Born in Brooklyn, New York, Wendy Wasserstein came from a long line of Polish family who moved to America after accusations of her grandfather being a spy. Eventually, Wendy became a student at Mount Holyoke College, studying history, before focusing on creative writing at the City College of New York masters program, and eventually attending the Yale School of Drama for her MFA in fine arts; here, she became a celebrated playwright, and her career was launched forward fairly soon after. Her graduate Thesis from Yale, a play called Uncommon Women and Others, which was a retrospective look at some of her own life experiences, was developed at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre centre before debuting Off-Broadway in 1977, with a cast that included the legendary Glenn Close in a major role; eventually, the PBS took the play on, and cast Meryl Streep in the same role.
Among other themes, Wasserstein is celebrated for her contributions to expressing issues of female identity and empowerment on major stages around the world. Her writing focuses on feminism, success, and women’s rights in a way that is palatable to the public, and keeps from being preachy or pretentious. Confident characters who struggle with self-doubt, searchers for love who lose it, and many more complex conflicts enliven the stories of Wasserstein’s strong female lead characters, as she ruminates on love and success.
She won a Tony, a Susan Smith Blackburn prize, and a Pulitzer Prize for her masterpiece- the play which this site is devoted to, “The Heidi Chronicles.” Although this is her most well-known piece, many of her plays are widely appreciated and her breadth of work is absolutely terrific. Feminism makes an appearance in many of Wasserstein’s works-- in some, it is explicit, while in others it is a theme which runs in the undercurrent; her plays The Sisters Rosensweig, Old Money, An American Daughter, and Isn’t It Romantic have been widely produced. In 1998, she wrote a film called The Object of My Affection, starring Jennifer Aniston, which was a modest romantic comedy success. In 2005, her final play- “Third”- was staged.
In the wake of her passing, Wasserstein’s legacy as a prominent figure in feminist theatre was cemented. She was also a mother to a daughter whose father was never identified; seven years after giving birth, Wasserstein died of lymphoma in January of 2006.
Wasserstein remains an iconic playwright, a revered figure, and a member of an elite class of American writers who have secured a Pulitzer Prize.