Discussion Topics

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How does Wendy Wasserstein use humor to comment on the status of American women?

How does Wasserstein use music to support her themes?

Discuss Wasserstein’s use of flashbacks. Is this device more effective than presenting events in chronological order?

How does Uncommon Women, and Others reflect the social changes of...

(The entire section contains 864 words.)

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How does Wendy Wasserstein use humor to comment on the status of American women?

How does Wasserstein use music to support her themes?

Discuss Wasserstein’s use of flashbacks. Is this device more effective than presenting events in chronological order?

How does Uncommon Women, and Others reflect the social changes of the 1970’s?

The Heidi Chronicles deals with the search for identity. What does Heidi discover about herself over the course of the play?

Compare the characters and themes of The Sisters Rosensweig to those of Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters (1901).

Wasserstein’s plays have been characterized as too traditional. Defend or attack this view.

Other Literary Forms

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Wendy Wasserstein, though best known for her plays, was the author of several teleplays, including The Sorrows of Gin (1979), an adaptation of John Cheever’s short story, and An American Daughter (2000), an adaptation of her play. She also wrote several unproduced film scripts. Her essays, which appeared in numerous periodicals, including Esquire and New York Woman, have been published in two collections, Bachelor Girls (1990) and Shiksa Goddess (2001).

Achievements

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Wendy Wasserstein has been hailed as the foremost theatrical chronicler of the lives of women of her generation. Her plays, steeped in her unique brand of humor, are moving, sometimes wrenching explorations of women’s struggle for identity and fulfillment in a world of rapidly shifting social, sexual, and political mores. Most often against the backdrop of the burgeoning feminist movement, her characters navigate through obstacle courses of expectations—those of their parents, their lovers, their siblings, their friends, and, ultimately, themselves. They seek answers to fundamental questions: how to find meaning in life and how to strike a balance between the need to connect and the need to be true to oneself. Wasserstein’s works, which deftly pair wit and pathos, satire and sensitivity, have garnered numerous honors, including the Pulitzer Prize , the Tony (Antoinette Perry) Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Bibliography

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Arthur, Helen. “Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles.” Review of The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein. Nation 261, no. 12 (October 16, 1995): 443-445.

Bennetts, Leslie. “An Uncommon Dramatist Prepares Her New Work.” The New York Times, May 24, 1981, p. C1. Written as Isn’t It Romantic was being previewed, this piece provides a look at Wasserstein’s entry into writing and theater during her high school and college years. Wasserstein discusses feminism and women’s difficulty in making choices in life. Contains photographs of Wasserstein and Steven Robman, the director of Isn’t It Romantic.

Berman, Janice. “The Heidi Paradox.” Newsday, December 22, 1988. This article, in which Wasserstein defines herself as a “feminist,” discusses the male and female characters in The Heidi Chronicles and refers to Wasserstein’s earlier plays. Contains photographs of the playwright, of Joan Allen in The Heidi Chronicles, and of Christine Rose and Barbara Barrie in Isn’t It Romantic.

Ciociola, Gail. Wendy Wasserstein: Dramatizing Women, Their Choices, and Their Boundaries. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1998. Suggests that Wasserstein has not received sufficient critical attention because of her commercial success and takes Wasserstein’s career as a starting point for a discussion of debates over the nature and scope of feminist aesthetics.

Finn, William. “Sister Act.” Vogue 182, no. 9 (September, 1992): 360.

Frank, Glenda. “The Struggle to Affirm: The Image of Jewish-Americans on Stage.” In Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama, edited by Marc Maufort. New York: P. Lang, 1995. Discusses Wasserstein’s Jewish American identity.

Hoban, Phoebe. “The Family Wasserstein.” New York, January 4, 1993. Covers the influence of Wasserstein’s family on her work.

Keyssar, Helene. “Drama and the Dialogic Imagination: The Heidi Chronicles and Fefu and Her Friends.” In Feminist Theater and Theory, edited by Keyssar. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Discusses Wasserstein’s play along with a play by Maria Irena Fornes as “ostensibly” feminist works.

Nightingale, Benedict. “There Really Is a World Beyond ‘Diaper Drama.’” The New York Times, January 1, 1984, p. C2. This two-page piece discusses Isn’t It Romantic in the context of plays that focus on adult children struggling to sever ties with their parents. It compares Wasserstein’s play with those of Tina Howe and Christopher Durang. Includes a photograph of the “mothers” in Isn’t It Romantic.

Rose, Phyllis Jane. “Dear Heidi—An Open Letter to Dr. Holland.” American Theater 6 (October, 1989): 26. Written in letter form, this essay is a provocative, in-depth feminist critique of the images of women as presented in The Heidi Chronicles.

Rosen, Carol. “An Unconventional Life.” Theater Week, November 8, 1992. Discusses The Heidi Chronicles and other works but concentrates on The Sisters Rosensweig.

Shapiro, Walter. “Chronicler of Frayed Feminism.” Time, March 27, 1989, 90-92.

Wallace, Carol. “A Kvetch for Our Time,” Sunday News Magazine, August 19, 1984, 10. Wallace focuses on Isn’t It Romantic as a chronicle of the women of Wasserstein’s generation. She also discusses Wasserstein’s overachieving siblings, her New York youth, and her years at Mount Holyoke College. Includes a photograph of the playwright.

Whitfield, Stephen. “Wendy Wasserstein and the Crisis of (Jewish) Identity.” In Daughters of Valor: Contemporary Jewish American Women Writers, edited by Jay Halio and Ben Siegel, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997. Discusses the ways in which Jewish concerns are addressed in Wasserstein’s writing.

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