Recalling the Life of Playwright Wendy Wasserstein

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Wendy Wasserstein speaks during a benefit dinner in New York City in May 2004.

Wendy Wasserstein speaks during a benefit dinner in New York City in May 2004. Getty Images hide caption

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A look at the life and career of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who died Monday in New York City. Her plays included The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig. Wasserstein died of lymphoma at the age of 55.


Playwright Wendy Wasserstein died earlier today in New York City. The Pulitzer Prize winner gave us such plays as The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig, where she explored difficult themes of women dealing with feminism, motherhood, work, and life in a world dominated by men.

And while that might not sound like a formula for comedy, her work was always characterized by good humor. You'll hear more about her life and career later today on NPR News. We wanted to remember the fun she brought to her appearance on this program in 2004, when Oxford University Press and the New York Public Library published her contribution to their series of books about the seven deadly sins. Wendy Wasserstein wrote about sloth, and a state that she liked to call lethargiosis(ph).

Ms. WENDY WASSERSTEIN (Playwright): It's kind of like, you know, in those protein diet states, you go into ketosis. Well, lethargiosis is that state when complete lethargy takes over your mind and body, so you no longer think, gee, I really should be running, or I should be learning Italian, or I should have a better job, or I should be nicer. It's just, lethargiosis, you're just in a whoosh of lethargy, a cloud.

CONAN: But proper lethargy, I mean, you have to set things up for yourself, don't you?

Ms. WASSERSTEIN: You really do have to set yourself up. Well, first of all, you have to really eliminate all ambition from your life, and anything stimulating. And the other thing is you have to get yourself a really cozy pair of pajamas, and a nice chair and then a table beside, well, not a chair. That's sitting up. I'm sorry. It's got to be a couch.

And you have to have a table beside the couch with all the foods you want to eat so you're not up and down, even thinking I should go to the refrigerator. Just have them lying there, cokes, well, cokes are a little stimulating. Maybe caffeine-free cokes, Lay's potato chips, they last forever. All those wonderful things with all those chemical additives that will just last, so you don't have to get up anymore.

CONAN: You write glowingly about triple-stuff Oreos.

Ms. WASSERSTEIN: Triple-stuffed Oreos are really the one that's most necessary, because it has all that cream-like substance, and you can spend a lot of time licking off the cream and reading In Style magazine. I'm very, very adamant about In Style magazine, because, you know, even people might be too stimulating. You just want to know, sort of, what Renee Zellweger wore on the red carpet. And that's enough.

CONAN: Playwright Wendy Wasserstein on sloth. Wendy Wasserstein died earlier today in New York City from lymphoma. Much more on the life and career of Wendy Wasserstein later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

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