Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dear Wendy Wasserstein



Dear Wendy,

Sorry for not writing sooner. This note is long overdue.

It's been years since I met you in the corner of that crowded bookstore where the skinny Drama section stooped between Entertainment and Art. Actually, it was more of a shelf than a full-scale section, but that's where we met. You and I. You were one of only a few female playwrights sitting there.

I didn't know girls wrote plays.

You see, in school, they taught O'Neill, Brecht, Ibsen — Oh, I know a joke about Ibsen! They say, if he’d written A Doll’s House today, that play would be no more than a one-act, cause no modern Nora would stick around with that hubby of hers for a full-length — no way! She'd slam her way out of that manuscript long before intermission.

And I think Nora's early liberation is due to you, women like you, Wendy.

When I was young and interviewed with a commercial theatre, the artistic director asked me who my favorite playwright was. Marsha Norman, I answered, cause 'Night Mother is dark, and your Heidi Chronicles is much lighter, and I wanted to be dark, cause I was young and everybody was wearing black.

A few years later, I needed a laugh, and there you were with all your wit, just waiting for me. Who knew feminists could have such a sense of humor? Cause feminism - that's serious stuff. But you were funny and friendly. You didn't have to be serious to make a point. You knew that long before I did.

And your name, Wendy, has turned out to be lucky for me. Wendy's the name of the woman who mentored me. And another Wendy's directed several fledgling scripts of mine. Overall, "Wendy" has been good to me.

Well, I don't want to gush on and on, cause you probably get a lot of that. I know you weren't the first female playwright to win the Pulitzer, but for me, Wendy, you were the first who made it seem accessible, not stuffy, not shut-up in some literary file, but living and laughing out loud in the world.

And that's how I'll remember you.

Thanks.

16 repartee:

Anonymous PE wrote...

Wendy had a sweet spirit. Not only did she love writing plays, she loved actors and stage managers and theatergoers and, well, everybody really. (The long run of "Heidi Chronicles" found her often dropping by to see whom among her many friends came that evening.)

So sad to hear that she left us at such a young age.

2/21/2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, PE, I had such an awful day! My tire blew up and then my day became about tires, and since I'm not a tire dealer, I really don't want my days to be about tires. What strange power tires possess. So it is. But I came back from tire-hell and found your comment, thanks - :). I feel sad about this post. I know you met WW in person and had a lovely discussion with her. Generous, that's what you called her. I really appreciate your thoughts.

2/21/2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger actonbell wrote...

Well,I'm sorry about your tire. All things car-related have a way of tripping up our lives, huh?

Nice letter:) I'll have to check her out sometime.
I love 'Night Mother, btw.

2/21/2006 10:43 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

That's a touching letter Frankengirl.
I was wondering..do you prefer theatre (as in performance) or writing?

And I do hope the tire's curse has worn out :)

2/22/2006 1:05 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

actonbell – You're so right about cars *sigh* (I want a horse and buggy!)

Oh, another ‘Night Mother fan! Yaah! Yes, that’s such a powerful play!

2/22/2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger UltimateWriter wrote...

I'm glad females have more role models than they did two or three generations ago.

2/22/2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Yes, UW! And I love that you put "Respecting Women" in your profile, btw.

2/22/2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

mysticgypsy: oops, did I answer the right question? did you mean do I enjoy watching the production over writing the play itself?

Well, if so, nothing beats writing. But hearing the script is a thrill, and later, a production is an exciting and emotional (often nerve-wracking) culmination, particularly "opening night." At that point, though, the play no longer seems mine. The directors and actors have made it their own, and there's a whole letting-go process; a saying good-bye which is bittersweet.

I guess this gets back to the audience question in earlier posts. Writing alone is lovely (but can become self-indulgent) and the actors, directors and finally the audience teach me far more about the play than I could have ever learned on my own.

2/22/2006 1:00 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

"the actors, directors and finally the audience teach me far more about the play than I could have ever learned on my own."
Agreed Frankengirl :)
It is all a process of learning and challenging ourselves, which is why artists of all sorts hunger after feedback...otherwise, how can one improve and how will they feel validated through/in their work?

I suppose the real question is whether challenging one's self matters in the first place.

2/22/2006 1:16 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

"I suppose the real question is whether challenging one's self matters in the first place."

Oh, yes, YES, Y-E-S! We must, I think, to grow (or we may remain stunted).

Thanks, as always, for your great questions :D

2/22/2006 2:02 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

aww Thanks Frankengirl :)

Does it not surprise you (it does me a great deal) that many people indeed wish to remain "stunted"?

2/22/2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Yes! Sometimes it surprises me so much! But other times, I think to myself – Agh! That challenging path seems sooo steep... And, hmm, that low road sure would be easier on the feet... but No, No, No! :P

It helps, I think, when we encourage each other to challenge ourselves - :)

2/22/2006 5:47 PM  
Blogger Minka wrote...

Hmm, my first time ove rhere and I like it. Veyr much. Seems ot me you are a very good writer yourself. A certain flow of speech that seems so hard to master!
Thank you for your comment on my page and rest assured, I will be back :)

My favourite play?
" A Streetcare named Desire"

2/23/2006 2:13 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

thanks, monika - :) I met you via Anne Bronte (aka actonbell).

A Streetcar Named Desire - ah, another Pulitzer Prize winner, and a juicy one!

2/23/2006 4:14 PM  
Blogger JB wrote...

unlike you, i was not fortunate enough to meet wendy wasserstein. i read about her death i think more than a month ago; after the note was a link to a New Yorker write-up she published five years to the day she had her baby girl. the circumstances how i came to know her was surreal, in one sense, and tragic, in another; i was reading for the first time her most intimate thoughts on giving birth right on the day she died. it was life and death in a small series of blue hyperlinks.

anyway, thanks for the comment. i've bookmarked and remembered you. =p

3/09/2006 9:54 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Thanks for commenting, JB - :)

The way you describe your first encounter with WW, particularly the juxtaposition of birth/death is so interesting. Some might say birth balances death. Joy/grief, but these two - girl/woman – were tied together and torn apart, and so it seems a great divide.

You have a lovely, poetic way of writing, btw.

3/09/2006 12:40 PM  

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