Peter Shaffer was born in Liverpool, England, on May 15, 1926,
along with his twin brother, Anthony, who would also become a
writer. Shaffer studied history on a scholarship from Cambridge
University, and worked a number of odd jobs including coal miner,
bookstore clerk, and assistant at the New York Public Library,
before discovering his dramatic talents. Shaffer's first play,
The Salt Land (1954) was presented on the BBC. Encouraged
by this success, Shaffer continued to write and established his
reputation as a playwright in 1958 with the production of Five
Finger Exercise which opened in London under the direction
of John Gielgud and won the Evening Standard Drama Award. When
Five Finger Exercises moved to New York in 1959, it was
equally well-received and landed Shaffer the Drama Critics Award.
Shaffer's canon contains a unique mix of philosophical dramas
and satirical comedies. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964)
presents the tragic conquest of Peru by the Spanish, while Black
Comedy (1965) takes a hilarious look at the antics of a group
of characters feeling their way around a pitch black room--although
the stage is, of course, actually flooded with light.
Equus (1973) won Shaffer the 1975 Tony Award for Best
Play as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. An electrifying
journey into the mind of a 17-year-old stableboy who has plunged
a spike into the eyes of six horses, Equus ran for over
1000 performances on Broadway. Shaffer followed this success
with Amadeus (1979) which won the Evening Standard Drama
Award and the Theatre Critics Award for the London production.
Amadeus tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and
court composer Antonio Salieri who, overcome with jealousy at
hearing the "voice of God" coming from an "obscene
child," sets out to destroy his rival. When the show moved
to Broadway, it won the 1981 Tony Award for "Best Play"
and, like Equus, ran for over 1000 performances.
Several of Shaffer's plays have been adapted to film including The
Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), Equus (1977), Amadeus
(1984) which won eight Academy Awards including "Best
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