Reading the Plays of Wendy Wasserstein

Playwright Wendy Wasserstein is above all a social historian. Balancing drama and comedy to write about social class in Manhattan and about Jewish-American identity, she drew inspiration from Chekhov and the comedies of S. Behrman Moss Hart and Noel Coward. The ideas of Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi also inform Wasserstein's work which chronicles the rise and the eventual collapse of both feminism and liberalism between the late 1960s and the earliest years of the 21st century. From the first waves of feminism to the post-feminist generation, Jan Balakian's essays place Wendy Wasserstein's seven major plays, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Heidi Chronicles , in a historical context, showing a connection between the evolution of the women's movement in America and the conflicts within her plays. Balakian's interviews with the playwright before her death in 2006 and with Wasserstein's close friends, playwright Chris Durang and director Dan Sullivan, all lend further insight into Wasserstein's political concerns. Balakian's access to handwritten pages from Wasserstein's notebooks at the Wasserstein archives at Mount Holyoke also provides readers a window into the playwright's creative process. This book features 50 black-and-white illustrations including handwritten pages from Wendy Wasserstein's notebooks.