Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Keeping Up with the Kazans

Zoe Kazan, center, with her parents Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord.
The Kazan Family at a Glance

Elia Kazan (1909-2003)
Molly Day Thatcher (1906-63)

Nicholas Kazan (b. 1950)
Robin Swicord (b. 1952)

Zoe Kazan (b. 1983)
Maya Kazan (b.1985)
Actress, screenwriter and playwright Zoe Kazan is no stranger to the world of entertainment.

South Coast Repertory’s world premiere of Trudy and Max in Love is Zoe’s third produced play and is another example of the family legacy she represents. Her roots are deep in the worlds of stage and screen—Zoe is the daughter of Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord and granddaughter of Elia Kazan and Molly Day Thatcher. A family of writers, performers, directors and producers, their collective credits are impressive.

The family’s legacy begins with its most recognized family member: Elia Kazan. He made his mark in both the theatrical world and in Hollywood. An award-winning director, Elia attended Yale University’s School of Drama and joined Lee Strasberg’s Group Theatre in New York. With Group Theatre, Elia began as an actor, performing in multiple plays under Group, including Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty.

Elia Kazan
Elia began directing during this time as well, including A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, All My Sons and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. He joined again with Lee Strasberg, Robert Lewis, Anna Sokolow and Cheryl Crawford to establish the Actors Studio, renowned for its teaching of method acting. Elia continued to direct plays and eventually transitioned to film, with feature films such as Viva Zapata!, Gentleman’s Agreement and the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Elia left the stage behind, found success on screen and helped to launch the careers of stars like Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Natalie Wood. His success came with some controversy: at a hearing before Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee of Un-American Activities in 1952, Elia named multiple colleagues as communists or communist sympathizers.  Despite his committee testimony, Elia still maintained an active film career. He also wrote and directed the film On the Waterfront, which focused on informants and the choices they made. During the remainder of his career, Elia continued directing films such as East of Eden, The Last Tycoon and America, America. He wrote four best-selling novels and, in 1999, received the Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The second generation of Kazans includes Elia’s son, Nicholas Kazan. Nicholas has penned the screenplays for Bicentennial Man, Patty Hearst, co-wrote Matilda with wife Robin Swicord, and many more. Outside of film, Nicholas has written two plays, Mile. God and Blood Moon.

Robin Swicord, Zoe’s mother, is an accomplished screenwriter; she wrote screenplays for Memoirs of a Geisha, Practical Magic and collaborated on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Her plays include Criminal Minds and Last Days at the Dixie Girl CafĂ©. Robin crossed paths with South Coast Repertory during the 1980s, when she was a commissioned SCR playwright. One of her plays had a staged reading at SCR; at the time, Robin was pregnant with Zoe.

The third generation of Kazans is early in their careers, but the family’s legacy continues. Zoe’s younger sister, Maya, has stage credits that include David Ives’ adaptation The Liar and Michael Rabe’s The Future is Not What It Was. On screen, Maya’s credits include numerous short films, a role in her father’s screen adaptation of his play Blood Moon, as well as writing and directing her own two short films Lulu at the Ace Hotel and I Bit My Lip So Hard It Bled.

Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan in Ruby Spark.
Zoe’s works span theatre and film as both an actress and writer. Like her grandfather, she studied at Yale University’s School of Drama and began her career in acting. Performing both on and off-Broadway, her credits include the plays The Seagull, 100 Saints You Should Know, Come Back, Little Sheba and Angels in America. On screen, Zoe has performed for both film and television. Her film credits include The F Word, Happythankyoumoreplease, It’s Complicated and Revolutionary Road. She wrote and starred in the 2012 indie film hit, Ruby Sparks, and wrote the play We Live Here, Absalom.

Multiple generations of artists, and a family with numerous credits and success, the Kazan name continues to be a fixture in the worlds of theatre and film. The world premiere of Zoe’s Trudy and Max in Love is just another accomplishment to add to this family’s long list.

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