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Arnold Wesker

(b. 1932) English dramatist

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(1932– )

British playwright and director. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society Literature in 1985.

Wesker was born in the East End of London into a family of communist Jewish immigrants. He was educated at Upton House Central School, Hackney, which he left in 1948. For the next decade he pursued a variety of unskilled or semiskilled trades, including farm labourer and pastrycook, broken by a spell in the RAF (1950–52). His first play, The Kitchen, was produced at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1959 and filmed in 1961. The trilogy Chicken Soup with Barley (1957), Roots (1959), and I'm Talking about Jerusalem (1960) were first performed at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, and subsequently at the Royal Court (1959–60). Chips With Everything (1962) was his first West End success and was produced on Broadway the following year. These five plays established Wesker as an important force in the British theatre.

Between 1961 and 1970 Wesker was director of Centre 42, an institution based on labour-movement support and aiming to enable the arts to reach beyond their traditional middle-class audience. In this period Wesker began to direct his own plays, with The Four Seasons in Cuba in 1968 and the world première of The Friends in Stockholm in 1970. Since that time many of his plays have been premièred abroad; The Journalists, for example, appeared first on Yugoslav TV. Love Letters on Blue Paper, published as a story in 1974, was staged in 1978 as a play at the National Theatre, London, with the author directing. Caritas (1981) was also first produced at the National Theatre. In 1980 his Collected Plays appeared in four volumes. More recent work includes Four Portraits (1982), Annie Wobbler (1983), When God Wanted a Son (1986), Beorhtel's Hill (1989), Blood Libel (1991), and Break My Heart (1997).

Subjects: Performing artsTheatre

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