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Overview for John Guare
John Guare

John Guare


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Also Known As: Died:
Born: February 5, 1938 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: Writer ... screenwriter playwright teacher


John Guare is a prolific playwright whose stage works generally concern family relationships couched in startling and blackly comic situations. The plays feature zany individuals who veer from farce to shocking cruelty and violence; his occasional film scripts are notable for their richly eccentric characters and specific settings.

Guare began writing as a child and saw his first play "Universe" produced (by a neighbor) at age 11. While attending the Yale School of Drama, his first short play was staged. Guare made his off-off- Broadway debut in 1964 with "To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza," but it took another four years before success really struck with "Muzeeka." Produced on a double bill with Sam Shepherd's "Red Cross," "Muzeeka" earned an Obie Award. His farcical "The House of Blue Leaves," first produced in 1971, was influenced by autobiographical elements. Guare drew on such diverse subjects as his family's Catholicism, an attempt to impress an uncle with a childhood audition, and a missed opportunity to see the Pope to create a darkly comic attack on American values. Guare utilized a variety of stage devices, including songs, pantomime, soliloquies and slapstick to etch characters pursuing, in his words, "dreams and phony promises." The original run received generally favorable notices, but was cut short by a fire in the theater. A 1986 revival, headlining Swoosie Kurtz and John Mahoney, received rave reviews and was filmed for broadcast on PBS the following year.

Guare went on to co-author a pop rock musical adaptation of Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" that first premiered at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Delacorte Theatre in Central Park before moving to Broadway. Guare's lyrics were singled out for praise by the critics and he shared the 1972 Tony Award for Book of a Musical with Mel Shapiro. It was nearly two decades before Guare had another popular hit with his "Six Degrees of Separation" (1990). Inspired by an article in the "New York Times" about a con artist who duped rich people into believing he was Sydney Poitier's son, the play received rave notices for both Guare and its star Stockard Channing. Among his other better known plays are "Landscape of the Body" (1977) about a distraught woman who may have killed her child and two plays in his historical cycle about a 19th-century family in Nantucket, Massachusettes: "Lydie Breeze" (staged by Louis Malle) and "Gardenia" (both 1982).

Guare's first foray into film saw him collaborating with Milos Foreman, Jean-Claude Carriere and John Klein on Foreman's first American film, "Taking Off" (1971). Guare received some of the best notices of his career for his second effort, Louis Malle's brilliant "Atlantic City" (1980, released in the US in 1981). An offbeat, bittersweet character study set in the seaside resort that was both flashy and rundown, the film followed the blossoming relationship between an aging numbers runner (Burt Lancaster) and a youthful waitress (Susan Sarandon). Writing in The Washington Post, critic Gary Arnold cited Guare's dialogue "which orchestrates similar notes of delusion, longing and regret in a wittily differentiated group of personalities and voices." Guare received citations from the major critics groups and an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. Over a decade later, Guare wrote the screen adaptation of his Broadway success "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993). Directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Stockard Channing (recreating her stage triumph), Donald Sutherland and Will Smith, the film was generally well-received and rarely betrayed its theatrical origins.

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