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Kaufman, Moisés (b. ca 1964)  
 
page: 1  2  3  

I Am My Own Wife

Kaufman recently directed Doug Wright's remarkable I Am My Own Wife, a complex portrait of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East Berlin openly gay transvestite and furniture collector who survived persecution by both the Nazi and Communist regimes, as well as the firestorm that erupted when it was revealed that to cope with the latter she worked for the government's spy agency, the Stasi. Kaufman helped to shape the play, which is based on von Mahlsdorf's autobiography and on interviews that Wright conducted with her in 1993 and 1994. It opened to critical acclaim off-Broadway, with Kaufman winning an Obie Award for Best Direction, and then, in December 2003, moved to Broadway.

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Featuring a bravura, Tony-winning performance by Jefferson Mays, the Broadway production was honored with both a Tony Award as Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

In directing I Am My Own Wife, Kaufman was once again working with a constructed identity—in this case a highly unusual, ultimately ambiguous one. Although I Am My Own Wife is a one-person play, like Kaufman's own plays it nevertheless presents multiple perspectives on Mahlsdorf's life (all enacted by Mays). Praised for his firmly controlled yet subtle and artful direction, Kaufman brought to the production a deep understanding of the fluidity of character and the complexities of motivation.

(Von Mahlsdorf is also the subject of Rosa von Praunheim's 1992 film, Ich bin meine eigene Frau.)

One Arm

Kaufman's latest project is adapting for the stage Tennessee Williams's unproduced screenplay based on his short story One Arm. The beautifully written story--about a boxer who lost an arm in an automobile accident and, in despair, turned to hustling, only to murder a client and be sentenced to death—traces the transformation of the death row inmate from a cold and detached icon of others' longing into a fully responsive human being. It was originally written in 1945 and published in Williams's daring collection of short stories, One Arm and Other Stories, in 1948. Williams wrote the screenplay in 1967, but it was never made into a film, presumably because it was too daring for its time.

Kaufman discovered the screenplay in 1999, when he was directing an evening of short plays by Williams. Characteristically, the discovery led to more research into Williams and the milieu that he represents in the story and the screenplay. Equally characteristically, Kaufman saw in the works by Williams an opportunity to explore a significant moment in the history of homosexuality. As he remarked to theater critic Hedy Weiss, "I was fascinated by this piece because it documents the American underworld in the 1930s and '40s and captures a very specific period in American culture that Williams knew about first hand."

Produced in a collaboration between Kaufman's Tectonic Theater Project, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and About Face Theatre Company, the stage version of One Arm premiered in Chicago in December 2004, where it will have a limited run before opening in New York.

Conclusion

In a very brief time, Moisés Kaufman has emerged as an important voice in American theater. His interest in exploring watershed moments in glbtq culture has not only helped illuminate gay history, but it has also contributed to public discourse about significant issues and ideas.

Kaufman was honored with the 1997 Joe A. Calloway Award for excellence in the craft of direction and choreography by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. He also received a Guggenheim fellowship in playwriting in 2002.

Linda Rapp
Claude J. Summers

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literature >> Overview:  Awards

The contemporary literary awards given specifically to honor glbtq books may be seen as an outgrowth of the modern American gay rights movement, so intertwined are they with the movement for equality.

literature >> Overview:  Contemporary Drama

Since Stonewall, gay and lesbian drama has flourished, especially in the United States.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gaybashing

Violence perpetrated against people thought by their attackers to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered occurs with disturbing frequency in the United States and other countries.

arts >> Overview:  Theater Companies

Gay and lesbian theater companies attempt to create their own communities, while also fostering a sense of solidarity with the glbtq community and educating the larger society.

literature >> Douglas, Alfred Bruce

Lord Alfred Douglas is remembered today for his tumultuous association with Oscar Wilde and as a minor poet.

arts >> Mahlsdorf, Charlotte von

Preservationist and museum founder Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was admired by many for her bravery in the face of persecution and for her openness as a transgendered public figure in perilous times.

arts >> Ndegeocello, Meshell

Singer, songwriter, and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello is a notably eclectic artist whose music confronts social and sexual issues, including racial identity, same-sex attraction, and homophobia.

arts >> Praunheim, Rosa von

One of Germany's leading gay activists and chroniclers of queer life, filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim makes films intended to foster self-examination by gay people and to advance gay rights.

social sciences >> Shepard, Matthew

Matthew Shepard led an unremarkable life, but his shocking death transformed him into an icon of the glbtq movement for equality.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.

literature >> Williams, Tennessee

Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.

arts >> Wright, Doug

The works of award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and librettist Doug Wright often focus on the unconventional lives of society\'s outsiders.

arts >> Yew, Chay

Critically acclaimed Asian-American playwright Chay Yew has consistently produced provocative drama addressing issues of racism, homophobia, and censorship.


    Bibliography
   

Alfaro, Luis. "Oscar in America." The Advocate 754 (March, 3, 1998): 62.

Gussow, Mel. "Listening to the Women of Beckett." New York Times (November 22, 1991): C17.

Hoffman, Jan. "A Tale of Life, Love and Making It All Fit." New York Times (May 18, 2000): B2.

Schliefer, Yigal. "From Caracas to Laramie." The Jerusalem Report (July 17, 2000): 38.

Shewey, Don. "Learning from Laramie." The Advocate (April 11, 2000): 38.

_____. "Town in a Mirror: The Laramie Project." 2000. www.donshewey.com/theater_articles/laramie_project.htm.

Tectonic Theater Project, Inc. www.tectonictheaterproject.org.

Weiss, Hedy. "Theatrical Triple Play." Chicago Sun Times (December 3, 2004): www.suntimes.com/output/entertainment/wkp-news-stage03.html.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda ; Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Kaufman, Moisés  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated October 8, 2012  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/kaufman_m.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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