Sunday, 3 July 2011

Britain is a country which says "Happy Birthday" to an old playwright and adopted Englishman called Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard is 74 years old today.

Things you possibly didn't know about Tom or, to use his real name, Tomáš Straussler, that he :

* was the son of Jewish parents in Czechoslovakia where his father was a doctor with the Bata shoe company and, as a 2 year old, left with his family fleeing German occupation in 1939 and settled in Singapore.

* in 1941, at the age of five, with the Japanese invasion of Singapore, was evacuated to Darjeeling in India, while his father died in Japanese captivity.

* in 1945, after his mother married a British Army Major who gave him his English surname, became 'Tom Stoppard' and moved to England.

* despite being told by his stepfather : "Don't you realise that I made you British?"
has said that, if "I find I put a foot wrong, it could be pronunciation...and suddenly I'm there naked, as someone with a pass, a press ticket."

* after being educated at schools in Yorkshire, became a journalist, a drama critic and then, in 1960, a playwright, where his background is reflected in his characters, who are "constantly being addressed by the wrong name, with jokes and false trails to do with the confusion of having two names".

* at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre formed friendships with director John Boorman and actor Peter O'Toole and became known more for his strained attempts at humour and unstylish clothes than for his writing.

* in 1964, spent 5 months writing in a Berlin mansion, what later became his Tony Award winning play, 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'.

* produced 'Jumpers' in 1972, which placed a 'professor of moral philosophy' in a murder mystery thriller and 'Travesties' in 1974, which explored the 'Wildean' possibilities arising from the fact that Lenin, Joyce, and Tristan Tzara had all been in Zurich during the First World War.

* has also co-written screenplays including 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', and although he was uncredited, Spielberg has said that "he was responsible for almost every line of dialogue in the film".

* has, in his serious work explored themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom along with exploration of linguistics and philosophy, is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation and in 2008, was voted 'number 76' on Time Magazine's list of 'the most influential people in the world.'

* has said this about starting a play :

P.S. I saw and enjoyed his play 'Jumpers' in New York in 2004.

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