Monday, November 23, 2009

Born in 1949, Christopher Durang grew up in suburban New Jersey and attended Catholic schools before Harvard and the Yale School of Drama. His first plays were produced in the 1970s, and his trademark hit, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, began a long Off-Broadway run in 1981. This controversial one-act has since been staged often, including recent productions on the North Coast. In 2001 it became the basis for a TV movie starring Diane Keaton.

The Marriage of Bette and Boo also began as a one-act play, but Durang expanded it for a production at New York’s Public Theatre in 1985. “I feel particularly close to The Marriage of Bette and Boo,” Durang said. He confirmed that certain characters are based on his own family, and that Matt, the son of Bette and Boo in the play, is based on himself. He deepened that connection by playing Matt in the original Off-Broadway production.

Durang and other members of that production received Obie (Off-Broadway) awards. The cast included two actors who would later win Academy Awards: Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and Mercedes Ruehl (The Fisher King.) Playing Bette was only Joan Allen’s second New York role—she would go on to create other indelible 1950s wives in the movies Pleasantville and Nixon (as Pat Nixon.)

More recently, Christopher Durang has written a Christmas musical spoof, Mr. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, and this past spring he revisited the marriage and family themes of “Bette and Boo” but with a topical twist, in the Public Theatre production of Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them. In 1994, an evening of six one-act plays—including parodies of theatre classics-- was presented at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York under the umbrella title of Durang Durang.

A video interview with Christopher Durang is online here.

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