Christopher Bigsby is emeritus professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia (UEA) where he taught from 1969 to 2018. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts, is an award winning academic, novelist and biographer. Together with Malcolm Bradbury, he has written plays for BBC radio and television. His first novel, Hester, won the McKitterick Prize. Beautiful Dreamer (2002) was an American Library Association Notable Book. With Don Wilmeth, he won the Bernard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History and the George Freedley Jury Award for The Cambridge History of the American Theatre. He has also received the 'NAFSA Education Abroad Leadership Award'. His biography of Arthur Miller was shortlisted for the James Taite Black Memorial Prize, the Sheridan Morley Prize and the George Freedley Memorial Award. It was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 and was joint winner of the American Studies network Award. His is also winner of the Betty Jean Jones Award for Outstanding Teacher of American Theatre and Drama.
As a broadcaster, he presented Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope for over eight years, as well as Radio 3’s Third Ear and Radio 4’s Off the Page. He was also presenter of Radio 3’s First Night and Radio 4’s Present Voices, Past Words and The Index as well as presenting editions of The Archive Hour and Centurions. He has made television programmes on John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. He has reviewed for a number of national newspapers (including The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph) and his programme notes have appeared in theatres throughout the UK, in Australia, Canada and the United States. For 18 years he was Director of the British Council’s flagship Cambridge Seminar and has travelled widely on its behalf. He holds honorary degrees from Bolton University and the Complutense University of Madrid and was the 2019 winner of the Exceptional Contribution Award presented by the East Anglian Book Awards.
He has published some sixty books, including a two-volume biography of Arthur Miller and his latest novel, Ishmael.
It is 1890. New York. Political corruption is rife. Police are for sale. A young reporter is charged with investigating murders, which are murders, and suicides which may also be murders except that the law can be persuaded otherwise. He takes risks, calculated and otherwise. Not that his own life bears too much investigation. Relationships barely survive a few months at best. Every now and then, though, there is an assignment which appeals. He is sent to interview Mark Twain who had written about the gilded age in which personal and national innocence is traded for wealth. His main problem, though, is that the paper’s owner believes that the Indians have a clue to America’s destiny, so he is sent west to meet Sitting Bull. On the way, he discovers that not everything is as it seems even as he witnesses Sitting Bull’s death and the massacre at Wounded Knee in the company of someone with the ability to turn his life around. In 1890, the frontier was declared closed. Something else ended that year, an idea of America.
In American Dramatists in the 21st Century: Opening Doors, Christopher Bigsby examines the careers of seven award-winning playwrights: David Adjmi, Julia Cho, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Will Eno, Martyna Majok, Dominique Morisseau and Anna Ziegler. In addition to covering all their plays, including several as yet unpublished, he notes their critical reception while drawing on their own commentary on their approach to writing and the business of developing a career.
The writers studied come from a diverse range of racial, religious and immigrant backgrounds. Five of the seven are women. Together, they open doors on a changing theatre and a changing America, as ever concerned with identity, both personal and national.
This is the third in a series of books which, together, have explored the work of twenty-four American playwrights who have emerged in the current century.