Authors: Ken Ludwig

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright

Author Works

Drama:

Class Night, pr. 1970 (sketches)

Divine Fire, pr. 1979

Sullivan and Gilbert, pr. 1983

Postmortem, pr. 1984

Dramatic License, pr. 1985

Lend Me a Tenor, pr. 1985 (as Opera Buffa), pr., pb. 1986

Crazy for You, pr. 1991 (libretto; adaptation of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin’s play Girl Crazy)

Moon over Buffalo, pr., pb. 1996

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, pr. 2001 (musical; adaptation of Mark Twain’s novel)

Biography

Ken Ludwig is a man with different names for his two divergent careers: As an attorney, he is Kenneth D. Ludwig; he writes plays under his abbreviated name. Born in York, Pennsylvania, he graduated from York Suburban High School in 1968. He chose Haverford College in Pennsylvania to study music theory and composition. Following graduation in 1972 with a B.A., magna cum laude, Ludwig faced some hard decisions about his future.{$I[A]Ludwig, Ken}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Ludwig, Ken}{$I[tim]1950;Ludwig, Ken}

From the time he saw his first play at age six, Ludwig yearned to be in the theater. His mother’s theatrical interests and family trips to Broadway shows had enticed him, and he considered playwriting. However, his physician father, Jacob S. Ludwig, advised his son to pursue a career that would offer greater stability.

Ludwig entered Harvard Law School. Partway through his studies, he decided to attend Trinity College at Cambridge University in England. At Trinity, Ludwig opted to study English literature. He graduated from Trinity in 1975 and returned to Harvard to graduate in 1976. That year was an eventful one for Ludwig. He went to work at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C., and married attorney Adrienne George. They would have two children.

From 1976 to 1989, Ludwig worked as an attorney in international business and entertainment law, but each morning he would rise at 4:30 a.m. and write until it was time to leave for the firm. His first production while he juggled dual careers was Divine Fire, performed in Washington, D.C., in 1979, then Off-Off-Broadway in 1980. He followed with the musical Sullivan and Gilbert, which dealt with the stormy relationship between dramatist Sir William S. Gilbert and songwriter Sir Arthur Sullivan. Sullivan and Gilbert received its New York showing in 1984. It was not until Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 London production of Ludwig’s farce Lend Me a Tenor, however, that Ludwig was catapulted into the theatrical world he had persistently sought.

Lend Me a Tenor is a farce that employs quick comebacks and fast action. This high comedy won two Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and three Outer Critics Circle Awards. The play’s success on Broadway presented Ludwig with the opportunity to write full time. He maintained a status “of counsel” at his law firm and consulted in the areas of publishing, copyright, and intellectual property rights.

In 1990, the Kennedy Center Honors award show written by Ludwig was nominated for an Emmy. Although offers came from Hollywood, Ludwig chose to stay with the theater and write a new book for George and Ira Gershwin’s Girl Crazy, which he titled Crazy for You. This musical introduced Ludwig to the grueling process of reshaping, rewriting, and, for the second act, complete restructuring before it opened in New York. The hard work proved worthwhile when Crazy for You won the Tony Award for Best Musical of 1992.

Luckily for theater audiences, Ludwig returned to his most successful genre to date, the nostalgic farce. Moon over Buffalo in its Broadway production featured Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco as a travel-weary couple heading up a second-rate acting company. The play used the farcical elements of mistaken identities, misinterpreted notes, and multiple stage doors to enhance the snappy dialogue.

While Ludwig has expanded his writing talents to include screenwriting, he continues to write for the theater. Ludwig has said about his comedies, “The tradition of stage comedy that I admire most is what scholars call ‘high comedy’ and what I like to call ‘muscular comedy.’” He has taken a long-forgotten theatrical art form and colored it with contemporary humor. Ludwig’s plays have helped to reestablish and reintroduce the genre of farce to modern audiences.

BibliographyGluck, Victor. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Back Stage 42(May 11, 2001): 45. One reviewer’s opinion of Ludwig’s Broadway musical.Riggs, Thomas, ed. Contemporary Dramatists. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. Comprehensive biographical resource.Traubner, Richard. “Broadway: Life Beyond The Producers.” American Record Guide 64, no. 5 (September, 2001): 30. The article discusses Ludwig’s adaptation of Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
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