William Gibson (playwright)

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Gibson in 1964

William Gibson (November 13, 1914 – November 25, 2008) was an American playwright and novelist. He won the Tony Award for Best Play for The Miracle Worker in 1959, which he later adapted for the film version in 1962.

Early life and education[edit]

Gibson graduated from the City College of New York in 1938, and was of Irish, French, German, Dutch and Russian and Greek ancestry.[1]

Work as playwright[edit]

Gibson's Broadway debut had been with Two for the Seesaw in 1958, a critically acclaimed two-character play which starred Henry Fonda and, in her own Broadway debut, Anne Bancroft. It was directed by Arthur Penn. Gibson published a chronicle of the vicissitudes of rewriting for the sake of this production with a nonfiction book in the following year, The Seesaw Log. His most famous play is The Miracle Worker (1959), the story of Helen Keller's childhood education, which won him the Tony Award for Best Play after he adapted it from his original 1957 telefilm script.[2][3] He adapted the work again for the 1962 film version, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay; the same actresses who previously had won Tony Awards for their performances in the stage version, Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, received Academy Awards for the film version as well.[2] Arthur Penn directed both the stage and film versions.

His other works include Dinny and the Witches (1948, revised 1961), in which a jazz musician incurs the wrath of three Shakespearean witches by blowing a riff which stops time; the book for the musical version of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy (1964), which earned him yet another Tony nomination; A Mass for the Dead (1968), an autobiographical family chronicle; A Cry of Players (1968), a speculative account of the life of young William Shakespeare (with Anne Bancroft starring for Gibson, this time as Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway); "American Primitive" (1969) a verse play adapted from the letters of John and Abigail Adams, premiered at Williamstown Theatre Festival, directed by Frank Langella and starring Anne Bancroft; Goodly Creatures (1980), about Puritan dissident Anne Hutchinson; and Monday After the Miracle (1982), a continuation of the Helen Keller story. His ill-received[3] Golda (1977), a work about the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir became so popular in its revised version, Golda's Balcony (2003), that it set a record as the longest-running one-woman play in Broadway history on January 2, 2005.[4]

1984 marked the debut of Raggedy Ann: The Musical Adventure, a dark fantasy about a sickly little girl who's whisked away on a quest to evade death, featuring the titular doll from popular children's stories, and songs by Sesame Street's Joe Raposo. The show traveled to Russia, where it was a smash-hit the following year under the title Rag Dolly,[5] and then it closed on Broadway in 1986 with only 15 previews and 5 performances.[6] Thanks to bootleg recordings, the show went on to garner a cult reputation on the internet.[7]

Other published works[edit]

In 1973, Gibson published A Season in Heaven, an account of his studies with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Punta Umbria and La Antilla, Spain. In 1954, Gibson published a novel, The Cobweb, set in a psychiatric hospital resembling the Menninger Clinic;[2] in 1955, the novel was adapted as a movie by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Family and later life[edit]

Gibson married Margaret Brenman-Gibson, a psychotherapist and biographer of Odets, in 1940. After 1954, the couple would later move from Topeka, Kansas, to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where Margaret took a position as a psychoanalyst. Brenman-Gibson died in 2004, leaving behind her husband and their two sons, Daniel and Thomas.[2]


  1. ^ Christopher Hawtree. "ObituaryWilliam GibsonLate-blooming writer best known for his play The Miracle Worker". Guardian. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Carr, David (November 27, 2008). "William Gibson, playwright, dies at 94". The New York Times. p. A34.
  3. ^ a b "'Miracle Worker' playwright William Gibson dies," November 28, 2008.
  4. ^ Simonson, Robert (September 23, 2004). “Golda's Balcony Becomes Longest-Running One-Woman Show in Bway History Oct. 3”. Playbill. Retrieved March 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Bumpers, Jasmine (2020). "Dolly Diplomacy". New York Archives. Retrieved 2021-08-18.
  6. ^ "Raggedy Ann". Guide to Musical Theater. Retrieved 2021-08-18. Opened 16th October, 1986; closed 19th October 1986 (15 previews; 5 performances)
  7. ^ Gilchrist, Garrett (2021-04-16). "Re: Raggedy Ann & Andy Thread". Orange Cow. Retrieved 2021-08-18. Young people on Tumblr and Twitter have discovered the Raggedy Ann 1977 film and later Rag Dolly musical (by Joe Raposo). There's a new fandom.

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