Today is playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s birthday. Her last play, “Third” will be performing at the Denver Center Theater for Performing Arts for a couple more days. There are few writers today who are highly intelligent and still relevant. Wendy’s wit embraced a classic liberal arts education, combining it with a baby boomer perspective. Her lighthearted cynicism helped her win a Tony Award for “The Heidi Chronicles”. Wendy was the first female to win a Tony as a solo writer.
In 2006, Wendy died of cancer. She was only 55. She was a respected New York playwright since 1977. In her last play “Third”, Wendy’s main character, Lisa, is a professor at an esteemed New England liberal arts college. She considers herself a culturally evolved person who embraces cultural and lifestyle diversity and yet she struggles when one of her students depicts a lifestyle she can’t stand. This young, optimistic, athletic male student represents the “old white American male” world, a representation Lisa cannot tolerate. The story is an excellent depiction of perspective and power.
I can’t help but be a little angry and frustrated at Wendy Wasserstein. Perhaps she would forgive me and maybe even appreciate my frustration as she created many frustrated female characters. As I mentioned, Wendy died too young. Her writing describes her loathing of exercise and healthy food. She comically dismisses a healthy lifestyle in her books “Shiksa Goddess: Or How I Spent My Forties” and “The Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth”. Critic Sylvie Drake wrote “[F]or all who knew her, the true legacy was having met her at all.”* I would have liked to meet her and would love to have more of her work, but she is gone from us.
Applying Wendy’s Success
If you read any of her work or see her plays, you can see that she takes herself very seriously when it comes to her craft. She focused on details and had a wonderful way of combing information into a new paradigm. She used her characters to comment on her baby boomer generation and offered entertainment to thousands of people – even those who aren’t boomers. To me, her greatest success is her ability to create laughter.
Looking for more?
Buy tickets to the play Third. Showing until October 20th, 2007
NY Times tribute to Wendy Wasserstein, her life and work. Look at the left hand side of the article for a link called “Wendy and Heidi”. This is a slide show of her life and work accompanied with audio commentary by Charles Isherwood, a theater critic of The New York Times.
'>The Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth – This book is part of a series of the deadly sins written by various authors. It is a funny, quick read for the woman who is tired of being an over-achiever. The message is remarkably similar to that found in "You Can Heal Your Life" and that is to simply be happy in loving yourself and accepting yourself.
The Heidi Chronicles – LA Theater Works audio version of the play. This is a funny, cynical story of a woman named Heidi who is an art historian. Her life depicts the American female “coming of age” in the Women’s Movement.
Movie- Object of My Affection with Jennifer Aniston - Screenplay by Wendy which is perhaps why it is so funny. This is unlike any other romantic comedy with hilarious, yet not too incredulous situations. This film is a blend of an exaggerated comedy with modern romantic complications and a “modern” family life.
Autobiography: Shiksa Goddess: Or How I Spent My Forties- A series of essays that are funny and seem to be representative of a theater-going New York City lifestyle.
*Drake, Sylvie, “An Uncommon Woman’s Legacy”, Applause Magazine. Denver Center Theater for the Performing Arts, Volume XIX, Number 2, September-October 2007, p. 20
Happy Birthday Wendy.
About the author: Allison Frederick is a writer and online marketing educator for other creative women. www.FaMissWomen.com offers free Web 2.0 resources. She is also the author of an upcoming novel, A Portrait of Josephine, an academic-lite thriller. Find out how to receive a free copy of the novel by visiting www.portraitofjosephine.com