JOHN GUARE

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

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John Guare was born in New York, NY on February 5, 1938. He wrote his first play at the age of eleven and very early became dissatisfied with traditional kitchen-sink dramas in which everything was "real" right down to the kitchen-sink. He yearned for a theatre that would proclaim inner truth rather than surface reality. "The theater," Guare argued, "is a place of dreams were you lay out the unconscious and make it visible."

After studying at Yale University, Guare set out to develop his own unique style of theatrical comedy, and he was soon reward with an Obie Award for his one-act play, Muzeeka (1968), but it was not until 1970 that he burst onto the national scene with House of Blue Leaves, a darkly comic attack on American values that disrupted the conventions of realistic theatre by including the kitchen sink, but cramming it with "lots of songs and talking to the audience." In 1971 he wrote the libretto for Two Gentlemen of Verona, a pop-rock musical adaptation of Shakespeare's play which he created with composer Galt Macdermot (Hair) and Mel Shapiro. The musical was designed to play in the back of a truck from which it would tour the parks of New York, but the show was so successful that it soon moved to Broadway where it went on to win the Tony Award for "Best Musical."

Perhaps Guare himself best describes his personal struggle with realistic drama when he asks, "Does the playwright elect to keep that kitchen sink to soothe the audience? Does the playwright dismantle the kitchen sink and take the audience into dangerous terrain? How the playwright resolves this tension between surface reality and inner reality, how the playwright restores the theater to its true nature as a place of poetry, song, joy, a place of darkness where the bright truth is told, that war against the kitchen sink is ultimately the history of our theater."

His best known works include House of Blue Leaves (which won both an Obie and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the Best American Play of 1970-71 and received four Tony Awards during its 1986 revival), Four Baboons Adoring the Sun (which was produced at the Lincoln Center Theater in 1992 and was nominated for four Tony Awards), and Six Degrees of Separation (which received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1990 and an Olivier Best Play Award in 1993.)

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FURTHER STUDIES:

    • John Guare (1938- ) - A biography of the American dramatist, plus links to purchase all of his works currently in print.
    • John Guare - A brief biography of the American dramatist; includes a list of related links.
    • John Guare Quotes - A collection of quotations attributed to Guare.

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