramatists. Gale. Gale Biography In Context. 2005. Retrieved Mar 5, 2012.
- "Lee (Knowlton) Blessing." Contemporary Dramatists. Gale. Gale Biography In Context. 1999. Retrieved Mar 6, 2012.
- "Profile: Lee Blessing | Mason Gross School of the Arts". Rutgers University. Retrieved Mar 6, 2012.
- Tallmer, Jerry (November 5, 2008). "Keeping their heads above water: Crisis of identity in prolific playwrights latest". The Villager. Community Media LLC. Retrieved Mar 6, 2012.
- Lee Blessing – Humanitas Price winner and CableACE Awards nominee (1993). iMDB.com. Retrieved on May 27, 2015.
- Lee Blessing - Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org
- Lee Blessing—entry in The Playwrights Database
- Lee Blessing Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin