Tom Stoppard

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Tom Stoppard b.1937

The playwright, Tom Stoppard, was born Tomas Straussler in Czechoslovakia in 1937. He received an English education, albeit in India, whence his family had fled to avoid the Japanese invasion of Singapore. His father was killed during this exodus, and his mother married a British army major called Stoppard, hence his anglo-saxon surname.

His most famous work to date is "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", a brillant comedic play which casts two minor characters from Hamlet as its leads but with the same lack of power to affect their world or exterior circumstances as they have in Shakespeare's original. Hamlet's role is similarly reversed in terms of his stage time and lines, but it is in his wake that the heroes drift helplessly toward their inevitable demise. Rather than shaping events they pass the time playing witty word games and pondering the how's, where's, why's and who's of their predicament. It is similar in many ways to Beckett's absurdist "Waiting For Godot", particularly in the main character's lack of purpose and comprehension of their situation. He also wrote Travesties, a parody of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, "The Real Thing," and "Arcadia."

Stoppard also won an Academy Award in 1999 for cowriting the screenplay of the film "Shakespeare in Love".