Tom Stoppard: A Brief Biography

Lary Opitz, Department of Theatre

    No contemporary playwright has been as successful as Tom Stoppard in creating what have been termed "serious comedies" -- funny plays that deal with important ideas. His efforts have been recognized and rewarded with many awards for playwriting, including three Tonys on Broadway. He has received quite a number of honorary degrees and this past year he was honored with a knighthood in the United Kingdom.

    Stoppard was born Tom Straussler in Zlìn, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) on July 3, 1937. When he was two years old, his family fled from the Nazis to Singapore where his father, a company physician, was killed at the start of World War II. Stoppard and his mother lived in India for the duration of the war and then moved to England in 1946. There she wed Major Kenneth Stoppard of the British Army. Tom assumed his stepfather's surname.

    Tom Stoppard's earliest writing was as a newspaper journalist after he quit school at the age of seventeen. He began writing his first plays in the 1960s with A Walk on the Water and won his first critical acclaim with Rosencrantz and Guilenstern Are Dead in 1965. Since then he has written many television scripts, radio plays, short stories, film scripts (including Brazil, The Russia House, Billy Bathgate, and Empire of the Sun) and over forty plays. Stoppard's latest success was The Invention of Love . This opened to rave reviews at the Royal National Theatre in 1997 and is destined for London's West End this year.

    Stoppard is considered to be a master of comic invention, visual humor, and remarkably witty wordplay. He uses his considerable skills to investigate philosophical questions in an extremely entertaining manner. Since 1977 Stoppard has become concerned with a number of human rights issues and he has been active in Amnesty International.

    Tom Stoppard has been married twice. In 1965 he wed Jose Ingle with whom he had two sons. When this marriage ended in divorce in 1971 he married Dr. Miriam Moore-Robinson with whom he had two more sons. In 1991 he left his wife for actress Felicity Kendal.