Christopher Durang Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Christopher Ferdinand Durang was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on January 2, 1949. A humorous autobiographical sketch is given in the introduction to his plays in Christopher Durang Explains It All for You, beginning with his conception and ending with the reviews of Beyond Therapy. His parents, Francis Ferdinand and Patricia Elizabeth Durang, were devout Catholics who fought constantly until they were divorced, when Durang was still in grade school. Durang’s interest in theater and playwriting became evident early in life. He wrote his first play while in the second grade in a Catholic elementary school. He subsequently attended a Catholic preparatory high school run by Benedictine priests. He continued to write plays, and though a fairly conservative and conventional student, he often inserted hints of sex for their shock effect. In high school, Durang was overcome with religious zeal and the desire to enter a monastery after graduation, but soon afterward he lost his faith and his interest in the Roman Catholic religion.

He attended Harvard University with the hope and expectation of discovering a more intellectual and less conservative dimension of Catholicism but was disappointed. In his second year at Harvard, he entered psychoanalysis with a priest. He became obsessed with motion pictures and neglected his academic studies. Although he had been a prodigious writer in high school, he wrote almost nothing in college until his senior year, when he wrote (as a form of therapy for his feeling of religious guilt) a musical-comedy version of the life of Christ called The Greatest Musical Ever Sung, which included such irreverent show-tune lampoons as “The Dove That Done Me Wrong” and “Everything’s Coming up Moses.” The play stirred up a local religious controversy but was well received by audiences, encouraging the young playwright to write more. His next effort, the ambitiously titled The Nature and Purpose of the Universe, was eventually produced in New York and, following Durang’s graduation from Harvard in 1971, was submitted as part of his application to the Yale School of Drama.

At Yale, Durang met...

(The entire section is 890 words.)