More than any theatre artist of her generation, Wendy Wasserstein changed the way contemporary women’s lives were presented onstage. Through her eyes, audiences encountered the complexity of the New York woman—that strange new species who captivated us long before Sex and the City arrived on the scene.
More than three decades later, appreciative audiences still sit—spellbound—in the theatre, listening to Wasserstein’s words and contemplating her difficult, honest, and funny female characters.
She studied history at Mount Holyoke, then earned an M.F.A. in playwriting from Yale. During her 30-year career, Wasserstein wrote and published dozens of plays and screenplays and numerous articles, essays, and speeches.
After the success of Uncommon Women and Others (1977), she wrote The Heidi Chronicles (1988), The Sisters Rosensweig (1993), An American Daughter (1997), Old Money (2000), and Third (2005), all of which were produced in New York. In these plays, Wasserstein addressed a range of topics of special concern to contemporary women, and did so with humor and compassion.
Wasserstein was a charming and gregarious presence in New York social circles, and a cherished teacher and mentor at Cornell University and Dartmouth College. With the Theatre Development Fund, she founded the Open Doors program to provide underprivileged students access to New York theatre.
Widely recognized for her work, Wasserstein was awarded virtually every major theatre prize, including a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award, and the Dramatists Guild’s Hull-Warriner Award.
When Wasserstein died of lymphoma in 2006, the lights of Broadway were dimmed in her honor.