Yasmina Reza

Playwright and Actress, France

Move over, Andrew Lloyd Webber. The superstar of European theater is now Paris-based Yasmina Reza, whose plays are packing theaters from Berlin to Buenos Aires. Her output is small--five plays and a couple of books--but Reza has won just about every major theater award in Europe and the U.S.

The glamorous, 41-year-old writer was propelled to stardom by Art, a short play about friends who fall out over a modern painting--actually, a blank canvas. It is still playing to sellout houses in Paris seven years after it first opened in 1994, and has been produced in more than 30 countries. So far, the one play has raked in around $300 million worldwide. Life x 3, another play about friendship and breakups, which opened last fall, is also drawing theatergoers in London and Paris.

Audiences laugh at Reza's plays, but she would argue that they aren't comedies. "My plays are tragedy, funny tragedy. Art is heartbreaking," she says. Her works, written in French, often center on the despair that seeps through her characters' trivial conversations.

Reza's books, both autobiographical, reflect a dark vision of life. Reza was born in Paris to a Hungarian mother and a Jewish Iranian-Russian. Reza's father inspired Hammerklavier, her first novel, published in 1997. Desolation was published two years later, both books earning her praise. She finds time to write even though she is raising two young children and performs every night in the Paris production of Life x 3.

Reza often worries that her plays are not taken seriously. It may not matter: Audiences keep coming back.

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