PERSONAL: Female. Education: Kenyon College, B.A.; Yale School of Drama, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Kenyon College, Department of Dance and Drama, Gambier, OH 43022. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Playwright. Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, James E. Michael playwright-in-residence, 1990—.
MEMBER: Dramatists Guild, Authors League of America, New Dramatists Alumna.
AWARDS, HONORS: Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award nomination, for The Water Children; Special Jury Award, Sundance Film Festival, for The House of Yes.
Cinema Verite (one-act), first produced at the Yale Cabaret, New Haven, CT, 1987.
The Lost Colony (one-act; first produced at Ensemble Studio Theater, New York, NY, 1991), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1993.
The Shallow End (one-act; first produced in New York, NY, 1992), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1992.
Sin (first produced at the Goodman Theater, Chicago, IL, 1994), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1998.
Division Three (short play), first produced in San Francisco, CA, 1995.
The Water Children (first produced off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, 1997), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1999.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (children's musical; based on the book by Marjorie Priceman), first produced at Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, 2000.
Schoolgirl Figure, first produced at the Goodman Theater, Chicago, IL, 2000.
Chemistry (short play), first produced at Collaboration, Chicago, IL, 2001.
Things Being What They Are, first produced at Seattle Repertory Theater, Seattle, WA, 2002.
Juvenilia, first produced off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, New York, NY, 2003.
Boxes (short play), first produced at Collaboration, Chicago, IL, 2004.
The Water Children was included in Women Playwrights: The Best Plays of 1998, edited by Marisa Smith, Smith and Kraus, 1998. Also the author of short play Shooting Pollock.
Author of CBS pilot, Ivory Tower, 2001; author of screenplay adaptation of Schoolgirl Figure for HBO, 2002; author of BBC adaptation of Apocalyptic Butterflies, 1988. Executive story editor, Popular, 1999-2000.
ADAPTATIONS: The House of Yes was adapted for a 1997 film of the same title starring Parker Posey and Genevieve Bujold.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Play called Phantom Limbs.
SIDELIGHTS: The author of numerous plays, Wendy MacLeod made a name for herself with the film adaptation of her 1990 play, The House of Yes. As a playwright she deals with themes from incest to eating disorders to male bonding. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she has been a longtime playwright-in-residence at her undergraduate alma mater, Kenyon College.
MacLeod scored her first success with the 1987 play Apocalyptic Butterflies, a drama featuring a young couple having trouble adjusting to parenthood. While the wife feels she has wasted her education by becoming a mother, the father begins to feel trapped in marriage and responsibility. Though the husband strays into the arms of another for a time, the story "ends happily," according to Hedy Weiss, reviewing the play in the Chicago Sun-Times. The play was adapted the following year for a BBC production.
The House of Yes was a major critical success. Premiering in San Francisco, the play is "wacky," "funny," "racy," and "definitely twisted," according to Amy Reiter in Back Stage. The production features the bizarre Pascal family and touches on themes from incest to alcoholism. For Reiter, MacLeod's play is a "wild ride—so quick and clever that you may find yourself yukking it up at some undeniably sick things." Kristina Mannion, reviewing a 2001 production of the play for Back Stage West, thought that "dysfunctional doesn't even begin to describe the family on display in Wendy MacLeod's disturbing black comedy."
MacLeod's play Sin premiered in 1994 at Chicago's Goodman Theater. According to Eric Grode in Back Stage, "the sum of Sin's parts are considerably greater than the whole." For Grode, this comedy has a "formulaic plot, one-dimensional characters, and a central theme that isn't exactly ground-breaking." However, Grode also commented that "the damn thing works, thanks to MacLeod's perceptive writing." The tale of a female radio traffic reporter, whose god-like viewpoint (aboard a helicopter) begins to take its toll on her personal life as she encounters the biblical seven deadly sins, will be recalled, Grode noted, as an "intriguing, if not flawless early work." Robert Faires, writing in the Austin Chronicle, considered Sin one of his top theater experiences of the year. "MacLeod's script is clever and funny," Faires lauded, with "each scene sharper and more funny than the last."
In the 1997 play The Water Children, MacLeod serves up "controversial issues with wit and candor," according to Variety reviewer Robert L. Daniels. In this two-act play, MacLeod tells the story of a pro-choice actress who reluctantly takes part in a pro-life commercial and subsequently becomes romantically involved with the director of an anti-abortion group. Eating disorders are at the center of the 1995 comedy Schoolgirl Figure, while in Juvenilia "a group of naughty college friends [lure] the Christian fundamentalist down the hall into a three-way," as Gina Bazer described the plot in Chicago Social magazine. Alexis Soloski, writing in the Village Voice, was not shocked by Juvenilia, however, noting that "like its adolescent characters," the play "wants to pretend it's edgier than it is." A reviewer for CurtainUp.com credited MacLeod for the content of Juvenilia, saying that she managed to "touch on universally interesting issues . . . dealing with youthful uncertainty, insecurity and grief via random sex, alcohol and emotional cover-up."
In her 2003 comedy, Things Being What They Are, MacLeod writes about "two men who become unlikely fast pals," as Bazer noted. The same critic went on to observe that "for a playwright who's known for her proclivity to shock, this play is surprisingly normal in a suburban angst kind of way—and MacLeod is OK with that."
Speaking with Caridad Svich in the Dramatist, MacLeod explained that she does not think of herself as a "political playwright, although I'd like to. It would make me feel important. Rather, I'm someone who delights in sacred-cow tipping, to use a Midwestern analogy. I delight in contradicting the party line. Call it the Theater of Inversion." In an interview with artistic director Tim Sanford published on the author's Home Page, MacLeod observed, "People have described my work as black comedy, but for me that was not something I was entirely in control of. I think it was the way I saw the world."
MacLeod told CA: "I was always interested in writing, both fiction and playwriting. As for influences, like many playwrights, I am a great admirer of Harold Pinter. (Someone once described my work as an unlikely collision between Noel Coward and Harold Pinter.) My writing process is to work on one play at a time. I romp through the first draft, and then build up subsequent drafts the way a painter builds up the surface of a canvas. I often rewrite as I go, going back over a particular section again and again, until I'm impelled forward through the story. "Occasionally, I can sit back and actually enjoy something I've written, wondering whence it came. I've had the experience with The House of Yes, Schoolgirl Figure, and Things Being What They Are. I hope to jolt the imaginations of the audience, to make them look at something familiar in a new way. I want to move them or make them laugh or both. I like to take subjects that have been earnestly explored, like incest or eating disorders, and suggest they're symptomatic of something that's wrong with the larger culture. I want to render them larger, and more surprising."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Theatre, January, 1998, Karen Houppert, review of The Water Children, p. 46.
Back Stage, February 3, 1995, Amy Reiter, review of The House of Yes, p. 44; October 27, 1995, Eric Grode, review of Sin, p. 36; November 7, 1997, Victor Gluck, review of The Water Children, p. 44.
Back Stage West, April 12, 2001, Kristina Mannion, review of The House of Yes, p. 16.
Chicago Social, June, 2003, Gina Bazer, "House of MacLeod."
Chicago Sun-Times, November 29, 1988, Hedy Weiss, review of Apocalyptic Butterflies, p. 37.
Chicago Tribune, May 30, 2003, Chris Jones, "The attack of Wendy MacLeod," p. 3.
Denver Post, February 13, 1999, Ed Will, review of The House of Yes, p. F5.
Dramatist, May-June, 2003, Caridad Svich, "Wendy MacLeod in Conversation."
Entertainment Weekly, April 17, 1998, Michael Sauter, review of The House of Yes, p. 78.
Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1998, Don Shirley, review of The Water Children, p. 31; January 14, 2000, F. Kathleen Foley, review of Sin, p. 46.
New York Times, October 31, 1999, Alvin Klein, review of The Water Children, pg. 14; December 10, 2003, Bruce Weber, review of Juvenilia, p. E5.
Time, October 20, 1997, Richard Corliss, review of The House of Yes, p. 100.
Variety, November 10, 1997, Robert L. Daniels, review of The Water Children, p. 52.
Village Voice, December 17, 2003, Alexis Soloski, review of Juvenilia, p. C82.
Washington Post, July 2, 2002, Jane Horowitz, "For Cherry Red, an Appetizing Tale," p. C5.
Austin Chronicle,http://www.austinchronicle.com/ (September 1, 2004), Robert Faires, review of Sin.
Offıcial Wendy MacLeod Web site,http://www.ltb.pair.com/ (November, 2003), Tim Sanford, interview with MacLeod.
Wendy MacLeod Home Page,http://www.wendymacleod.com (September 1, 2004).