Craig S. Rich
Harry Kondoleon was born on February 26, 1955, in Forest Hills, New York. He shared a birthday and an interest in art with his sister Christine, who was two years older. His father Sophocles, an accountant, and his mother Athena were first-generation Greek Americans but were known to their friends in Queens as Cliff and Tina. As a child, Kondoleon attended New York public schools, painted, and put on puppet shows. He was never sure exactly what drew him to writing plays but recalled being more inspired by great writers than by the theater he saw growing up.
Kondoleon received a B.A. in English literature from Hamilton College and pursued art studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and decided to spend a year in Bali studying Balinese theater. “I suppose it was a sort of zany thing for me to do,” Kondoleon said in a 1988 interview, “Here I was a playwright, going to study this nonverbal theater, which uses dance, mime, puppets and masks. Everything is done in a trance. People pass out, then they come to in a different state of being. But it did affect my work” (Richards G1).
Upon returning to the United States, Kondoleon entered the playwriting program at Yale. He received Yale’s Kazan Award for best original script in both 1979 and 1980 and completed his M.F.A. in 1981. His one-act plays quickly established him as an important young playwright with a distinctive voice. Critics and audiences took notice of his unique theatrical style, which at first appeared naturalistic but then spiraled into absurdism. Robert Brustein wrote that Kondoleon’s work was “totally irreverent, mischievous, and howlingly funny, but issuing from a deep core of personal pain” (Brustein 53).