Albert Innaurato was born and reared in Philadelphia, the son of Italian immigrants. The ethnic world of south Philadelphia provides the background for his most successful plays. Though precise autobiographical parallels have not been revealed by Innaurato, the events and characters in the plays are transformations of his own experiences and acquaintances. His portrayals of Italian American life are sufficiently realistic that Innaurato’s opinions about ethnic identity have been sought out by reporters.
Many of Innaurato’s plays were begun when he was quite young; a version of Urlicht, for example, dates from his late teens. He continued to write prolifically during his undergraduate years at Temple University, where he received his B.A. Many of these early works were lost or destroyed, though some of the titles are known. Innaurato develops scripts rather slowly, so some of the material may eventually surface again in new plays.
Perhaps the most persistent early influence on Innaurato was his taste for opera. He taught himself to play the piano and made some early experiments in operatic composition, but its influence lingers mostly through frequent allusions to opera in plays such as Gemini and in the leitmotif structure of the plays, which also feature set speeches designed as arias. Innaurato collects opera recordings and has written about his fascination with the form for The New York Times.
After attending Temple University, an experience transposed into Ulysses in Traction, the young writer spent a year at the California Institute of the Arts. His education there was unsettling, causing him to question his assumptions about art, politics, and society, and he left the school to return to the East Coast.
During the early 1970’s, Innaurato studied playwriting at Yale University under Howard Stein and Jules Feiffer. The discipline of regular writing and constructive feedback seems to have provided an unusually productive routine for Innaurato, who...
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