John Guare

John Guare

Guare at the 2009 premiere of PoliWood
Born (1938-02-05) February 5, 1938
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Playwright
Nationality American
Alma mater Georgetown University,
Yale School of Drama
Period 1964–present
Notable works The House of Blue Leaves; Six Degrees of Separation
Spouse Adele Chatfield-Taylor

John Guare (rhymes with "air"; born February 5, 1938) is an Irish American playwright. He is best known as the author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Landscape of the Body. His style, which mixes comic invention with an acute sense of the failure of human relations and aspirations, is at once cruel and deeply compassionate. In his foreword to a collection of Guare's plays, film director Louis Malle writes:

Guare practices a humor that is synonymous with lucidity, exploding genre and clichés, taking us to the core of human suffering: the awareness of corruption in our own bodies, death circling in. We try to fight it all by creating various mythologies, and it is Guare's peculiar aptitude for exposing these grandiose lies of ours that makes his work so magical.[1]

Early life

Guare was born in New York City and raised in Jackson Heights, Queens. He was raised a Roman Catholic, but is apparently now a lapsed Catholic.[2] He was educated at St. John's Preparatory School and Georgetown University (BA, 1960),[3] where in 1958 he contributed a song to an original musical revue entitled The Natives Are Restless and presented by the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society. The song humorously attributed the success of many famous people to the syllable "O" in their names.

Under the direction of Donn B. Murphy, his play The Toadstool Boy, about a country singer's quest for fame, won first place in the District of Columbia Recreation Department's One-Act-Play competition.[3]

In 1949 his father suffered a heart attack and subsequently moved the family to Ellenville, New York while he recovered.[3] His father's beloved Aunt Teen and other relatives lived there, making it an idyllic experience for him. Guare did not regularly attend school in Ellenville because the school's daily practices were not in keeping with the recommendations of the Catholic Church, causing his father to suspect the school had communist leanings. Instead of attending school, Guare was assigned home study and took exams intermittently, which allowed him time to go to the movies and see all the hits of the time.[3] This had a lasting influence on Guare, and his career, later in life.

In 1960, the Mask and Bauble presented The Thirties Girl, a musical for which Guare did the book, much of the music and the lyrics,[3] again under Murphy's tutelage. Set in Hollywood's turbulent 1920s, it dealt with the dethronement of a reigning diva by a fresh-faced starlet.

Guare went on to the Yale School of Drama, receiving the M.F.A in Playwriting in 1963.[3]


Guare's early plays, mostly comic one-acts exhibiting a flair for the absurd, include To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza, produced at Caffe Cino in 1965[3] and Muzeeka (1968).[4]

Cop-Out premiered on Broadway at the Cort Theatre on April 7, 1969 and closed on April 12, 1969, as part of two one-act plays, including Home Fires. Cop-Out starred Linda Lavin and Ron Leibman.[5][6]

The House of Blue Leaves, a domestic drama by turns wildly comic and despairingly poignant, premiered Off-Broadway in 1971 at the Truck and Warehouse Theatre. It was revived Off-Broadway at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1986 before transferring to Broadway later in 1986.[7] The play was revived on Broadway in 2011, starring Ben Stiller, whose mother, Anne Meara had appeared in the 1971 production.[8] According to Marilyn Stasio, writing in Variety the play "sets the bar for smart comic lunacy."[9]

Chaucer in Rome, "said to be a sequel of sorts to...'The House of Blue Leaves' and includes the son of one of the earlier play's characters"[10] received its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 1999[11] and was produced Off-Broadway in 2001 at Lincoln Center Theater's Newhouse Theater.[12]

Later plays include Marco Polo Sings a Solo, produced at the Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival in January to March 1977, with a cast that featured Joel Grey, Anne Jackson, Madeline Kahn, and Sigourney Weaver. Bosoms and Neglect was produced on Broadway in 1979, and revived Off-Broadway in 1998 by the Signature Theatre Company. Moon Over Miami was produced at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1987 and then at the Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven in February 1989.[13]

Guare’s cycle of plays on nineteenth-century America are: Gardenia (1982)[14] Lydie Breeze (1982)[15] and Women and Water (1985).[16] The so-called Lydie Breeze series, also called the "Nantucket" series "follows a group of idealistic 19th century characters and their attempts to create a utopian society. "[17]

Six Degrees of Separation was originally produced Off-Broadway at the Lincoln Center Theater, Newhouse Theatre in June 1990. [18] Six Degrees of Separation is an intricately plotted comedy of manners about an African-American confidence man who poses as the son of film star Sidney Poitier. It has been the most highly praised and widely produced of Guare's full-length plays. It was made into a film in 1993, starring Stockard Channing and Will Smith.[19]

Four Baboons Adoring the Sun was presented on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre from February 22, 1992 to April 19, 1992, and was nominated for the 1992 Tony Award, Best Play.[20]

Lake Hollywood (1999) and A Few Stout Individuals (2002) both received their world premieres at Signature Theatre. A Few Stout Individuals is set in nineteenth century America, with a cast of characters that includes Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, soprano Adelina Patti and the Emperor and Empress of Japan.[21]

Guare has also been involved with musical theatre. His libretto with Mel Shapiro for the musical Two Gentlemen of Verona was a success when it premiered in 1971 and was revived in 2005 at the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. It won the two men the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical. He wrote the songs for Landscape of the Body. [22] Guare wrote narration for Psyche, a tone poem by César Franck, which premiered at Avery Fisher Hall in October 1997, conducted by Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic. [23]

He revised the book (uncredited) of the Cole Porter musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate for its 1999 Broadway revival. [24] He wrote the book for the musical Sweet Smell of Success (musical), which premiered on Broadway in 2002, for which he received a 2002 Tony Award nomination, Book of a Musical.[25]

His play A Free Man of Color was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Pulitzer citation said: "An audacious play spread across a large historical canvas, dealing with serious subjects while retaining a playful intellectual buoyancy."[26]

Guare wrote the screenplay for Louis Malle's film Atlantic City (1980), for which he was nominated for an Oscar.[27]

Other activities

He was an original member in 1965 of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut [28] and Resident Playwright at the New York Shakespeare Festival, during which time he wrote Landscape of the Body, Rich and Famous, and Marco Polo Sings a Solo[28]

He is a council member of the Dramatists Guild. [29]

He is Co-Executive Editor of the Lincoln Center Theater Review,[30] which he founded in 1987.[31] He co-produces the New Plays Reading Room Series at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts and teaches in the Playwriting department at the Yale School of Drama.


Gregory Mosher, formerly the artistic director of Lincoln Center Theatre, said that Guare, "along with David Mamet, Sam Shepard and a handful of other dramatists, reshaped the face of contemporary American theater over the past quarter century."[32]


All plays for the stage unless otherwise noted.

Awards and honors

Personal life

He is married to Adele Chatfield-Taylor, an historic preservationist; she is president of the American Academy in Rome.[28]


  1. John Guare. Three Exposures. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. ISBN 9780151901784. Page viii.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Plunka, Gene A., "Chapter 1", The Black Comedy of John Guare, University of Delaware Press, 2002, ISBN 0874137632, pp 26–27, 29
  3. Muzeeka, accessed November 14, 2015
  4. "'Cop-out' Broadway", accessed November 15, 2015
  5. Simonson, Robert. "FRINGE WATCH: John Guare's 'Cop-Out' Gets Rare Staging" Playbill, August 1, 2000
  6. "'The House of Blue Leaves' Broadway 1986", accessed November 16, 2015
  7. Gans, Andrew. "'House of Blue Leaves' Revival, With Ben Stiller and Edie Falco, Begins on Broadway April 4", April 4, 2011
  8. Stasio, Marilyn. "Review: ‘The House of Blue Leaves’" Variety, April 25, 2011
  9. Simonson, Robert. "Guare's 'Chaucer in Rome' Opens at Lincoln Center Theater, June 7" Playbill, June 7, 2001
  10. Simonson, Robert. "John Guare's 'Chaucer in Rome' Ends Williamstown Run Aug. 8" Playbill, August 6, 1999
  11. " Chaucer in Rome Listing", accessed June 30, 2015
  12. Curry, Jane Kathleen. John Guare: A Research and Production Sourcebook, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, ISBN 0313312524, p. 3, 178
  13. Rich, Frank. "Stage. Guare's 'Gardenia' Antedates His 'Lydie'" New York Times, April 29, 1982
  14. Rich, Frank. "Stage: Guare's 'Lydie Breeze'" New York Times, February 26, 1982
  15. Gussow, Mel. "Stage. Guare Chronicle 'Women and Water'" New York Times, December 8, 1985
  16. Haun, Harry; Lefkowitz, David; and Simonson, Ribert. "NY's Signature Opens OB Season with a Guare Solo, Sept. 27-Oct. 25" Playbill, September 26, 1998
  17. "'Six Degrees of Separation' 1990", accessed November 16, 2015
  18. "'Six Degrees Of Separation' Film Overview", accessed November 16, 2015
  19. 1 2 "'Four Baboons Adoring the Sun' Broadway", accessed November 15, 2015
  20. Jones, Kenneth. "John Guare's Latest, 'A Few Stout Individuals', Opens Off-Bway May 12" Playbill, May 12, 2002
  21. Brantley, Ben. "Gold Lamé Dreams Dashed by Polyester Reality in 'Landscape of the Body'" New York Times, April 17, 2006
  22. TommasIni, Anthoiny. "Classical Music. Spelling Out The Musical Tale of 'Psyche'" New York Times, October 5, 1997
  23. Jones, Kenneth. "The Stars Fill the Sky: 'Kiss Me, Kate' Revival Opens on Bway Nov. 18" Playbill, November 18, 1999
  24. "'Sweet Smell of Success' Broadway", accessed November 14, 2015
  25. "Pulitzer Prize for Drama", accessed November 15, 2015
  26. Atlantic City, accessed November 14, 2015
  27. 1 2 3 Cattaneo, Anne. "John Guare, The Art of Theater No. 9. Interview" The Paris Review, Winter 1992, accessed November 14, 2015
  28. "Membership Profile Information. John Guare", accessed November 16, 2015
  29. "Magazine: LCT Review", accessed November 15, 2015
  30. "Events, Upcoming January 11, 2016", accessed November 15, 2015
  31. Herman, Jan. "Writer's Gift Measured by 'Degrees'" Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1996
  32. Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Review. 'Marco Polo Sings a Solo'", September 28, 1998
  33. "'Marco Polo Sings a Solo' 1977"
  34. Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Review. 'Lake Hollywood'" CurtainUp, May 6, 1999
  35. "'A Free Man of Color' Broadway", accessed November 15, 2015
  36. Gans, Andrew. "'Private Lives' Paul Gross Will Star in World Premiere of John Guare's' Are You There, McPhee?'" Playbill, April 12, 2012
  37. Hetrick, Adam. "John Guare Makes Acting Debut in His New Play '3 Kinds of Exile', Beginning May 15 at the Atlantic" Playbill, May 15, 2013
  38. "Obies Search", accessed November 14, 2015
  39. "'The House of Blue Leaves' 1971", accessed November 15, 2015
  40. "'The House of Blue Leaves' Broadway 1986", accessed November 15, 2015
  41. "'Two Gentlemen of Verona' Awards", accessed November 15, 2015
  42. "'Two Gentlemen of Verona' Broadway Production", accessed November 15, 2015
  43. "Pulitzer Prize for Drama", accessed November 15, 2015
  44. "Award of Merit", accessed November 15, 2015
  45. "Awards", accessed November 14, 2015
  46. "Christo, Guare Elected to Institute" Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1989
  47. "Who's in the Theatre Hall of Fame" Playbill, June 12, 1996
  48. Viagas, Robert and Lefkowitz, David. "NY's Signature Will Devote 1998–99 Season to John Guare" Playbill, May 15, 1998
  49. "Past Festivals by Year and Honoree", accessed November 14, 2015
  50. Hernandez, Ernio. "Playwrights John Guare and Craig Lucas Win Annual PEN/ Laura Pels Award for Drama" Playbill, May 5, 2003
  51. "A.C.T. Grants Honorary MFA Degrees To Tracy Chapman & John Guare 5/11", May 11, 2009
  52. Purcell, Carey. "John Guare, Christopher Durang and More Will Be Honored at Dramatists Guild of America Awards" Playbill, February 11, 2014

External links

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