Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 332
Martin Sherman’s parents, Joseph T., an attorney, and Julia Shapiro Sherman, were Jewish immigrants from Russia. Sherman, their only child, was born on December 22, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but raised in Camden, New Jersey. His upbringing was such that he saw his first theater production at age six. When...
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Martin Sherman’s parents, Joseph T., an attorney, and Julia Shapiro Sherman, were Jewish immigrants from Russia. Sherman, their only child, was born on December 22, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but raised in Camden, New Jersey. His upbringing was such that he saw his first theater production at age six. When he was twelve, he was privileged to see the great Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who dominated the theatrical world for many years. At that point, he joined a children’s theatrical group and toured around Pennsylvania in a version of Snow White. His interest in the theater was augmented by regular trips into Philadelphia to see stage plays and a once-a-year trip to New York City. Although he hated school, Sherman went to college and received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Boston University in 1960. While in college, Sherman realized that his calling was not in acting but in playwriting. After college, he joined the Actors Studio for further study.
Sherman’s first play was produced in 1963. A stream of other plays followed; most notably: Things Went Badly in Westphalia (1970), included in The Best Short Plays 1970; Passing By (1974), later included in Gay Plays 1 in 1984; and Cracks (1974), included in Gay Plays 2 in 1986. The play that merited both Pulitzer Prize and Tony nominations, Bent, was written in 1978. From 1976 to 1977, Sherman was the Playwright-in-Residence at Mills College in Oakland, California. He has received various awards including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1980 and a Rockefeller fellowship in 1985.
After Bent, Sherman has written only five more plays that were presented in a stage production, but he has written various television plays and motion picture screenplays, including work for the BBC and CBS. The best known of his screenplays are Alive and Kicking (1997), the story of a dancer with AIDS and his AIDS counselor, and the film version of his play Bent. In fact, Sherman considers himself to be a screenwriter as well as a playwright. Since 1980, Sherman has lived in London, England.