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Wright, Doug (b. 1962)    
 
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The works of award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and librettist Doug Wright often focus on the unconventional lives of society's outsiders. Among these are the iconoclastic artist Marcel Duchamp in Interrogating the Nude; the Marquis de Sade in Quills; Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East Berlin transvestite who survived persecution by both the Nazi and Communist regimes, in the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife; and "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, two eccentric American aristocrats who ended up living in squalor, sharing a once-elegant mansion, in the musical Grey Gardens, based on the cult classic documentary film of the same name.

Wright also helped adapt the animated Disney film The Little Mermaid into a Broadway musical.

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Despite this diversity in subjects, Wright's body of work is unified, as Jeffrey Schneider notes in his appreciation of the writer, "by its devotion to witty, nuanced language as well as its untiring exploration of the macabre."

Wright's plays are also infused with passages of surprisingly mordant humor as well as fierce anger, provoked perhaps by "growing up gay in the Bible Belt," as he has a character named "Doug Wright" explain onstage in his play I Am My Own Wife.

Early Life and Career

A Texas native, Wright was born in Dallas on December 20, 1962, and grew up in the Dallas suburb of University Park. "University Park was a very privileged place to grow up," Wright once remarked in an interview. "There was a premium placed on education. . . . There was a great teaching staff at the school. In that respect I was extremely fortunate."

Wright was, however, the target of schoolyard teasing and playground attacks throughout elementary school. Overweight and awkward as a child, and not athletically inclined, he was routinely taunted by classmates as a "sissy," a "queer," and worse.

"When you are the subject of attack on the playground," Wright explained, "you don't fight back, because you won't win. You're being labeled and condemned in a certain way. That calcifies over time into real fury."

Despite the torments he was forced to endure in elementary and middle schools, once he entered Highland Park High School, outside of Dallas, Wright found acceptance in the theater department.

"I was good in plays, and I was funny, and I had a sense of humor," Wright noted. "I carved out a niche for myself." He was ultimately voted President of the Highland Park High School Thespian Club in 1981, his senior year.

He entered Yale University in the fall of 1981. He achieved early success while still an undergraduate, when one of his first works, The Stonewater Rapture (1983), a two-character play about teenage sexuality and religious repression in a rural Texas town, was performed to acclaim at Scotland's Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 1984. The play was later published in The Best Short Plays 1987, edited by Ramon Delgado.

The Stonewater Rapture remains one of Wright's most produced plays to date, routinely being performed by secondary schools, colleges, and acting classes.

Wright received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, with a double major in theater and art history, from Yale in 1985.

He then enrolled in a graduate playwriting program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, from which he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting in 1987.

His master's thesis was the play Interrogating the Nude, which attempts to reconstruct the creation of Marcel Duchamp's Modernist masterpiece, "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2."

In the guise of a homicide investigation--Duchamp reports the dismemberment of his female model, whose body parts have been scattered down a staircase--the play becomes a droll exploration of the value and nature of art, and the cultural gap between unorthodox artists and mainstream conformists. It was first produced by the Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, Connecticut in 1989.

After graduating from New York University, Wright began work on his first musical, Buzzsaw Berkeley (1989), with music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa. A cross between a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musical and a serial-killer-on-the-rampage movie, Wright has called the play his "valentine" to the irreverent, trailblazing works of Charles Ludlam and Charles Busch.

The play was produced at New York's WPA Theatre in 1989 as part of its "Silly Series" of late-night reviews. It unfortunately received mostly negative notices from theater critics. Mel Gussow, writing in the New York Times, noted that Wright's idea "has some promise," but "the show is paltry as a musical satire." John Simon, in his caustic review for New York magazine, found it a "witless and unsavory show."

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Doug Wright ca 2010.
  
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