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Frequently Asked Questions

From Christopher Durang:

I've been flattered that people in schools have been assigned to do papers on me, or sometimes have chosen to do them.  And in the past two years some people have written me care of my agent and asked me to answer questions.  And thanks to computers, I've saved my answers. 


So, I've decided to post those answers for other students who might find them helpful if they're asked to do papers on me. 


I'm somewhat abashed at how personal my answers to these questions are -- often times, way more information than was probably asked for.  But especially when I'm asked how and why I write the way I do, I find the psychology and dynamics in my family of origin to be the inescapable topic I need to discuss.  (After all, we're all greatly formed and affected by our families -- good things, bad things, quirky things.) 


So here are three "rounds" of questions and answers I did. Two were for college students; one was for high school. 


I appreciate the people who asked me the questions, and I hope they don't mind that I'm choosing to post the answers.

A kind of wrap-up:

I like the mixture of comedy and seriousness in a work.  At college, I remember seeing Feydeau farces and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.  Both were fun, but both tended to go on for about 3 hours.  And I’d find after about an hour and three-quarters, I would have had enough of both… they remained in the same tone, on and on; and the comic cartoonish of both started to fatigue me… I wanted some sort of real feeling somewhere.

Then I recall seeing on TV Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens in a stage version of “Much Ado About Nothing.”  Maggie Smith is a verbal wizard, and so her Beatrice was funny, as expected.  However, somewhere in the play she read a series of lines suddenly with great sadness (about life and suffering), and she did it with all psychological sincerity and depth of feeling, and I suddenly felt riveted.  The comedy reverberated for me.

And in another Maggie Smith film, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” she was hilarious playing the teacher’s pretensions and odd quirky thoughts…. Yet two thirds through, upset with an argument with her ex-lover the art teacher, she shows her girl students slides from her trip abroad, and in the speech that accompanies it, she reveals this enormous “longing” for love and for personal connection that is very moving, very mysterious.  The movie is mostly a comedy, but one with real elements of sadness in it too; and with repercussions – the nutty things Miss Brodie does have consequences, bad ones, for both herself and some of her students. 

Well, that’s all for now.  I’ve exhausted myself. 

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