Born of Irish Catholic parents in New York City, Guare was an only child. His parents led intense but somewhat separate lives and young Guare found himself increasingly alone as he grew up. He spent his childhood reading, listening to albums of Broadway musicals, and writing plays. His first play was presented in a neighbor's garage when he was eleven. Guare first came to public attention with his one-act play Muzeeka (1968), a biting social satire about an ambitious man who works for a canned-music company that inflicts its banal arrangements on the entire country. The hero, Jack Argue, is a modern guilt-ridden "Everyman" who has sold himself out to the system. The play was first performed at Connecticut's Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, then at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. On April 28, 1968, it opened off-Broadway at the Provincetown Playhouse on a double bill with Sam Shepard's Red Cross. Muzeeka ran for 65 performances and earned its author an Obie Award that year. The House of Blue Leaves (1971), Guare's first full-length play, is set in a Queens apartment on the day the Pope is making his first visit to New York City. A savage farce, The House of Blue Leaves presents an unrelenting attack on lower middle-class values. It shows the emptiness of the characters' inner lives and the horror of their senseless acts of violence. The play won both an Obie and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1971. In 1986 it enjoyed a highly successful revival at New York's Lincoln Center, which further established Guare as a unique and critically acclaimed American playwright. His more recent plays, such as Six Degrees of Separation (1990), show the playwright turning toward a more tragic outlook. Critics have been almost universal in their praise of Guare's screenplay for Louis Malle's film, Atlantic City (1981). Although not published in book form, the Canadian-French film has been distributed by Paramount in the United States. It is a bittersweet, Runyonesque tale about a small-time numbers runner, played by Burt Lancaster, and a small-town waitress, played by Susan Sarandon. Atlantic City received a number of honors, including best-screenplay awards by the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Society, and the New York Film Critics Circle.Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Tillie Olsen received only a high school education. But because of her success as a writer, she has served as a visiting lecturer and writer-in-residence at a number of colleges, including Amherst College, Stanford University, and MIT. She has received numerous awards for her work, including an O. Henry Award for best American short story (1961) and a Guggenheim fellowship (1976-77). The widely anthologized "I Stand Here Ironing" (1961), in the circumstances of its publication and its voice and subject, embodies the concerns of Olsen's literary career. In this monologue of a woman reviewing her relationship to her 19-year-old daughter, Olsen suggests the themes of the blighted potential and wasted talent of working-class women that have preoccupied her throughout her career. As she irons, the woman mournfully meditates on how she may have prevented her daughter's full "flowering" - a flowering that she herself has never had. Most intensely recalled is how she had to leave her infant daughter to go to work after her husband abandoned them. A mother herself by age 19, Olsen did not publish her first work until she was in her forties (though she began to write in her teens) when the pressures of supporting herself and her four children lessened and she felt she had written something worthy of publication. At times considered unrelenting in the despair that she attributes to her characters, Olsen's style is marked by a rhythmic, hypnotic lyricism and an evocative use of language. Olsen later published an introductory essay to the reprint of Rebecca Harding Davis's nineteenth-century novel, Life in the Iron Mills. In Silences (1978), a collection of essays, she addresses directly the various cultural, political, and economic forces that silence women writers and writers from working-class or minority backgrounds.