Christopher Durang, gay author of ‘Sister Mary Ignatius’ and other plays, has died

Author: Trudy Ring

Christopher Durang, the gay man who wrote such acclaimed plays as Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Beyond Therapy, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, has died at age 75.

Durang died Tuesday at his home in Pipersville, Pa., of complications from aphasia, The New York Times reports.

“In a career spanning more than 40 years, he established himself as a hyperliterate jester and an anarchic clown,” the Times reports. “Regarding subject and theme, he pogoed from sex to metaphysics to serial killers to psychology, and he had a way of collapsing high art and jokes that aimed much lower.”

Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, first produced off-off-Broadway in 1979, satirizes Roman Catholic beliefs, with the titular nun a giving a lecture and being interrupted by former students who have committed what the church teaches are sins. Informed by Durang’s Catholic upbringing, it brought him an Obie Award in 1980. “The play was as controversial as it was successful,” Deadline notes.

The raucous comedy Beyond Therapy, produced off-Broadway in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982, follows a pair of ill-fated lovers trying to solidify their relationship with the help of counseling. It has become a staple of community and regional theaters worldwide. Robert Altman directed a film version in 1987, but Durang disliked and disowned it.

Durang’s plays over the next couple of decades included Baby With the Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, Laughing Wild, Sex and Longing, Betty’s Summer Vacation, and Miss Witherspoon, the latter being a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2006.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike deals with three siblings gathering at their late parents’ country home along with the much younger lover of one of them. Touching on themes from Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s works, it was enormously popular in its premiere off-Broadway in 2012 and moved to Broadway the following year. Durang won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play with the work, the only Tony he ever won. “Though larded with audacious jokes and sight gags, the play had a strong emotive core,” the Times reports.

Durang performed frequently in nightclubs and on film, and he cochaired the playwrights program at the Juilliard School for a decade. He had a cabaret act called Chris Durang and Dawne, with Sherry Anderson and Durang’s longtime partner in life, John Augustine, whom he married in 2014. Augustine is his only survivor.

“Chris was a delightful man with a big heart and brilliant wit,” comedian and former U.S. Sen. Al Franken wrote in a letter to the Times.

Durang “just broke every barrier, every taboo, and wrote about the things that most mattered to him,” writer and director Emily Mann told the newspaper.

“He was deeply serious and wildly funny,” added playwright Marsha Norman, who ran the Juilliard program with him. “That’s who he was. Always.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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