Tony Winner Christopher Durang Dies at 75 | Playbill

Obituaries Tony Winner Christopher Durang Dies at 75

Mr. Durang was a playwright and lyricist known for his outrageous and often-absurdist comedic flair.

Christopher Durang

Playwright Christopher Durang has died after an extended battle with logopenic progressive aphasia. He was 75.

One of the most popular playwrights of the 20th century, Mr. Durang's unique comedic flair, which often utilized absurdism and outrageous conceits, leapt to prominence in the latter half of the century. 

Although typically a writer of comedies, he did not shy away from complex cultural issues, with child abuse, Catholic dogma, and homosexuality figuring prominently within many of his works. As Mr. Durang told BOMB Magazine in 1987, "I exaggerate awful things further, and then I present it in a way that is funny, and for those of us who find it funny, it has to do with a very clear suspension of disbelief. It is a play, after all, with acted characters; it allows us a distance we couldn’t have in reality. To me this distance allows me to find some rather serious topics funny."

Mr. Durang's work has been presented widely, with his plays Beyond Therapy, Sex and Longing, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike coming to Broadway (the latter winning him the Tony for Best Play). In addition to his work as a playwright, Mr. Durang wrote the librettos for two Broadway musicals, A History of the American Film and All About Me.

Broadway was hardly the only home of Mr. Durang's work, however. Many of his most-produced plays intentionally never came to the Broadway stage, instead valuing the more intimate staging options provided within Off-Broadway and regional theatres. These works include The Idiots Karamazov, Titanic, Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes, The Nature and Purpose of the Universe, The Vietnamization of New Jersey, 'Dentity Crisis, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For YouThe Actor's Nightmare, Baby with the Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, Laughing Wild, Naomi in the Living Room, For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Betty's Summer Vacation, Miss Witherspoon, Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them, and Turning Off the Morning News.

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Mr. Durang also received Obie Awards for Sister Mary Ignatius, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and Betty's Summer Vacation, and numerous fellowships and high-profile grants including a Guggenheim, a Rockefeller, the CBS Playwriting Fellowship, the Lecomte du Nouy Foundation Grant, and the Kenyon Festival Theatre Playwriting Prize.

    Alongside Marsha Norman, Mr. Durang directed The Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard from 1984 to 2016, where he helped to guide playwrights Joshua Harmon and Noah Haidle, as well as Pulitzer winner David Lindsay-Abaire, who would go on to succeed Mr. Durang as co-director following Mr. Durang's diagnosis.

    This past February, it was announced that Mr. Durang would be awarded the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award at The Dramatists Guild of America's annual awards ceremony May 6. The award will now be delivered posthumously. 

    Mr. Durang is survived by his husband, John Augustine. Information on a public memorial is forthcoming.

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