Wendy Wasserstein, RIP

Wendy Wasserstein passed away a couple of weeks ago from cancer. Listening to the story about her on NPR, critics remembered how shocking it was when her plays first came out; no woman had written about negotiating the shockwaves of feminism in a theatrical context, certainly not explicitly if at all. It was a big deal in its moment.

I saw The Heidi Chronicles in New York when I was twelve, and as a teenager fantasized myself in her characters’ confusions. But as I got older, I realized that by performing these plays, I was wearing the drag of feminist concerns that weren’t my own, parroting dialogue that would never be a result of my given circumstances, and characters that simply did not manage to hook onto larger, more universal metaphors. Wasserstein’s plays are set pieces of a specific time. They didn’t age well.

Neither have Christopher Durang’s plays. I think the two playwrights were at Yale Drama at the same time–it makes me wonder who the playwrighting teacher was at the moment, who clearly encouraged them to write characters and situations whose desires and shames were so entrenched in their moment, using zingy zany one-liners.

Another piece that has not aged well: The Vagina Monologues, but that’s another entry–coming probably within the day.

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