John Patrick Shanley

John Patrick Shanley (born October 13, 1950) is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. His play, Doubt: A Parable, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his film Moonstruck.[1][2][3]

John Patrick Shanley
Shanley in 2011.
Born (1950-10-13) October 13, 1950
New York City, New York, U.S.
  • Playwright
  • screenwriter
  • director
ResidenceNew York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materNew York University
Notable awards
Years active1982–present
SpouseJayne Haynes

Early life

Shanley was born into an Irish-American family in The Bronx, New York City. His mother worked as a telephone operator, and his father was a meat-packer. The neighborhood Shanley grew up in was considered very rough.[1]

His academic career did not begin well, but ultimately he graduated from New York University with honors.[4] In his program bio for the Broadway production of Doubt: A Parable, he mentions that he was "thrown out of St. Helena's kindergarten, banned from St. Anthony's hot lunch program and expelled from Cardinal Spellman High School." He was heavily influenced by one of his first teachers, Sister Margaret McEntee, on whom he based the character of Sister James in his play, Doubt.[5]

While at Cardinal Spellman High School he saw two school productions that influenced him. The Miracle Worker and Cyrano de Bergerac.[6]

After his Freshman year at New York University, he was put on academic probation. He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving in a stateside post during the Vietnam War.[1] Following his military service, he wrote a novel, then burned it, and returned to the university with the help of the G.I. Bill, and by supporting himself with a series of jobs: elevator operator, house painter, furniture mover, locksmith, bartender. He graduated from New York University as valedictorian in 1977.[4][7]


Shanley is the author of more than 23 plays, which have been translated and performed around the world, including 80 productions a year in North America. He has often directed his own productions.[1]

He has also written for film; his second film, Moonstruck (1987), stars Nicolas Cage and Cher, and won three Academy Awards, including one for his screenplay.[8] In 1990, Shanley directed his script of Joe Versus the Volcano. Shanley also wrote two songs for the movie: "Marooned Without You" and "The Cowboy Song."[9] He wrote the screenplay for the film Congo (1995), which was based on the Michael Crichton book.[10]

His play Doubt: A Parable ran on Broadway from March 31, 2005 to July 2, 2006 and won four 2005 Tony Awards (including Best Play),[11] the Drama Desk Award (including Outstanding Play)[12] and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[13] Shanley directed the 2008 film version, which starred Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.[14] The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, and the film won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.[15]Doubt: A Parable, is featured in The Fourth Wall, a book of photographs by Amy Arbus for which Shanley also wrote the foreword.

In 2012, Shanley wrote the libretto for an opera version of Doubt: A Parable, which premiered at the Minnesota Opera in January 2013, with music by Douglas J. Cuomo. Until then, his experience with opera was not extensive; he had attended a few performances and had listened to recordings. As he worked on the libretto, using many lines that come directly from the play, he describes that his enthusiasm for the form grew.[16] Also in 2012, his play Storefront Church ran Off-Broadway in a production by the Atlantic Theater Company. The play concerns Bronx residents "whose lives become tangled in unexpected ways when a mortgage goes sour".[17] Storefront Church was also put up by San Francisco Playhouse in San Francisco in December 2013 where it was very well received.[18]

His play, Outside Mullingar, opened on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, on January 3, 2014 (in previews) and officially on January 23, 2014. The play was directed by Doug Hughes and starred Debra Messing and Brían F. O'Byrne.[19] The play is set in the Irish countryside.[20]

Prodigal Son, which he directed, was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club. It opened on February 9, 2016 and featured Timothée Chalamet, Robert Sean Leonard, Annika Boras, Chris McGarry and David Potters. The play concerns a lonely teen from The Bronx who attends a private school in New Hampshire.[21] His new play The Portuguese Kid opened on October 24, 2017 at the New York City Center Stage I, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club. Directed by Shanley, the cast featured Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott, Mary Testa, Aimee Carrero and Pico Alexander.[22]

Personal life

He is a graduate of New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development with a degree in Educational Theatre, and is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre.[23]

Shanley currently resides in New York City. He has been married and divorced twice; with his second wife, Jayne Haynes, he adopted two sons, both born in 1992.[24]


John Patrick Shanley was a defendant in a lawsuit filed by an actress Amanda Jencsic. The plaintiff complained about allegedly abusive sexual behavior of John Patrick Shanley during their romantic relationship and asked for compensation of $5 million. The case was dismissed by Judge Paul Wooten on December 24, 2013.[25][26][27]


Awards, nominations, and honors

In 2002 Shanley was inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame.[48]



  1. Witchel, Alex. "The Confessions of John Patrick Shanley" The New York Times, November 7, 2004
  2. Shanley
  3. McKinley, Jesse. "'Spamalot' and 'Doubt' Win the Top Tony Awards". New York Times. June 6, 2005
  4. Saito, Stephen. "IFC Interview: John Patrick Shanley on 'Doubt'", December 12, 2008
  5. Doubt Archived 2013-12-25 at the Wayback Machine, March 31, 2005
  6. Hodges, Benjamin A. editor. The Play that Changed My Life: America's Foremost Playwrights on the Plays that Influenced Them. 2009. Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. 2009. p. 129
  7. Bourque-Sheil, Brendan. Interview with John Patrick Shanley. Comedycongloverate's Blog. January 9, 2012.
  8. " 'Moonsruck' Awards", accessed January 3, 2014
  9. Joe Versus the Volcano, accessed January 3, 2014
  10. Maslin, Janet. "Movie Review. 'Congo'" The New York Times, June 9, 1995
  11. Jones, Kenneth. " 'Doubt' Is Best Play, 'Spamalot' Best Musical; Butz, Irwin, Clark, Jones, Nichols Win 2005 Tonys" Archived November 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, June 5, 2005
  12. Jones, Kenneth and Ku, Andrew. " 'Doubt', 'Spamalot', 'Twelve Angry Men', 'La Cage' Win 2005 Drama Desk Awards" Archived 2013-11-04 at the Wayback Machine, May 23, 2005
  13. Simonson, Robert. "John Patrick Shanley's 'Doubt' Wins 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama" Archived 2014-01-03 at the Wayback Machine, April 4, 2005
  14. " 'Doubt' Listing", accessed January 3, 2014
  15. Doubt
  16. Dobrzynski, Judith H. "A Re-'Doubt'-able Effort" Wall Street Journal (, January 16, 2013
  17. Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review. 'Storefront Church,' by John Patrick Shanley" The New York Times, June 11, 2012
  18. "Storefront Church SF Gate".
  19. Gans, Andrew. "Debra Messing Is 'Outside Mullingar', Beginning Jan. 3 on Broadway" Archived 2014-01-03 at the Wayback Machine, January 3, 2014
  20. Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review. 'Outside Mullingar,' by John Patrick Shanley, Opens" The New York Times, January 23, 2014
  21. Clement, Olivia. "World Premiere of 'Prodigal Son' Opens Tonight Off-Broadway", February 9, 2016
  22. Clement, Olivia. " 'The Portuguese Kid', With Jason Alexander and Sherie Rene Scott, Opens Off-Broadway" Playbill, October 24, 2017
  23. Shanley
  25. “Justia US Law:Jencsik v Shanley ”
  26. “Wenn:John Patrick Shanley moves to dismiss sex lawsuit ”
  27. “Hollywood:Violent sex lawsuit against John Patrick Shanley dismissed (December 29, 2013)”
  28. Rich, Frank. "The Stage: 'Welcome To The Moon'" The New York Times, November 24, 1982
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  30. "The Dreamer Examines His Pillow Listing" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 4, 2014
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  32. "Stage: 2D Bill Of New One-Act Plays" Archived May 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times (, May 20, 1987
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  34. " Beggars in the House of Plenty Listing" Archived 2014-01-06 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 5, 2014
  35. Gussow, Mel. "Review/Theater; Giving One-Act Plays Fairest Shot at Success" Archived May 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times, May 5, 1992
  36. " Four Dogs and a Bone Listing" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 4, 2014
  37. " 'Missing/Kissing' Listing" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 4, 2014
  38. Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert. "John Patrick Shanley's 'Where's My Money?' Ends Jan. 13 at MTC" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine January 13, 2002
  39. Bacalzo, Dan."Reviews. 'Dirty Story'" March 5, 2003
  40. Hernandez, Ernio. "Part 1 of 3: John Patrick Shanley's 'Sailor's Song' Opens Off-Broadway, Nov. 7" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, November 7, 2004
  41. Brantley, Ben. Theater Review. 'Romantic Poetry'" The New York Times, October 29, 2008
  42. Jones, Kenneth. "Charlotte Parry, Ivan Hernandez Featured in John Patrick Shanley's 'Pirate', Starting July 21" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, July 21, 2010
  43. Canby, Vincent. "Movie Review. 'Five Corners' (1987)" The New York Times, January 22, 1988
  44. Canby, Vincent. Movie Review. 'January Man' (1989) The New York Times, January 13, 1989
  45. Maslin, Janet. "Movie Review. 'Alive' (1993)" The New York Times, January 15, 1993
  46. Maslin, Janet. Movie Review. 'We re Back A Dinosaur s Story' (1993)" The New York Times, November 24, 1993
  47. " 'Live from Baghdad' Cast and Crew", accessed January 4, 2014
  48. Bronx Walk of Fame Inductees, 2004
  49. Simonson, Robert. "Shanley, Hughes, Culkin, Marvel, O'Connell Among 2005 Obie Winners" Archived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine, May 26, 2005
  50. " 'Live from Baghdad' Awards and Nominations", accessed January 5, 2014
  51. " 'Live from Baghdad' Awards, Won and/or Nominated" The New York Times, accessed January 5, 2014
  52. Simonson, Robert. Hawke, Azaria, Applegate, Turner Among Presenters at Drama Desk Award" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, May 16, 2005
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