Dale Wasserman

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

Dale Wasserman wrote for theater, television and film for more than 50 years and is best known for the musical Man of La Mancha, a multiple Tony Award winner. He also wrote the stage play One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, based on Ken Kesey’s novel, which has won several Tony Awards. Both shows continue to be produced nationally and internationally with an estimated 300 productions a year.

Dale Wasserman has served the theater for over 50 years. In earlier days he roamed America as a hobo, riding freight trains and thereby avoiding any formal education whatsoever. At nineteen, he gravitated into the theater where he cut his teeth on every conceivable job — stage manager, lighting designer, director and producer among them.

At age 33, he walked off the Broadway musical he was directing, abruptly deciding to become a writer. Since then, he has produced a continuous body of work for the theater, film and television. Never writing with a direct eye on commercial reward, his instincts have drawn him to a vast range of subjects, with serendipity often lending a hand. Visiting Spain in the late 1950s, the press incorrectly reported that he was researching Don Quixote. Intrigued, he did just that, becoming more interested in Miguel de Cervantes than in his famous protagonist. The result was I, Don Quixote, a TV drama starring Lee J. Cobb, Eli Wallach, and Colleen Dewhurst, which in turn became Man of La Mancha, multiple Tony-winner and among the longest-running Broadway musicals of all time.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, also a multiple Tony-winner, was initially a flop on Broadway but later played to packed houses for 4 years in New York and 5 years in San Francisco — leading, of course, to the famous film.

Mr. Wasserman’s many other credits include screenplays for The Vikings, Cleopatra,and A walk with love and death, as well as countless TV dramas. Recently his play about Haiti, An enchanted land, had its premiere in London. Currently he has no less than three new musicals : Western Star, a look at the shady side of American "pioneers"; A Walk In the Sky, about the power of art to reach the primitive heart; and a revised version of Duke Ellington’s masterpiece, Beggar’s Holiday. The Rubicon Theatre has presented an entire season of Mr. Wasserman’s works, and Players in the game has been published. In addition, he has a comedy called Premiere! .