Study Guide

Albert Innaurato

Albert Innaurato Biography

Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 833 words.)

Albert Innaurato Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Albert Innaurato (ihn-ohr-AH-toh) was born in the Italian area of South Philadelphia. His background in this neighborhood provided a source for many of the situations and characters in his plays. He received his bachelor’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia and graduated from the Yale School of Drama with an M.F.A. degree in 1974. Innaurato was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975 and an Obie Award in 1977. He has also been playwright-in-residence at the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Circle Repertory Company in New York.

Innaurato’s first major success in the theater occurred with the highly successful production of The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie, which was staged Off-Broadway and won for him an Obie Award. In that play Innaurato deals with several themes that would recur in later plays, especially the problems of obesity and the problem of the artist in contemporary American society. An artist, Benno Blimpie is literally consuming himself because of his lack of personal and artistic recognition. In the process the character addresses, with humor, the plight of the obese in American society and the problems of the unappreciated artist. Benno’s constant hunger is a symbol for the need for recognition that characterizes the personality of the artist.

Innaurato gained a significant position in American theater in the 1970’s and 1980’s because of the power of his comedy and the perception of his social analysis. His plays often involve the themes of homosexuality, the problems of obesity, the problems of ethnic identity (especially for Italians), and the difficulty of human relationships (especially within a family). His most successful play, Gemini, earned for him an Obie Award and ran on Broadway for three years. A comedy, the play is set in South Philadelphia.

In Ulysses in Traction Innaurato creates a play involving...

(The entire section is 783 words.)