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John Guare

BORN in New York, NY, on February 5, 1938, John Guare knew very early that he wanted to be a playwright. Inspired by the original Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun, Guare wrote his first play at the age of eleven. A group of neighborhood kids performed the play in a friend's garage, and the tiny production caught the attention of the local newspaper which ran a story on the eleven-year-old playwright. As a reward, the boy's parents bought him a typewriter, and he never looked back.

Guare received a B.A. from Georgetown University (1960) and an M.F.A. from Yale University (1963). In 1968 he won an Obie Award for a one-act play, Muzeeka, but it was not until 1971 that Guare came to prominence with House of Blue Leaves, a darkly comic attack on American values. It would be almost two decades before the playwright scored another major hit with Six Degrees of Separation (1990). Inspired by an article in the New York Times about a con-artist who convinced a group of wealthy individuals that he was Sidney Poitier's son, Six Degrees enjoyed a run of 485 performances at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on Broadway and won numerous awards.

In a foreward to one of Guare's plays, Louis Malle writes: "At a time when most plays and films have become glorified sit-com television, Guare's grace and inventiveness with words, his superb contempt for conventional psychology and plot coherence, and his brilliance at tearing apart the logical and the expected make him stand pretty much alone. He has been accused of self-indulgence, of course, precisely because he cares to impose his original voice, beyond artificial clarity, beyond sentimentality. Yet he manages to report convincingly on the chaotic world we live in. His work is a unique, indelicate balance between the tragic, the funny, the weird, our daily bread."

Guare's plays disrupt the conventions of realistic theatre with frequent asides, monologues, songs and mimes. He openly despises "kitchen-sink" theatre in which everything is "real" right down to the running-water that comes out of the faucet. Therefore, he has developed his own unique style of drama, pushing the theatre's boundaries because, as he says, "I think the chaotic state of the world demands it."

This article was written by William J. Crabb and originally published on this website on April 25, 2002.

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