About The Adaptors of "The Beaux' Stratagem" by Akiva Fox
by Akiva Fox for "Asides" Magazine
The Shakespeare Theatre Company
Thornton Wilder was born in Wisconsin in 1897. The son of a diplomat, he spent two years living in China before the family settled in Berkeley, California. He attended college at Oberlin and Yale, and received a Master's degree in French at Princeton. In 1927, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his second novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. While teaching at the University of Chicago in the 1930s, Wilder met Gertrude Stein and Sigmund Freud.
After writing several short plays and new adaptations of other works, Wilder produced a masterpiece in 1938: Our Town, a defiantly theatrical exploration of the joys and sorrows of everyday life. He followed it in 1942 with The Skin of Our Teeth, a fantastical “war play” that hailed the human ability to endure any calamity. Both plays won the Pulitzer Prize. After a stint in Army Air Force intelligence that saw him rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Wilder returned to civilian and literary life.
The ‘50s brought a successful revision of an old play, The Matchmaker (upon which Hello, Dolly would later be based) and a new play based on Greek mythology, The Alcestiad. Two planned seven-play cycles for the Circle in the Square theatre produced only three short plays presented in New York: Infancy, Childhood and Someone from Assisi. Wilder published two more novels, the National Book Award-winning The Eighth Day and the semi-autobiographical Theophilus North, before his death in 1975.
Ken Ludwig was born in York, Pennsylvania, and educated at Haverford College. Though he was already showing interest in writing plays, he instead pursued the law at Harvard Law School and Cambridge University. At both schools, he spent considerable time studying theatre and music theory (including studies at Harvard with Leonard Bernstein). Nevertheless, he entered into law practice after graduation.
During his years as a lawyer, Ludwig continued to write plays in what little time he could spare. After some off-Broadway success, a copy of his backstage comedy Lend Me a Tenor came to the attention of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who produced the play in the West End and on Broadway. His biggest hit came in 1992, when he wrote the script for the Broadway musical Crazy for You, a compilation of Gershwin songs. The show ran for four years and won multiple Tony awards. The West End production won Ludwig an Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
He returned to the backstage comedy in many of his subsequent plays, including Moon over Buffalo (which marked Carol Burnett's return to the stage after 30 years), Shakespeare in Hollywood (commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company) and Leading Ladies. His work is produced constantly in the United States and United Kingdom, as well as in translation around the world. In recent years, he also has turned to adapting novels for the stage and to directing his own plays.