Craig Lucas Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Craig Lucas was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1951 and attended Boston University, where he studied with poet Anne Sexton and historian Howard Zinn. He credits Sexton with encouraging him to switch from poetry to plays; she also helped him get into Yale Drama School but then urged him to forgo graduate school for a career in New York. Initially focused on acting and performing in the chorus of musicals, Lucas found another mentor in Stephen Sondheim and began his writing career by fashioning a show composed of discarded Sondheim songs. The revue, entitled Marry Me a Little, was produced with director Norman René, the first of many collaborations between the two. After some success writing for the New York stage, Lucas turned to screenwriting with Longtime Companion (1990), a film about a group of gay friends responding to the onset of the AIDS epidemic, and one of the first Hollywood vehicles to acknowledge the disease. A play written about the same time, Prelude to a Kiss, then became a film starring Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin in 1992. Subsequently Lucas has focused both on dramas with a tragic focus, such as The Dying Gaul, and on works with music, such as his opera libretti with scores by Gerald Busby. His work has been nurtured by several not-for-profit theater groups, including South Coast Repertory, Berkeley Repertory, Playwrights Horizons, Circle Repertory, Atlantic Theater Company, and A Contemporary Theatre.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Craig Lucas began his career as a New York-based playwright in the 1980’s. The success of his screenplay for the 1990 film Longtime Companion established him as an important contributor to the dramatic literature of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Although Lucas is identified with the gay theater community of his time, the characteristic themes of his work address broad issues of life’s absurdity and the arbitrary nature of fate. Lucas’s embrace of absurdity is reflected in the story of his origins. He began life in Dickensian style as a foundling, abandoned in the back of a car in Atlanta beside a plaintive note from his mother explaining that she could not care for her child. His adoptive parents raised him outside Philadelphia, where his father worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). His mother encouraged Lucas’s love for acting and singing. An early interest in writing poems and plays led him to the study of creative writing at Boston University, with an opportunity to study with poet Anne Sexton, who gently suggested that perhaps playwriting was his métier. He credits Sexton with helping him gain admission to the Yale School of Drama and also with encouraging him to skip graduate school and plunge right into the world of professional theater in New York.

Lucas’s first employment in New York was as a chorus performer in musical theater, and his career as a playwright has often been punctuated by collaboration with musicians. Indeed, his first produced work was a revue based on musicals by the acclaimed composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The show, Marry Me a Little, also inaugurated Lucas’s collaboration with Norman René, with whom Lucas worked closely until René’s death from AIDS complications in 1996. Between 1983 and...

(The entire section is 735 words.)