John Guare Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226238-Guare.jpg John Guare Published by Salem Press, Inc.

John Guare was born in Manhattan on February 5, 1938, to John Edward and Helen Clare (Grady) Guare. Shortly after his birth, his parents moved to Forest Hills, Queens, where he attended St. Joan of Arc Parochial School and, when old enough, was taken to mass every day by his mother.

Guare’s father worked on Wall Street and had in earlier years been employed as office boy for George M. Cohan. Guare speaks of his very bright and unhappy parents, of listening to constant arguments between them and of hearing stories about his Hollywood uncle, Billy Grady. He heard stories about his uncle’s having secretly signed Elizabeth Taylor to star in National Velvet (1944) and about Grady’s managing the careers of Ruby Keeler, W. C. Fields, and Will Rogers. Exposed early to religion and Hollywood, he learned from direct experience about “Catholicism and show biz,” which he referred to as “full of dreams and phoney promises.”

Guare graduated from Georgetown University in 1961 and went on to receive his M.A. in English at Yale University in 1963. He was a fellow at Yale’s Saybrook College from 1977 to 1978 and adjunct professor from 1977 to 1981. He lectured, as well, at New York University and City College of New York.

His serious interest in the theater emerged following a series of experiences that included service with the Air Force Reserve, a job with a London publisher, and extensive hitchhiking through Europe that concluded in Cairo, Egypt. While in the service, he stopped going to Mass. In Rome, he read newspaper accounts of the pope’s impending visit to New York in 1965, and in Cairo, he received a letter from his parents about the pope’s ride through Queens on his way to speak at the United...

(The entire section is 716 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Guare was influenced by Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen in his younger years, and he acknowledges the existence, from Aeschylus on down, of what has been labeled in the twentieth century as the Theater of the Absurd. He goes on to say that “the absurd is that which generates music.” In the ditties composed and sung by Artie Shaughnessy, in Ouisa Kittredge’s poetic reachings for a reality beyond that she has known, and in the McKenzie family’s realization of a mythic reality, Guare has caught the music of life in the suburbs of contemporary America, in its lofty aspirations and its phoniness—all exposed at some point to the harsh glare of the sun.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

John Guare was born and reared in New York City’s borough of Queens, the only child of John Edward Guare, a clerk in the Wall Street stock exchange, and Helen (Grady) Guare. The young Guare very early showed his predilection for theater. In 1949, at the age of eleven, Guare wrote a play that was performed at Atlantic Beach, Long Island; the following year, he auditioned for his uncle, the film producer Billy Grady, an incident that he dramatized in The House of Blue Leaves. Educated in New York City’s Catholic schools (St. Joan of Arc elementary school in Queens and St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn), Guare matriculated at Georgetown University, receiving his A.B. in 1960. While at Georgetown, Guare wrote two plays that were produced there: Theatre Girl in his junior year and The Toadstool Boy a year later.

To avoid the draft, Guare attended the Yale School of Drama, where The Golden Cherub and Did You Write My Name in the Snow? were produced in 1962; he received his M.F.A. in 1963. Guare further forestalled being drafted by serving in the Air Force Reserves. His first Off-Broadway play, To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza, appeared without much notice in 1964. Travel in Rome in 1965 gave Guare the inspiration for The House of Blue Leaves, which appeared in a one-act version at the Eugene O’Neill Foundation Theater in Waterford, Connecticut, in 1966, with Guare playing Artie...

(The entire section is 423 words.)