Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Yasmina Reza was born in Paris on May 1, 1959, to Jewish parents. Her mother was the daughter of a Hungarian violinist from Budapest, and her father hailed from a family of Sephardic Jews from Russia. He was born in 1918, in the middle of the Russian Revolution, when the family (whose original name had been Gedaliah) fled first to Persia, where they changed their surname to Reza and pretended to have become Muslims when, in fact, they observed Judaism at home. Their next move was to Paris when Reza’s father was five. He became an engineer who ended up in the shirt business. Partly because of these genealogical roots, Reza writes plays and fiction that are informed by nostalgia, rupture, and a sense of loss, even though her wealthy family vacationed in Switzerland.
Both parents had musical taste and aptitude. Her father was an impassioned amateur pianist—just as Yasmina is—and her mother played the violin. Yasmina mentions music in several of her writings, and for her, music is heaven. As she explains, it touches us profoundly and speaks to us in a way that words cannot. She points to Ludwig van Beethoven’s sonatas and Johann Sebastian Bach’s suites as possessing an absolute integrity and brave expressiveness. What she particularly likes about music is its pauses and silences, for she finds in their mysteries possibilities of dramatic human truth. When she gave up sociology after earning a license in it, she acquired a diploma in theater studies at Nanterre after failing her drama school entrance examinations. She performed in classics by Molière and Marivaux and in new French plays. She revealed her acting talent in a Sacha Guitry play (Le Veilleur de nuit) in 1985. Indeed, her passion for music and her experience as an actress have helped her find a way of deploying silence most effectively in her plays. Words, for her, become parentheses of silences.
Reza turned to playwriting so that she could continue to explore human character and truth...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Yasmina Reza (ray-zuh), one of the newest voices of the international theater, began her drama career as an actress on the French stage, where she explored the work of Marivaux and Molière. Her mother was a Hungarian violinist, and her father was a Persian and Spanish businessman. Her cultured childhood and exotic family history (her father’s family of Jews was forced from Spain and Persia when they refused to convert to Catholicism and Islam) provided Reza with a foundation from which to draw autobiographical sketches of family and artistic conflict. She studied sociology at Paris X University and acting at the Jacques Lecoq Drama School. By the late 1980’s she found acting “not intellectual enough” and her relationship with directors too slavish to freely give utterance to her creative ideas. Thus she wrote her first play, Conversations After a Burial, in 1987. Its performance in France won her the Molière Award for best author, after which it was translated into several languages and performed across Europe.
Her subsequent work garnered equal acclaim. Winter Crossing, a play about three men and three women savoring the final moments of a summer retreat in the mountains, won the Molière Award for Best Fringe Production. “Art,” which premiered in Berlin and opened in Paris in 1994, won Molière Awards for best author, best play, and best production. In 1995 The Unexpected Man, a mature work about the spoken thoughts of a man and a woman while seated opposite each other on a train, was produced in London and France. The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in London revived it in 1998 before transferring it to the West End in a highly successful run.
It was her hit play, “Art,” that generated the most enthusiasm and controversy in the international arts and entertainment...
(The entire section is 762 words.)