Caryl Lesley Churchill

Caryl Lesley Churchill Biography

Women's Rights Activist, Playwright, Activist (1938–)
After writing radio and television plays for the BBC, British playwright Caryl Lesley Churchill penned the controversial theatrical play Seven Jewish Children.


Born on September 3, 1938, in London, England, Caryl Lesley Churchill wrote radio and television plays for the BBC in the 1960s and '70s. In 1972, her first professional play for the theater, Owners, premiered. In the 1980s, she won three Obie Awards for her plays. In 2009, her Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza stirred controversy. Churchill returned to the New York Theater Workshop in 2013.

Early Years

Caryl Lesley Churchill was born on September 3, 1938, in London, England. When Churchill was 10 years old, she and her family moved to Canada.

In 1957, Churchill returned to England for college. While studying English Literature at the University of Oxford's Lady Margaret Hall, she wrote three plays—Downstairs, Having a Wonderful Time and Easy Death—all of which were produced and performed by Oxford's theatrical troupes. When Churchill graduated in 1960, she chose to remain in London.

Radio and Television Plays

Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Churchill wrote radio and television plays for the BBC Network. Her radio scripts, including The Ants, Lovesick and Abortive, consisted of short scenes, quick setting changes and an intimate storytelling tone, which lent particularly well to the medium. Among Churchill's best known television plays is The Judge's Wife, published in 1973, and again in Shorts in 1990.

While writing plays for radio and television, Churchill was also raising a family. In 1961, she married David Harter. Over the course of the 1960s, the couple had three sons.

Theatrical Playwright

In 1972, Churchill's first professional play for the theater, entitled Owners, premiered at London's Royal Court Theater. In 1974, she became Resident Dramatist of the Royal Court, for one year. Well into the 1980s, she worked with numerous theater companies, including Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment, producing such works as Cloud Nine, and A Mouthful of Birds, co-written with David Lan. Her theatrical works from that time earned her three Obie Awards, and a Society of West End Theatre Award in 1988.

As the 1990s approached, Churchill's work began to take on a more ethereal quality, while also continuing to explore sexual politics from a feminist stance. Her 1991 play, Lives of the Great Prisoners, was an experiment in form, as Churchill—in collaboration with composer Orlando Gough and choreographer Ian Spink—incorporated dance, mime and singing into her script. The 1990s also wielded Churchill's plays Mad Forest and The Skriker.

In 2000 her play, Far Away, made its debut at the Royal Court, in the hands of illustrious director Stephen Daldry. In 2005, her revamp of August Strindberg's A Dream Play made its way to the stage of the National Theater.

In Recent Years

In 2009, Churchill's 10-minute play, Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza, her response to Israel's military strike on Gaza, was subject to controversy for its portrayal of Israelis.

Despite the negative press, in 2010, Churchill was honored by Surrey's Royal Holloway College when its new theater was named after her.

In recent news, Churchill participated in the New York Theater Workshop during the 2013-2014 season, with her new dramatic play, Love and Information, which opened in February 2014.

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