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Howe at the 2015 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony, June 2015
November 21, 1937 |
New York, New York
Tina Howe (born November 21, 1937) is an American playwright. She is the daughter of journalist Quincy Howe and was raised in a literary family. Over a career spanning more than three decades, Howe's best-known works are Painting Churches, Coastal Disturbances and Pride's Crossing.
Her works have won numerous awards, including the 1998 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play (Pride’s Crossing). Coastal Disturbances was nominated for the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play. 
Howe was born in New York City to Quincy Howe, a CBS news commentator, and Mary Post Howe, an artist. She is the granddaughter of biographer Mark Antony DeWolfe Howe and the great-granddaughter of the first Episcopal Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Howe’s parents and grandmother were essential to her success as a writer. Howe's family focused on reading and writing: "Thanksgivings and family occasions were always about, 'What are you reading, what are you writing, what are you working on, what poetry are you interested in?'" Her grandfather, M. A. DeWolfe Howe was a poet who lived to be 96; and her uncle, Mark DeWolfe Howe, was a law professor at Harvard. Her grandfather passed his love of literature on to his sons and daughters, and they did the same. When Howe was ill with hepatitis, her father visited her every day in the hospital, reading James Joyce's Ulysses to her during his lunch break.
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Themes and style
C. W. E. Bigsby wrote that "art is plainly a central point of reference" for Howe, noting Painting Churches and Coastal Disturbances, and also states that "food and consumption" are important. He believes that she has a "committment to experimentation" and writes that she has said that she is "firmly entrenched in the Absurdist tradition." Frank Rich, in his New York Times review of Painting Churches commented that the play "is in the dreamiest impressionistic spirit." The Variety reviewer of Painting Churches also noted that the play is a "group portrait painted in a soft, impressionistic style. The CurtainUp reviewer of Coastal Disturbances wrote of Howe's work: "Like all of Howe's work, the play's charm stems from its quirky characters. In this case joie de vie, despair, love, lust, anger and fear come and go like the waves hitting the shore in foamy bursts or gentle ripples." Writing in the Sarah Lawrence Magazine, Celia McGerr Regan described Howe: "Howe developed a voice that has been variously described as farcical and absurd, impressionistic and airy, graceful and perceptive, lyric and literate, vivid and language-driven, whimsical and demented. Odd things happen in the face of the recognizable: Trees grow up inside and through a New York State farmhouse (One Shoe Off)..."
After college, Howe spent a year in Paris, where she continued to write. She did graduate work at Columbia University Teacher’s College and Chicago Teachers College. She started teaching high school in Monona Grove, Wisconsin, (while her husband was doing graduate work) and then in Bath, Maine, which is where she says she learned her craft through running the drama department, a position she agreed to take on the terms that only her plays would be produced.
Her first play to be produced was The Nest which premiered Off-Broadway at the Mercury Theater, running for one performance on April 9, 1970. Howe remembered: "My first play, 'The Nest', was about courtship and how women compete with each other to land a husband. That play closed in one night."
Her play Museum premiered at the Los Angeles Actors' Theatre on April 29, 1976, and was then presented in a Joseph Papp New York Shakespeare Festival production, opening in February 1978. The play has a large cast of 44 actors and takes place at a group art show of three contemporary artists. The Papp production featured Dianne Wiest, Kathryn Grody and Larry Bryggman. The Art of Dining was first presented Off-Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in December 1979, directed by A. J. Antoon and starring Kathy Bates and Dianne Wiest, who won the 1980 Clarence Derwent Award and Obie Award. Howe won an Obie Award in 1983 for distinguished playwriting for The Art of Dining, Museum and Painting Churches.
Her play Painting Churches is one of her most critically successful works, winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for best Off-Broadway play in 1984. It was also produced by PBS's American Playhouse series in 1986. Coastal Disturbances opened Off-Broadway in November 1986 at Second Stage Theatre, and then on Broadway in March 1987, and Howe was nominated for a Tony Award, Best Play.
This was followed by Approaching Zanzibar, which shows the Blossom family traveling across the United States to visit Olivia, a sick relative. The play premiered at the Second Stage Theatre on April 8, 1989, directed by Carole Rothman, and starred Jane Alexander as Charlotte Blossom and Bethel Leslie as Olivia. The play was produced at the Southwark Playhouse, London in August 1997. The reviewer for The Independent wrote: "...a zany, expertly mimed sequence throws the tensions of cooped-up family car travel into rollicking relief when, in fantasy, the parents and children swap roles. But, like so much off-Broadway fare, the play insists on coating the pill of pain in the sickly sugar of false reassurance."
Her play One Shoe Off opened Off-Broadway in April 1993 in a Second Stage Theatre production at the Public Theater. The Variety reviewer described the play as "the dining-room play that dissolves in an emotive crossfire of accusation, revelation and reconciliation", "offbeat, sometimes ferociously funny" with an "over-the-top tone".
Her play Pride’s Crossing, described by Playbill as a "family-inspired memory play" was produced Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center from December 7, 1997 to April 5, 1998 after an engagement at the Old Globe Theatre (San Diego) in 1997. The play was revived Off-Broadway in 2004. She received the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award for Best Play in 1998 for this play. Howe wrote English translations of Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and The Lesson, which were produced at the Atlantic Theater Company in its 2004-05 season. The same company presented her play Birth and After Birth at the Linda Gross Theater, opening in September 2006 in previews. Described by Playbill as "a play about parenting", the play was was written in 1972; it was directed by Atlantic associate artistic director Christian Parker.
Chasing Manet opened Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in April 2009, starring Jane Alexander and Lynn Cohen. The play takes place in a nursing home, with the "rebellious painter" and a Jewish woman becoming friends and planning on escaping to go to Paris abord the QE2. Jane Alexander is a friend of Howe's from Sarah Lawrence.
Howe's plays have been produced in regional theatres in the United States, such as Louisville, Los Angeles, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Annapolis, Maryland  and San Diego, as well as in London.
She received a Rockefeller Grant (1984), two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Guggenheim fellowship (1990), an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature (1993), as well as honorary degrees from Whittier College (1997) and Bowdoin College (1998). She received the William Inge Theatre Festival Award in 2005.
She has also taught master classes at NYU, UCLA, Columbia and Carnegie Mellon, she currently teaches playwrighting at Hunter College in New York City, and she has been a member of the council of the Dramatists Guild of America since 1990. Several of her works can be read in the volumes Coastal Disturbances: Four Plays by Tina Howe and Approaching Zanzibar and Other Plays.
Howe is married to historian Norman Levy, and the couple has two children. Her hobbies include water aerobics and Baroque music. For 25 years during her career, Howe wrote her plays while listening only to pianist Glenn Gould.
- Museum (1976)
- The Art of Dining (1979)
- Painting Churches (1983)
- Coastal Disturbances (1986)
- Approaching Zanzibar(1989)
- One Shoe Off (1993)
- East of the Sun and West of the Moon (1994–95)
- Pride's Crossing (1997)
- Rembrandt's Gift (2002)
- The Bald Soprano (English translation of Eugène Ionesco, 2004)
- The Lesson (English translation of Eugène Ionesco, 2004)
- Birth and After Birth (2006)
- Chasing Manet (2009)
Awards and nominations
- 1983 Obie Award for Distinguished Playwriting (winner)
- 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Painting Churches (finalist)
- 1984 Rockefeller Grant for Distinguished Playwriting (winner)
- 1987 Tony Award Best Play Coastal Disturbances (nominee)
- 1990 Guggenheim Fellowship (winner)
- 1993 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature (winner)
- 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Pride's Crossing (finalist)
- 1998 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play, Pride’s Crossing (winner)
- 1998 Madge Evans & Sidney S. Kingsley Award (winner)
- 2005 William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater (winner)
- 2015 PEN/Laura Pels Award, Master American Dramatist
- Patton, Paige. "Baylor's Horton Foote Festival to Honor Award-Winning Playwright Tina Howe". Baylor University. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- "Painting Churches with One Shoe Off". Wheaton College. Retrieved 4 November 2011.[dead link]
- "Tina Howe Broadway (Awards)" Internet Broadway Database, accessed August 26, 2015
- Wood, Mike. "Brief biography of Tina Howe". The William Inge Center for the Arts. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- Helen Howe, The Gentle Americans: Biography of a Breed (New York: Harper & Row, 1965)
- "Theater. Review and Interview. 'The Bald Soprano'" The Villager, September 22–28, 2004
- Regan, Celia McGerr. "Throwing Kisses, Throwing Pies" sarahlawrence.edu, accessed August 26, 2015
- Bigsby, C.W.E., "Tina Howe", Contemporary American Playwrights, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0521668077, pp. 47, 50, 57
- Rich, Frank. "Theater: Bostonian Life In 'Painting Churches' ", New York Times, February 9, 1983, p.C16
- Stasio, Marilyn. "Review. 'Painting Churches' " Variety, March 6, 2012
- Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Berkshires Review. Coastal Disturbances" curtainup.com, July 14, 2006
- Jackson R. Bryer, Mary C. Hartig (ed.), Tina Howe, Encyclopedia of American Drama, Infobase Learning, 2015, ISBN 1438140762 (no page number)
- Worland, Gayle. "Gift From The Heart Acclaimed Playwright Returns To Work With Madison Rep On 'Rembrandt's Gift'" madison.com, September 10, 2005
- The Nest lortel.org, accessed August 26, 2015
- Lefkowitz, David. Tina Howe Taking Pride and Visiting 'Museum'" playbill.com, October 14, 1997
- Howe, Tina. "Script", Museum: A Play, Samuel French, Inc., 1979, ISBN 0573612897, pp. 3-6
- The Art of Dining lortel.org, accessed August 26, 2015
- OBIE Awards Presented" New York Times, May 24, 1983
- "TCM, cast, production, brief synopsis, for 'Painting Churches' telefilm, 1986" tcm.com, accessed August 26, 2015
- Coastal Disturbances playbillvault.com, accessed August 26, 2015
- Howe, Tina. "Script" Approaching Zanzibar, Samuel French, Inc., 1989, ISBN 0573691282, p. 5
- Taylor, Paul. "Review: Theatre 'Approaching Zanzibar' Southwark Playhouse, London" The Independent, August 8, 1997
- Gerard, Jeremy. "Legit/Reviews/Review: ‘One Shoe Off’", Variety, April 16, 1993
- Jones, Kenneth. "Tina Howe's 'Pride's Crossing' Gets NYC Revival at T. Schreiber Studio, March 25-April 18" playbill.com, March 25, 2004
- Pride's Crossing lortel.org, accessed August 26, 2015
- Gans, Andrew. "Atlantic Theater Company Postpones Howe's Ionesco Double-Bill" playbill.com, February 25, 2004
- Jones, Kenneth. "Tina Howe's 'Birth and After Birth' Gets NYC Premiere by Atlantic Theater Company" playbill.com, 2006
- Hernandez, Ernio. "Jane Alexander and Lynn Cohen Begin Chasing Manet Off-Broadway March 24" playbill.com, March 24, 2009
- Whaley, Charles. "A CurtainUp Feature The Humana Festival: 2002" curtainup.com, accessed August 26, 2015
- Greenfield, Phil. "'Painting Churches' Warm, Honest Portrait Of A Family" Baltimore Sun, February 1, 1991
- BURIAN LECTURE, New York State Writers Institute, State University of New York, Albany, NY, February 8, 2000
- "Past Festivals by Year and Honoree" ingecenter.org, accessed August 26, 2015
- , American Theatre Wing biography, accessed June 20, 2012
- Tina Howe, Theatre Communications Group, accessed November 21, 2011
- [playsforyoungaudiences.org/scripts/east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon "East of the Sun and West of the Moon,Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, 1994-95 season"] playsforyoungaudiences.org, accessed August 26, 2015
- Carolyn Kellogg (May 13, 2015). "PEN announces award-winners and shortlists". LA Times. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
- "2015 PEN Literary Award Winners". pen.org. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
- Internet Broadway Database listing for Tina Howe
- Internet Off-Broadway Database listing (Lortel Archives) for Tina Howe
- Complete list of Plays by Tina Howe
- filmreference.com, Tina Howe Biography (1937-)
- Internet Movie Database listing for Tina Howe
- Pulitzer Org. listing for Tina Howe, 1997 and 1984 showing finalist