Christopher Ferdinand Durang
January 2, 1949
|Education||Harvard University (BA)|
Yale University (MFA)
Christopher Ferdinand Durang (born January 2, 1949) is an American playwright known for works of outrageous and often absurd comedy. His work was especially popular in the 1980s, though his career seemed to get a second wind in the late 1990s. Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You was Durang's watershed play as it brought him to national prominence when it won him -- at the age of 32 -- the Obie Award for Best Playwright (1980). His play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2013. The production was directed by Nicholas Martin, and featured Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Billy Magnussen, Shalita Grant and Genevieve Angelson.
Durang was born in Montclair, New Jersey, the son of Patricia Elizabeth, a secretary, and architect Francis Ferdinand Durang, Jr. He grew up in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. He attended Catholic schools as a child, including the Our Lady of Peace School in New Providence and Delbarton School in Morristown. He received a B.A. in English from Harvard and an M.F.A. in playwriting from Yale School of Drama.
His work often deals critically with issues of child abuse, Roman Catholic dogma, culture, and homosexuality. While Durang's use of parody and his criticism of many social institutions might appear overly cynical at times, he states:
...when I say everyone is crazy that means it's a very bad day where the amount of crazy people in the world has spread out to the entire universe and it doesn't seem possible to cope with anything... I think we're all neurotic. And I do think relationships are certainly difficult. Nonetheless, those lines in the play do get a laugh, so there's something. It’s not as despairing as it sounds, but I don't not believe it.
His plays have been performed nationwide, including on Broadway and Off-Broadway. His works include those in the bibliography as well as a collection of one-act parodies meant to be performed in one evening entitled Durang/Durang that includes "Mrs. Sorken", "For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls" (a parody of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams), "A Stye of the Eye", "Nina in the Morning", "Wanda's Visit", and "Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room".
Together with Marsha Norman, Durang directed The Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the Julliard School from 1984 to 2016, teaching playwrights Joshua Harmon and Noah Haidle, as well as Pulitzer-Prize winning David Lindsay-Abaire, who succeeded Durang as co-director.
Durang has performed as an actor for both stage and screen. He first came to prominence in his Off-Broadway satirical review Das Lusitania Songspiel, which he performed with friend and fellow Yale alum Sigourney Weaver. Later he co-starred in one of his own plays as Matt in The Marriage of Bette and Boo, as well as Man in the original production of Laughing Wild. He is currently working on a new play, Turning Off The Morning News , being produced at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ.
Durang has denounced the Robert Altman 1987 film adaptation of Beyond Therapy, calling it "horrific." He accused Altman of totally rewriting the script "so that all psychology is thrown out the window, and the characters dash around acting crazy but with literally no behavioral logic underneath."
Durang appeared as himself on the October 11, 1986 episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by his longtime friend Sigourney Weaver. In the episode, Durang and Weaver parodied the works of Bertolt Brecht.
- 1974: The Idiots Karamazov
- 1974: Titanic
- 1975: Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes
- 1975: The Nature and Purpose of the Universe
- 1976: The Vietnamization of New Jersey
- 1978: 'Dentity Crisis
- 1979: Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You
- 1981: Beyond Therapy
- 1981: The Actor's Nightmare
- 1983: Baby with the Bathwater
- 1985: The Marriage of Bette and Boo
- 1987: Laughing Wild
- 1988: Naomi in the Living Room
- 1996: Sex and Longing
- 1999: Betty's Summer Vacation
- 2005: Miss Witherspoon
- 2009: Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
- 2012: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
- 1978: A History of the American Film
- 1979: Das Lusitania Songspiel
- 2002: Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge
- 2007: Adrift in Macao
Awards and honors
He received Obie Awards for Sister Mary Ignatius, The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Betty's Summer Vacation. He received a nomination for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for A History of the American Film, and he won a Tony Award for Best Play in 2013 for his play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
Durang has been awarded numerous fellowships and high-profile grants including a Guggenheim, a Rockefeller, the CBS Playwriting Fellowship, the Lecomte du Nouy Foundation grant, and the Kenyon Festival Theatre Playwriting Prize.
On May 17, 2010 he was presented with the very first Luminary Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards for his work Off-Off-Broadway.
He was awarded the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award in 2012. That same year, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
- "Juilliard. I got into Juilliard". Chelsea Days. June 5, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- "Christopher Durang Biography (1949-)". FilmReference.com. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Dunlap, LucyAnn (August 17, 2005). "A Play That Asks, 'What Happens After?'". U.S. 1 Newspaper. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
He wrote his first play at age eight. His Catholic grammar school cancelled class one afternoon and put on his play. Later while he was attending Delbarton School in Morristown, he and a friend wrote two musicals, 'Banned in Boston' and 'Businessman's Holiday.' You won't find these in his collected works but they certainly suggest a young man with an active imagination and a penchant for writing.
- Dinitia Smith (November 26, 2005). "Christopher Durang Explores the Afterlife, Including His Own". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Gholson, Craig (Summer 1987). "Theater: Interview — Christopher Durang". BOMB Magazine. 20.
- "Christopher Durang". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Durang, Christoper. "Longer One Act Plays (between 30 and 60 minutes)". ChristopherDurang.com. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Levitt, Hayley (March 15, 2013). "Flashback Friday: Who Knew? Sigourney Weaver and Chris Durang Had a German Phase Before Vanya Made Them Russian". TheaterMania.com. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
- Gans, Andrew; Gioia, Michael (September 24, 2012). "EXCLUSIVE: Betty Buckley, Sam Waterston, Trevor Nunn, Christopher Durang, Andre Bishop Among Theater Hall of Fame Inductees". Playbill. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
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