Caryl Churchill was born in London, England, on September 3, 1938. She lived in Montreal, Canada, from 1948 to 1955, and there attended the Trafalgar School. From 1957 to 1960, she studied English literature at the University of Oxford and took her bachelor of arts degree from that institution in 1960. Her first dramatic works were produced at the University of Oxford, but many of her early plays remain unpublished. In 1961, she married David Harter; she is the mother of three sons. As his wife’s career developed, Harter gave up his lucrative private law practice so that his wife could spend more time writing. A prolific playwright, Churchill received her first professional stage production in 1972 when Owners was performed at the Royal Court Theatre. From that point on, she became closely associated with that theater. She has been a member of the Joint Stock Theatre Group, an organization dedicated to collective creation of theatrical work, and has worked with the Monstrous Regiment, a feminist theater union. Churchill has contributed frequently to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) radio and television broadcasts. In an incident now notorious, she and her director, David Lan, insisted that their names be left off the credits of the BBC’s 1978 television production of The Legion Hall Bombing because the producers had censored the work. As her reputation spread, Churchill’s works were brought to the United States and were staged by Joseph Papp in New York. She is a playwright of considerable international importance.
Caryl Churchill has the rare distinction of being a woman playwright with an international reputation. Her plays are both politically charged and technically original. Churchill was born in London in 1938, the only child of Robert Churchill, a political cartoonist, and his wife, a model. In 1948, her family moved to Montreal, Canada, where she attended Trafalgar School. Returning to England, she earned a B.A. in English from Oxford University. While at Oxford, she produced her play Downstairs in 1958. She had other student productions, among them Easy Death in 1962.
During the 1960’s, Churchill had to balance the demands of raising three sons with her career as a radio playwright. Her radio plays, which reflect her depression, dissatisfaction with family life, and a series of miscarriages, are about the destruction of bourgeois middle-class life.
In 1972, Churchill decided to have no more children, her husband gave up his law practice to become a legal aid counselor, and she wrote Owners, her first stage play to be produced professionally. Owners was produced by the Royal Court Theatre and won acclaim for Churchill as a promising new playwright. Owners explores two of Churchill’s constant themes: gender distinctions and capitalist greed. Marion, a real-estate entrepreneur, represents the active, achieving form of Christianity, and Alec, the man she wants to possess, represents Eastern passivity. As well as exploring the gender reversal between the aggressive woman and the passive man, the play juxtaposes the realistic and the grotesque in throwing a new light on conventional attitudes about individualism and capitalism.
In 1974, Churchill and her family took a six-month hiatus, traveling to Africa and Dartmoor (in southwestern England). Churchill came back with the play Objections to Sex and Violence, produced on the main stage of the Royal Court in 1975. The unsuccessful play questions...
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