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Lanford Wilson Biography

(1937– ), The Gingham Dog, The Hotel Baltimore, The Mound Builders, Talley's Folly

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography

American dramatist, born in Lebanon, Missouri, educated at the University of Chicago. One of the most successful and durable of off-off-Broadway dramatists, Wilson made his name with The Gingham Dog (1968), the story of a failed interracial marriage. He co-founded the Circle Repertory Company in New York in 1969, where most of his plays have been premièred. The Hotel Baltimore (1973), about life in a run-down New York hotel, the most successful off-Broadway non-musical American play in history, won an Obie Award, as did The Mound Builders (1975). Talley's Folly (1979; screenplay, 1992), the second of a trilogy of plays about a Missouri family (the others are 5th of July, 1978, and Talley's Son, 1986), won both a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Drama Critics Circle award. Wilson is perhaps the least experimental of contemporary American dramatists in his commitment to the conventions of theatrical realism, though the poetic intensity of his language bestows a rare dignity on the ordinary and dispossessed characters of his plays. He has been accused both of optimism and of sentimentality in his work; the latter is evident in Burn This (1987; screenplay, 1992). His later works include the plays The Moonshot Tape (1990) and Redwood Curtain (1992).

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