Alfred Uhry

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Biography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Alfred Fox Uhry was born on December 3, 1936, in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Ralph K. Uhry, a furniture designer and artist, and Alene Fox Uhry, a social worker. He graduated from Druid Hills High School in Atlanta in 1954. Uhry received his B.A. from Brown University in 1958. There he first teamed up with Robert Waldman to write two student-produced musicals. In 1959 he married Joanna Kellogg. They had four daughters.

From 1960 to 1963, Uhry worked with composer Frank Loesser. He taught high school English and drama at Calhoun High School in New York City from 1963 to 1980. He struggled to find his place in theater. He worked as a lyricist and a librettist on several shows. He finally had moderate success with The Robber Bridegroom, a musical adaptation of Eudora Welty’s novella set among the lively characters of the Natchez Trace in early Mississippi. It is performed in the style of Paul Sills’s Story Theatre. First produced by John Houseman’s Acting Company in 1975, it later ran for 157 performances on Broadway and received a 1976 Tony nomination. Uhry continued to work in musical theater. He was affiliated with the Goodspeed Opera House from 1980 to 1984 and taught lyric writing at New York University from 1985 to 1988.

In 1987 greater recognition came to Uhry with his play, Driving Miss Daisy, a drama based on his memories of his grandmother and others of her generation who were part of Atlanta’s Jewish community. It ran for 1,195 performances Off-Broadway. Uhry successfully adapted the play to film. His screenplay won a Writers Guild Award and an Oscar. Uhry worked on other screenplays, including Mystic Pizza and Rich in Love.

The Alliance Theatre Company of Atlanta commissioned The Last Night of Ballyhoo, a play set in the Atlanta Jewish community in 1939 at the time of the premiere of Gone with the Wind. It was first presented by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Cultural Olympiad for the 1996 Olympic Arts Festival. It later had a run of 580 performances on Broadway.

Uhry’s 1998 musical Parade has as its unlikely subject Leo Frank, a Brooklyn Jew who was lynched in 1915 by a mob because he had allegedly murdered a thirteen-year-old factory worker whom he supervised. Uhry had long known of the case because his great-uncle had owned the pencil factory run by Leo Frank and had helped to raise money for Frank’s defense. Harold Prince, who directed the show, worked with Uhry to develop the story into a musical. The musical ran for eighty-four performances on Broadway.

In 1999, Uhry was honored by his alma mater, Druid Hills High School in Atlanta, which renamed its seventy-year-old auditorium the Alfred Uhry Theater.

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Alfred Uhry (YEWR-ee) was born on December 3, 1936, in Atlanta to Ralph K. and Alene Fox Uhry. His father was a furniture designer and artist; his mother was a social worker. Uhry earned a B.A. degree from Brown University in 1958. During his undergraduate years, he wrote the book and lyrics for annual student musical presentations. On June 13, 1959, Uhry married Joanna Kellogg, a schoolteacher. They had four daughters: Emily, Elizabeth, Kate, and Nell.

When Uhry first went to New York, he worked for composer Frank Loesser as a lyricist. Then he joined the faculty of Calhoun High School, a private school in New York City, where he taught English and drama until 1980. For the next several years, until 1984, Uhry was affiliated with the Goodspeed Opera House, working on comedy scripts for television. In 1985 he resumed teaching for three years at New York University in New York City, as instructor of lyric writing. A key experience in Uhry’s life was the opportunity to work with the composer Robert Waldman for a number of years.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Uhry worked mainly as a lyricist and librettist. In 1968 he wrote the lyrics for Here’s Where I Belong, a musical adapted from John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden . It closed after one performance. Uhry’s work...

(The entire section is 2,039 words.)