Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Wendy Wasserstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 18, 1950. She was the youngest of the five children of Morris W. Wasserstein, a textile manufacturer, and Lola Scheifer Wasserstein, an amateur dancer, both immigrants from Central Europe. An awkward young girl and a less than elegant dresser, Wendy developed a sense of humor as a survival skill. When she was thirteen, her family moved to the fashionable East Side of Manhattan, where she attended the Calhoun School, an exclusive girls’ prep school. In order to be excused from athletics, she wrote the school’s musical revue for the mother/daughter luncheons. She also studied at the June Taylor School of Dance and frequently attended Broadway shows.
Wasserstein attended Mount Holyoke College, where she studied to be a congressional intern. Her interest in theater, however, was sparked by a summer playwriting course at Smith College and by her junior year excursion at Amherst College, where she participated in theatrical productions. After earning a bachelor of arts degree in history from Mount Holyoke, she received a master of arts in creative writing from the City University of New York, where she studied under novelist Joseph Heller and playwright Israel Horowitz. In 1973, her play Any Woman Can’t, a satire about a woman whose failure as a tap dancer leads her to marry an...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Wasserstein brought to the stage the hopes and frustrations of modern American women. Her plays are about the quest for identity and the struggle of women to fulfill their personal ambitions without being molded by social pressures; she depicted a generation reflecting on its lost ideals and examining new possibilities. Wasserstein’s dramas focus on character instead of plot and are thought-provoking without being preachy, comedic without sacrificing sentiment, and theatrical without losing believability. Critics who favor more revolutionary dramas about women find her plays too traditional and trivializing, but those who champion her works find them stimulating as well as entertaining.
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Wendy Wasserstein attended college at Mount Holyoke. Her first play to gain critical attention, Uncommon Women and Others, relates the experiences six alumni from that all-female college have upon being graduated from their supportive environment and entering the “real world,” where their abilities and identities as intelligent women were often denigrated or denied.
Wasserstein was raised by an extraordinary and flamboyant mother, Lola, and a quieter, though no less supportive, father, Morris. She used them as models for the pushy Jewish parents in Isn’t It Romantic, which is about a woman who chooses to remain single rather than marry the Jewish doctor of her mother’s dreams. This play entertainingly dramatizes how liberated women hoped to attain equality and fulfillment.
The Heidi Chronicles won the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1989. This play explores the life of a feminist art historian from grade school dances, through woman’s consciousness raising, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) crisis, her problems with men, and her eventual decision to adopt a child. Wasserstein, who considered herself a “professional malcontent,” was suddenly inundated with flowers and awards. The play was hailed as a milestone in feminist playwriting, documenting a generation’s sadness after the disappointing outcome of the women’s movement.
Along with Wendy, Lola and Morris reared three other...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Wendy Wasserstein was born on October 18, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the fourth and youngest child of Morris W. Wasserstein, a successful textile manufacturer, and Lola (Schleifer) Wasserstein, a housewife and nonprofessional dancer, both Jewish émigrés from central Europe. When she was thirteen, Wasserstein’s family moved to Manhattan, where she attended the Calhoun School, an all-girl academy at which she discovered that she could get excused from gym class by writing the annual mother-daughter fashion show. Some years later, at Mount Holyoke, an elite Massachusetts women’s college, a friend persuaded Wasserstein, a history major, to take a playwriting course at nearby Smith College. Encouraged by her instructor, she devoted much of her junior year, which she spent at Amherst College, performing in campus musicals before returning to complete her B.A. degree at Mount Holyoke in 1971.
Upon graduating, Wasserstein moved back to New York City, where she studied playwriting with Israel Horovitz and Joseph Heller at City College (where she later earned an M.A.) and held a variety of odd jobs to pay her rent. In 1973, her play Any Woman Can’t was produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, prompting her to accept admission to the Yale School of Drama and to turn down the Columbia Business School, which had simultaneously offered her admission.
It was at Yale University, where she earned her M.F.A. degree in 1976, that...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Wendy Wasserstein (WAHS-ur-steen) was the youngest of the five children of Morris W. Wasserstein, a textile manufacturer, and Lola Scheifer Wasserstein, an amateur dancer. When she was thirteen her family moved to the East Side of Manhattan. There she attended the Calhoun School, where she wrote the school’s musical revue for the mother/daughter luncheons. At Mount Holyoke College she studied to be a congressional intern. Her interest in theater was sparked by a summer playwriting course at Smith College and by her experiences at Amherst College, where she spent her junior year. Wasserstein earned her B.A. in history from Mount Holyoke, and thereafter her M.A. in creative writing from City University of New York. In 1973 her play “Any Woman Can’t,” a satire about a woman whose failure as a tap dancer leads her to marry an egotistical sexist, was produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.
In 1973 Wasserstein entered the Yale Drama School, and one year later her play Happy Birthday, Montpelier Pizz-zazz, a cartoonish caricature of college life focusing on the male domination of women, was first produced. She collaborated with Christopher Durang on When Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth, a parody of beauty contests, which was produced at the Yale Cabaret Theater. These early plays about the suppression of women display an absurdist humor that depends on comic caricatures and a broad use of irony.
In her one-act thesis...
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Wendy Wasserstein is recognized not only for the celebration of women in her feminist plays but also for the celebration of her Jewish heritage. She was born on October 8, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York. Wasserstein initially attended the Calhoun School to study dance with Judy Taylor and spent considerable time at Broadway matinees. Her playwriting began in the years she attended Mt. Holyoke College, where she earned a bachelor of arts in history in 1971. During this time, a friend managed to convince Wasserstein to take a playwriting course at Smith College. She was so taken with the genre that, upon graduation from Holyoke, she studied creative writing at City College of the City University of New York, where she received her master of arts.
In an interview with Esther Cohen in Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, she shares her recollections on when she really began writing. Wasserstein remembers writing something called the Mother-Daughter Fashion Show in high school, to get out of gym: ‘‘I know very little about fashion, but they used to have this Mother-Daughter Fashion Show . . . and you got to leave school to go.’’ According to Wasserstein, ‘‘if you wrote it you didn’t have to go to gym class for like two or three weeks. It was fantastic. So I started writing those.’’
Wasserstein developed an intense love for playwriting, her love for the genre eventually taking her to Yale. She developed a passion...
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Wendy Wasserstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 18, 1950. Her parents were Jewish immigrants who came to America from Central Europe as children. Her father, Morris, was a prosperous textile manufacturer. Her mother, Lola, was a homemaker and a nonprofessional dancer. To compete for attention in her large family Wasserstein developed a sharp, unique sense of humor that would later become a hallmark of her writing. Her mother, described by the playwright as a flamboyant, larger-than-life figure, introduced her to the theater as a child, and Wasserstein recognized the dramatic genre as an outlet for her creativity. While her colorful family served as inspiration for many of her plays, especially The Sisters Rosensweig (1992) Wasserstein also felt she could never meet their high expectations. When the family moved to Manhattan, the thirteen-year-old Wasserstein experienced feelings of alienation at school as well.
Wasserstein pursued higher education at Mount Holyoke College, taking her first playwriting class at nearby Smith College. Though her instructor encouraged her gifts, she still searched for an identity. Wasserstein’s talents are widely thought to have come of age in the late-1960s, when she discovered the women’s movement, a key aspect of The Heidi Chronicles (1988) and a concept that has informed all of her work.
Following her graduation in 1971, Wasserstein moved back to New York City. There, she earned...
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