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Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Wright, Doug (b. 1962)    
 
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Marks was referring to Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, an East Berlin openly gay transvestite and furniture collector who survived persecution by both the Nazi and Communist regimes. (Charlotte von Mahlsdorf later published her autobiography, Ich bin meine eigene Frau, in 1992. She also appeared in Rosa von Praunheim's 1992 film of the same name.)

Wright's interest was indeed piqued and he traveled with another friend to a rural suburb in the former East Berlin to meet with von Mahlsdorf. "She had us for tea in her basement and started to spill the story of her life," Wright recalled of his initial meeting with her. As he listened to her talk, Wright knew immediately that her life story had to be put on stage.

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"When I first met Charlotte I wanted to write a real hymn to her," Wright has explained. "I thought that all the negative conditioning I had endured as a young gay man growing up in Texas was countered by her own extraordinary stories of survival." He believed that von Mahlsdorf's story could serve "as a powerful corrective for all of our gay self-loathing."

Von Mahlsdorf agreed to be interviewed by Wright for material toward a play about her life. Wright repeatedly returned to Berlin for nearly two years, recording hours of conversation with her. Ultimately, he amassed more than 500 pages of transcribed text.

As Wright delved deeper into von Mahlsdorf's life, he found that her story was even more complex than he originally thought. The playwright discovered that she had been an informant for the Stasi, the East German secret police, and may even have betrayed a friend.

The revelation was startling, and Wright felt he could no longer continue with the project. "I felt that to write the play," he revealed, "would be the betrayal of a friendship because I knew there were things I had learned that she would not necessarily want to be disclosed."

Instead, he began writing Quills to distract himself from the disappointment of suspending his work on von Mahlsdorf. However, two years after Wright had first learned about the Stasi file, the German press publicly revealed her informant past. Wright decided that now he could continue with the project. "It would no longer be my disclosure," he said.

In 2000, Wright was invited to work on his project at the Sundance Theater Laboratory in Utah. In turn, Wright asked the director Moisés Kaufman (who had himself adapted transcripts into theatrical texts for the plays Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project) and the actor Jefferson Mays (an original member of the New York cast of Quills) to join him at Sundance.

On their first day together, Wright asked Mays to read directly from the transcripts. As the actor altered his voice between the interviewer asking questions and Charlotte's answers, Wright knew instinctively that the work had to become a one-person show, with Mays ultimately embodying some 35 characters, including the playwright himself and the lead role.

"How wonderful," Wright later explained, "that a fascinating historical figure who had been forced to adopt a series of guises in order to live her life, how fitting that her story should be told by an actor forced to adopt a series of guises in order to impart it."

Wright's play, ultimately called I Am My Own Wife, with the subtitle "Studies for a Play about the Life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf," opened off-Broadway in 2003 and was transferred to Broadway later that same year.

The play was a critical, as well as commercial, success, and earned Wright some of the most enthusiastic reviews of his career. Bruce Weber, writing for the New York Times, called it "the most stirring new work to appear on Broadway this fall."

Wright received a Tony Award for Best Play, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, a GLAAD Media Award, an Outer Critics Award, a Drama League Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, and the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for I Am My Own Wife.

On winning the Pulitzer, Wright announced "It's especially gratifying and exhilarating for someone who grew up with all of the ambivalence one has about one's sexuality, because this award sanctions my most overt and openly gay work."

Grey Gardens and The Little Mermaid

Wright next worked as the librettist for a musical version of Grey Gardens (with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie), based on the 1975 cult classic documentary of the same name by brothers Albert and David Maysles.

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