Lanford Wilson Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226320-Wilson_L.jpgLanford Wilson Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Lanford Wilson was born on April 13, 1937, in Lebanon, Missouri, a locale he would later use as the setting for his cycle of plays about the mythical Talley family. When he was five years old, his parents divorced, and his mother took him to live in Springfield, Missouri. The search to establish a relationship with an absent father would constitute an important motif in a number of his plays, most notably in the autobiographical memory play Lemon Sky (1970) and in Redwood Curtain (1992), in which a half-Vietnamese girl tracks down her American father.

When Wilson’s mother remarried in 1948, the family moved to a farm in Ozark, Missouri. While a high school student there in the mid-1950’s, Wilson received his formative experiences in the theater, acting the role of the narrator, Tom, in a production of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (1944) and attending a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) at Southwest Missouri State College.

In 1956, Wilson went to California for an unsuccessful reunion with his father. While there, he studied art history at San Diego State College, claiming it made him aware of “what our heritage was, and what we are doing to it,” which becomes a pivotal concern in several works, particularly The Mound Builders (1975).

In the late 1950’s, Wilson, by then an artist working for an advertising firm in the Midwest, enrolled in...

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Lanford Wilson Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Partly because Wilson has chosen to premiere his plays at Circle Repertory or in regional theaters, he has seldom attracted the sustained media attention accorded such contemporaries as David Rabe, Sam Shepard, and David Mamet. Yet Wilson’s works are among the most distinctively American dramas of the late twentieth century. Wilson’s emphases closely reflect issues at the heart of the United States’ survival: tolerance for the have-nots and outsiders, respect for the multicultural heritage of the past, the need to preserve beauty in the face of technological advance, the value of work in defining one’s self, and the importance of community for instilling a sense of belonging and rootedness.

Lanford Wilson Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Lanford Eugene (“Lance”) Wilson was born April 13, 1937, in Lebanon, Missouri, the son of Ralph Eugene and Violetta Tate Wilson. When he was five years old, his parents separated (and later divorced), his father leaving for California, his mother taking Lanford to Springfield, Missouri, where she worked in a garment factory and he attended school. When he was thirteen, his mother married again—a dairy inspector from Ozark, Missouri—and they moved to a farm. Wilson attended Ozark High School, where he painted, acted, and was on the track team.

Although his childhood was relatively happy, Wilson never quite recovered from his parents’ marital breakup. At eighteen, after a term at Southwest Missouri State College, he headed for California for a reunion with his father, by then a San Diego aircraft-factory worker with a new wife and two younger sons. The reunion, painfully mirrored in Wilson’s autobiographical play Lemon Sky, was unsuccessful: Wilson and his father were thoroughly incompatible. After a year in his father’s household, during which he worked at his father’s factory and attended San Diego State College, Wilson left for Chicago. He lived for six years in Chicago, where he worked as an artist in an advertising agency, studied playwriting at the University of Chicago, and wrote his first plays (none produced).

In 1962, Wilson moved to New York, worked as an office clerk—in a furniture store, at the Americana...

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Lanford Wilson Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Lanford Eugene Wilson, a model of the playwrights of the generation bred and nurtured in the fertile Off-Off-Broadway lofts and churches of the 1960’s, may be the most prolific American writer for the stage since Eugene O’Neill. His Pulitzer Prize-winning Talley’s Folly takes him about halfway through his lifelong chronicling of the fictitious Talley family and its richly variegated American environment.

Wilson was affected by the early divorce of his parents. After spending his childhood with his mother and stepfather in Springfield and Ozark, Missouri, he moved to San Diego, where his reacquaintance with his father (after thirteen years), however imperfect, served as the basis for his examination of his life through drama in the creative years that followed, culminating in the anguished, autobiographical Lemon Sky. Gradually working his way eastward, Wilson found himself in New York at the moment of the birth of Off-Off-Broadway theater, which welcomed his idiosyncratic dramatic voice.

Three New York theaters were integral to Wilson’s growth as an artist and person during those formative years. The Caffé Cino, operated with great daring and foresight by Joe Cino, staged Wilson’s first effort, So Long at the Fair, and some other one-act plays, including This Is the Rill Speaking, Wandering, and The Madness of Lady Bright, which won an Obie for its star, Neil Flanagan. Ellen Stewart’s equally daring and innovative La Mama Experimental Theatre Club staged some of Wilson’s longer works; Balm in Gilead and The Rimers of Eldritch demonstrate Wilson’s multicharacter scene study approach to depicting whole slices of American culture in decay, a layering technique refined in subsequent work such as The Hot l Baltimore.

The third theater to influence Wilson’s work was the Circle Repertory Company, which he cofounded in 1969 with Tanya Berezin, Rob Thierkield, and Marshall Mason, who had directed Wilson’s play The Sand Castle at Café La Mama in 1965. This relationship continued: As playwright in residence at the Circle Repertory, Wilson created, developed, and directed more than a dozen plays, many of which moved...

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Lanford Wilson Biography (Drama for Students)

Lanford Wilson was born on April 13, 1937, in Lebanon, Missouri, the town in which he set Talley’s Folly and two other plays. His...

(The entire section is 464 words.)

Lanford Wilson Biography (Drama for Students)

Lanford Wilson was born on April 13, 1937, in Lebanon, Missouri. His father left the family when Wilson was five years old, and his mother...

(The entire section is 447 words.)

Lanford Wilson Biography (Drama for Students)

Lanford Wilson was born in Lebanon, Missouri, on April 13, 1937. He was five when his parents divorced. His father moved to California, and...

(The entire section is 444 words.)

Lanford Wilson Biography (Drama for Students)

On April 13, 1937, Lanford Wilson was born in Lebanon, Missouri. When he was five years old his parents divorced and his father moved to...

(The entire section is 231 words.)