Skip to main content

Wendy Wasserstein papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS 0844

Scope and Contents

The papers of Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006) span the years 1954 to 2006 and are organized into the following series: Writings; Correspondence; Diaries and Notebooks; Student Material; Awards and Honors; Address Books, Appointment Books and Calendars; Scrapbooks; Memorabilia; Biographical Material; Legal and Financial Documents; Family Papers; Audiovisual Material; Photographs; and Oversized Material.

The core of the collection is Wasserstein's writings in the order of: plays and screenplays, short writings and books. The writings, in the form of an array of notes and drafts - full, partial, and in various stages, are handwritten and typewritten in both manuscript and printed form. As a whole, the collection documents the development of Wasserstein's creative process, the public response to her work, along with the relationships that inform her work as a pioneering feminist dramaturge.

Series 1. Writings 1976-2006

The writings series are organized into three subseries: Plays and Screenplays, Short Writings and Books. The writings are composed of an array of notes and drafts-partial, full, and in various stages, and are handwritten, typewritten and word-processed.

Plays and Screenplays span 1976 to 2006 and include notes, partial and full drafts and typed scripts of sixty-two major and minor plays and screenplays, both published and unpublished, including: An American Daughter, Antonia and Jane, Any Woman Can't, The Heidi Chronicles, Isn't It Romantic, Miami, The Object of My Affection, Old Money, The Sisters Rosensweig, Third and Uncommon Women and Others. Works that were produced are accompanied by production materials in the form of casting and production notes, and publicity materials including press releases and reviews. The series also includes production-specific correspondence. Of the screenplays, eleven were produced. They run the gamut from short adaptations of novels for television shows (Such as The Sorrows of Gin) to longer length productions like The Object of My Affection. Wasserstein also adapted several of her own plays for television and wrote short original pieces, often collaboratively with Christopher Durang. All playbills and posters for Wasserstein's plays and screenplays are located in Memorabilia. Arranged alphabetically by title.

Short Writings span the years 1970 to 2005 and include personal essays and articles, comic pieces, book and film reviews, book forewords, book dust jacket quotations, poems, short stories, obituaries and tributes and profiles and interviews of celebrities including Tipper Gore, Steve Martin, and Diane Keaton. Wasserstein's short writings were regularly published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Washington Post, Time, Slate.com, Stagebill, Vogue, Elle, Allure, and New York Woman, where she was a contributing editor. The Short Writings materials also include speeches, lectures and talks delivered by Wasserstein at public events. Of particular note are obituaries and speeches written in remembrance of friends, including stage and film director Gerald Gutierrez and Bernard Jacobs of the Shubert Foundation. Arranged chronologically by publication date.

The Books date from 1990 - 2006 and include full drafts of Wasserstein's non-dramatic book publications: Bachelor Girls (Knopf, 1990), a collection of short pieces containing both new and previously published articles; Pamela's First Musical (Hyperion, 1996), a children's picture book illustrated by Andrew Jackness; Shiksa Goddess, or, How I Spent My Forties (Knopf, 2001), comprised, like Bachelor Girls, of short pieces containing both new and previously published articles; Sloth (Oxford University Press, 2005), written as a mock self-help guide for a series of short books by different writers on the Seven Deadly Sins; and Elements of Style (Knopf, 2006), a soap-opera-like comedy of manners about post-9/11 Manhattan society, published posthumously. There is also an outline for a book titled "Two" that was never completed. The series includes some book reviews and, in the case of Pamela's First Musical, illustrations. Arranged alphabetically by title.

Series 2: Correspondence 1968-2000

Correspondence (1968-2000) includes personal and professional correspondence to and from Wasserstein tracing personal relationships and the development of her career. In addition to substantive letters, the series includes fan mail and greeting cards. The greeting cards include birthday, holiday, and congratulatory notes from childhood through adulthood, 1967-1986. The correspondence series also includes sympathy cards written on the occasion of her sister Sandra's death. Regular correspondents include Christopher Durang, Meryl Streep, Madeline Kahn, Mimi Kennedy, Tipper Gore, Frank Rich, Robert Elliot, William Ivey Long, Lola Wasserstein, Nita M. Lowey, Glenn Close, Judy Blume, Barbara Walters, Sarah Jessica Parker, Israel Horovitz, David Mamet, and Anna Wintour. This series also includes correspondence pertaining to the Theater Development Fund Open Door program, 1999-2001.

Series 3: Diaries and Notebooks, 1959-1973, 1993

Diaries and Notebooks, 1959-1973, 1993, undated, consist of hand-written bound diaries and spiral-bound notebooks filled with a variety of notes including personal diary entries, phone lists, drafts of letters, and descriptions of travels. The earliest diary, originally belonging to Wendy's older sister Georgette, includes entries by both sisters. Wasserstein's were written when she was eight and chronicle her summer including a week at Camp Nimrod where she writes, "I was stuck in the craby play" and the beginning of her fifth grade school year. Entries are about daily life including family trips, her grandfather's birthday, and her October eighteenth birthday. The July 1967 diary was written on a trip to Yugoslavia as part of World Youth Forum and is notable for her comments on relationships, sight-seeing, and food. A 1973 diary includes six pages about "Jamey", missing Mount Holyoke, Chris, and refers to her 8-year-old diary. An undated diary documents Wasserstein's trip to Romania with her niece Pamela and contains notes on the trip as well as notes for The Heidi Chronicles, which Wasserstein was writing at the time. The last diary discusses Wasserstein's quest, at forty-three, to have a child via insemination as well as a brief family biography. The diaries, with few exceptions, are highly introspective.

Series 4: Student Material, circa 1960-1976

Student Material, circa 1960-1976 and undated, consists of notebooks, student essays, tests and school publications. The student notebooks, 1966-1976, span Wendy's student days in primary school through graduate school. They include notes from the Calhoun School, summer school at New York University in 1969, classes at Mount Holyoke College including Geography, Political Science and Art, and notebooks from the Yale School of Drama. The series also includes early school projects, papers, examinations and report cards, 1964-1972. The yearbooks include a Calhoun School Ink Pot, 1967, and the 1968 and 1971 Mount Holyoke Llamarada.

Series 5: Awards and Honors, 1994-2006

Awards and Honors, 1994-2006, are materials relating to awards and honors garnered by Wasserstein. Included are a program from the 1993 Tony Awards, honorary degrees from Merrimack College and Amherst College and a Doctor of Letters from Mount Holyoke College. It is worth noting that many of the awards that Wasserstein received through the course of her life, including her Pulitzer and Tony awards, are not represented in physical form in this series or in the collection.

Series 6: Address Books, Appointment Books and Calendars 1979-2002

Address Books, Appointment Books and Calendars are dated 1979, 1982, 1986, 1996-1997, 1999-2002. The appointment books are composed of handwritten entries for a range of appointments including lunch or dinner dates with Wasserstein's colleagues, friends and acquaintances, almost exclusively written in Hermes appointment calendars. Phone messages were transcribed from an answering machine by Wasserstein's assistant and show the breadth of her social life. "Daily sheets" from 1999-2002 are computer-generated daily appointment sheets in roughly hourly segments documenting Wasserstein's to-do list. The address book, undated, is photocopied and is rather completely filled with names and phone numbers of friends and acquaintances.

Series 7: Autograph Book, circa 1963

Autograph Book, circa 1963, consists of an autograph book filled with good wishes and notes to Wasserstein from classmates and other people including her parents upon her graduation from the Brooklyn Ethical Culture School and move to the Calhoun School.

Series 8: Scrapbooks, undated, 1989

The Scrapbooks series consists of an empty undated "date" scrapbook as well as a scrapbook of the production of The Heidi Chronicles, 1989. The date scrapbook, apparently a gift to Wasserstein, provides pages to fill in dates, crushes etc, as well as empty pages for memorabilia and is notable for its emptiness. Both items are shelved in Folio.

Series 9: Memorabilia, 1977-2006

Memorabilia, 1977-2006, consists of playbills and pamphlets, theater tickets, and movie posters from various productions of Wasserstein's works, as well as a program from the Kennedy Center Honors (1994). Also includes "Who-Ha in America", a handwritten encyclopedia of notable personalities written by Christopher Durang for Wasserstein. Of note is a "Vivy Award": a joke award for The Sisters Rosensweig for 1995 Best Play on Tour signed by William Shakespeare.

Series 10: Biographical Material, 1969-2006

Biographical Material, 1969-2006, consists primarily of newspaper and magazine articles about Wasserstein's plays, her growing prominence in American theater, as well as biographical events including the birth of her daughter Lucy Jane and obituaries for Wasserstein. Also included are printed interviews with Wasserstein by a variety of interviewers throughout her career. Rounding out the series is an undated, unnamed essay on the major themes of Ms. Wasserstein's work. Compiled by Ms. Wasserstein, alumnae of the College as well as Archives and Special Collections.

Series 11: Legal and Financial Documents, 1969-2002

Legal and Financial Documents, 1969-2002, pertains primarily to Wasserstein's writing contracts with various magazines and publishing houses. Also included are a passport and receipts and invoices from various purchases, including stays at inns and airline tickets. Of particular interest is a dispute, via correspondence, over screenplay credit for the screenplay that eventually became Center Stage (2000) and which is titled in this collection as Dancing Girls/The Dance Movie.

Series 12: Family Papers, 1945-2009

Family Papers consists of three undated typed student papers written by Wasserstein's brother Bruce Wasserstein, a 1961 McBurney School yearbook belonging to Bruce Wasserstein, whose name is inscribed on the front end paper; clippings, correspondence, and an obituary for Wasserstein's sister Sandra.

Series 13:Audiovisual Materials, 1954-2006

Audiovisual Materials, 1954, 1959-1964, 1989, 1992, 2006, includes Kodachrome safety film from Miami Beach during Wasserstein's childhood labeled "Florida" 1960, "Wendy" 1959, and "Miami Beach" 1954. Audio cassettes in the series include tapes recorded in 1984 of the musical "Miami", and from Wasserstein's answering machine in 1992 entitled, "Rosensweig Birthday", with birthday wishes and congratulations on the success of The Sisters Rosensweig (1992). Also included is a recording of The Charlie Rose Show (2006) remembrance of Wasserstein, on DVD.

Series 14: Photographs, 1963-2002

The Photographs series includes photograph albums complied by Wasserstein from travel trips including a cooking trip to Badia, Italy, Singapore, and India, formal and informal photographs of Wendy Wasserstein, photographs from a variety of productions of Uncommon Women and Others and The Heidi Chronicles, publicity photographs on 8 ½ by 11 paper from The Object of my Affection, and photographs of friends and acquaintances of Wasserstein's, as well as formal events including Wasserstein's attendance at dinners at President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton's White House.

Series 15: Oversized Material, 1960-1990

Oversized Material contains items that would not fit in the standard boxes of other series. This includes scrapbooks and photograph albums.

Dates

  • 1954-2006

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

The Wendy Wasserstein Papers is the physical property of Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright belong to the author's legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the head of Archives and Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

Wendy Wasserstein, a prizewinning feminist playwright and author, was born October 18, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish immigrant parents Morris W. Wasserstein, a textile manufacturer, and Lola (Schleifer), a dancer. Wasserstein, the youngest of five siblings (Sandra Meyer, Abner, Georgette Levis, and Bruce) attended the Calhoun School in New York (1963-1967) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Mount Holyoke College in 1971. After studying writing at City College of New York, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1976 from Yale School of Drama. Wendy wrote and published more than 60 plays and screenplays, numerous articles, essays and speeches, and five books during her thirty-year career as an author and playwright. She both seriously and humorously addressed a range of topics including women and feminism, the theater, New York City, romance, and politics, in plays that include: "Any Woman Can’t" (1973), "Uncommon Women and Others" (1977), "Isn't It Romantic" (1983), "The Heidi Chronicles" (1988), "The Sisters Rosensweig" (1993), "An American Daughter" (1997), "Old Money" (2000), and "Third" (2005). She won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for The Heidi Chronicles in 1989. Many of her plays feature strong, complex female characters. As part of the New York theater scene, she collaborated with many notable artists including Yale classmate and playwright Christopher Durang and Playwrights Horizons and Lincoln Theater Center artistic director Andre Bishop.

Extent

41.29 Linear Feet (97 full Hollinger boxes and 4 half Hollinger boxes; 1 folio box, not included in linear feet calculation)

Abstract

Wasserstein, Wendy, 1950-2006; playwright and author, Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1971. Papers consist of writings (plays and screenplays, short writings, and books); correspondence; diaries and notebooks; student material; awards and honors; address books, appointment books, and calendars; scrapbooks; memorabilia; biographical material; legal and financial documents; family papers; audiovisual material; photographs; and oversized material. The materials primarily document Wendy Wasserstein's career as a pioneering, feminist Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and author.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into fifteen series:
  1. Writings (1976-2006)
  2. Correspondence (1965-2005)
  3. Diaries and Notebooks (1959-1993)
  4. Student Material (circa 1960-1971)
  5. Awards and Honors (1998-2003)
  6. Address Books, Appointment Books, and Calendars (1979-2002)
  7. Autograph Book (circa 1963)
  8. Scrapbooks (1989, undated)
  9. Memorabilia (1977-2006)
  10. Biographical Material (1969-2006)
  11. Legal and Financial Documents (1969-2002)
  12. Family Papers (1945-2004, undated)
  13. Audio Visual Materials (1954-2006)
  14. Photographs (1963-2002)
  15. Oversized Material

Additions to the Collection

The Wasserstein papers were donated incrementally between 1991 and 2004. Additional accruals are expected.

Processing Information

The Wendy Wasserstein papers are only partially processed.
Title
Wendy Wasserstein Papers, 1954-2006
Subtitle
Finding Aid
Author
Finding aid prepared by Patricia Albright, revised and expanded by Jennifer Gunter King, Caroline White, Ellen Whisler, and student assistants Katy Patrick, Nora Mariano and Kirsten Hanse.
Date
© 2011
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA
413-538-3079