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Arts and Culture:
Wallace Shawn
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What does it mean to be an American in the dangerous post 9-11 world? NOW gets the thoughtful perspective of actor and playwright Wallace Shawn on an America living with violence and the individual responsibility of Americans for their government's actions in the world. "I have such a pleasant life, and I never encounter violence," says Shawn. "“People are killed on a daily basis in order for us to have the material goods that we enjoy." David Brancaccio talks to Shawn about what he discovered when he set out to navigate America’s post-9/11 moment in a magazine he created with contributions from Deborah Eisenberg, Mark Strand, Jonathan Schell and Noam Chomsky.

Wallace Shawn

Wallace Shawn
Playwright and actor Wallace Shawn is currently appearing on the New York stage in David Rabe's HURLY BURLY. As Shawn told NOW's David Brancaccio, "This is the only play that I've been in about 25 years that I didn't write."

Shawn's accomplished literary career began early — he is the son of William Shawn and Cecille Lyon Shawn who both worked at THE NEW YORKER. William Shawn was the editor of the famed magazine from 1952 to 1987. After attending Harvard and a stint in India on a Fulbright Fellowship, Shawn studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. His first play, FOUR MEALS IN MAY, was heavily influenced by the conflict over the war in Vietnam.

In the 1970s Shawn began a collaboration with director and actor Andre Gregory which grew into the into MY DINNER WITH ANDRE. The 1981 film version, directed by Louis Malle, consisted of a filmed conversation between two New Yorkers of different philosophies and temperaments.

In 1985, Shawn's play AUNT DAN AND LEMON won the Obie Award for Distinguished Playwriting. After travels in war-torn Central America, Shawn wrote THE FEVER, which further explored the relationship of privilege and poverty. The Public Theater's production of THE FEVER, won the 1991 Obie Award for Best New American Play. In 1996, Shawn followed this success with THE DESIGNATED MOURNER, which was made into a movie in 1997.

In 2004 a film version of THE FEVER starring Vanessa Redgrave, was featured at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. One of the latest of Shawn's plays has made it to film — MARIE AND BRUCE is scheduled for release in 2005. His translation of THE THREEPENNY OPERA will go into production shortly.

In 1979, Shawn had his first film role in Woody Allen's MANHATTAN. Familiar to many fans as the inept kidnapper Vizzini in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, Shawn has acted in over sixty films and television episodes.

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