Wasserstein, Wendy

Alternative names
Birth 1950-10-18
Death 2006-01-30

Biographical notes:

Wendy Wasserstein, a prizewinning feminist playwright and author, was born October 18, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish immigrant parents Morris W. Wasserstein, a textile manufacturer, and Lola (Schleifer), a dancer. Wasserstein, the youngest of five siblings (Sandra Meyer, Abner, Georgette Levis, and Bruce) attended the Calhoun School in New York (1963-1967) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Mount Holyoke College in 1971. After studying writing at City College of New York, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1976 from Yale School of Drama. Wendy wrote and published more than 60 plays and screenplays, numerous articles, essays and speeches, and five books during her thirty-year career as an author and playwright. She both seriously and humorously addressed a range of topics including women and feminism, the theater, New York City, romance, and politics, in plays that include: "Any Woman Can’t" (1973), "Uncommon Women and Others" (1977), "Isn't It Romantic" (1983), "The Heidi Chronicles" (1988), "The Sisters Rosensweig" (1993), "An American Daughter" (1997), "Old Money" (2000), and "Third" (2005). She won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for The Heidi Chronicles in 1989. Many of her plays feature strong, complex female characters. As part of the New York theater scene, she collaborated with many notable artists including Yale classmate and playwright Christopher Durang and Playwrights Horizons and Lincoln Theater Center artistic director Andre Bishop.

Wendy was awarded a number of prizes and awards for her work as a playwright, including:

• John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1983)

• National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Fellowship (1983)

• Mary Lyon Award from Mount Holyoke College (1985)

• Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1989)

• New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1989)

• Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Broadway Play for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1989)

• Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1989)

• Tony Award for Best Play for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1989)

• Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1988-1989)

• Hull-Warriner Award from the Dramatists Guild of America for "The Heidi Chronicles" (1988)

• Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Broadway Play for "The Sisters Rosensweig" (1993)

• Doctor of Humane Letters from Mount Holyoke College (1990)

• William Inge Theatre Festival Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award (1993)

Wasserstein served as a trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, taught playwriting as an Andrew D. White Professor-At-Large at Cornell University, and founded The Open Doors program, with the Theater Development Fund to provide underprivileged students access to the theater. On September 12, 1999, she had a daughter named Lucy Jane Wasserstein. Wendy Wasserstein died of lymphoma on January 30, 2006.

Arranged in 15 series: Writings (1976-2006) Correspondence (1965-2005) Diaries and Notebooks (1959-1993) Student Material (circa 1960-1971) Awards and Honors (1998-2003) Address Books, Appointment Books, and Calendars (1979-2002) Autograph Book (circa 1963) Scrapbooks (undated, 1989) Memorabilia (1977-2006) Biographical Material (1969-2006) Legal Documents and Invoices (1969-2002) Family Papers (1945-2004, undated) Audiovisual Materials (1954-2006) Photographs (1963-2002) Oversized Material

From the guide to the Wendy Wasserstein Papers MS 0844., 1954-2006, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)


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Ark ID:


  • Women novelists, American


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  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)