A Tribute to Wendy Wasserstein

Playwright Wendy Wasserstein has died.

There are a number of beautiful obituaries for her on the web right now and I'm sure they'll continue as the day goes on, but the one I find the most comforting is from The Miami Herald.

I loved Wendy Wasserstein's work. I loved them for their wit, for their ridiculous humor, for their unabashed blatant political statements. I even loved them for the things I hated: the similar characters and dialogue, the whining, the pseudo-man bashing. Maybe it was because I could see their flaws and respect her work anyway. Maybe it was because I, too, am a Jewish girl with overprotective parents. Maybe it was because her characters saw what they wanted and went after it-- a character trait I admire. Whatever it was, her work inspired me to continue writing.

Sometimes it's about timing. She caught me at the exact right moment with The Heidi Chronicles, a pick from my 10th grade English class. Her plays led the life I wanted (well, except for the dead-end romances with schmucks), told with the sense of humor I stole as my own.

I followed her career as my own began, even forgiving her missteps (An American Daughter, which disappointed me when I saw it on Broadway) because every interview I read of hers was a delight. She was a woman I admired; a woman I wanted to befriend.

I never did, but I thought about writing to her a lot. To tell her that her words danced across my mind, reverberated, making me feel dizzy and real. To tell her that her feminism was my blueprint; that her work and her life meant something to me even though I later discarded her brand of identity for my own. That her books sit on my office's inspiration shelf and that even now I thumb through them on bad days reminding myself why I write.

Her death makes today one of those bad days. Yet, even though she is no longer with us, she still inspires me and reminds me why I write. This time, it is to her.

Ms. Wasserstein, you'll be sorely missed. Thank you for all you've done for me.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. I must admit, this story has made me feel so sad all day long that I am a bit sheepish about it. After all, I didn't even know her. And yet...and yet...having read the long sections about her in Sylvia Hewitt's "Creating a Life", and also Wendy Wasserstein's own (long) essay about her struggles to give birth to Lucy Jane in 1999, this news of her death just breaks my heart. All of that love and struggle and determination, only to have just seven precious years with her beautiful, longed-for daughter..and to think how scared and distraught she must have been as she died, knowing that her beloved child would be left an orphan at the age of 7...oh, God, I really can't stand it after all. I think I should stop writing now. Thanks again for this beautiful entry.

Brandi. said...

Thanks for your kind words. I feel the same way you do--embarrassed to feel so very, very sad.

But, perhaps, that's a good thing. She touched our lives. And even though we don't know her directly, we did know her how could.

I read in Salon that Broadway was dimming their lights tonight in her honor. It seems that we're all doing our parts to express our appreciation for all that she was.