Who was John Belluso?
John Belluso was an American playwright who was known for his works that focused on the lives and experiences of disabled people. He was also a director of a writing program for disabled people at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He was born in Warwick, Rhode Island on November 13, 1969, and graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BA and MA in Dramatic Writing. He used a wheelchair since the age of 13 due to a rare bone disease called Engleman-Camurdrie Syndrome.
What were some of his works?
Belluso wrote several plays that explored the themes of disability, identity, politics, and society. Some of his notable works include:
- The Body of Bourne, based on the life of Randolph Bourne, a World War I pacifist and author who had a facial deformity and a hunchback.
- Pyretown, a critique of America’s managed health care system through the romance between a divorced mother and a young man in a wheelchair.
- The Rules of Charity, a drama about the abusive relationship between a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy and his caregiver daughter.
- Gretty Good Time, a comedy about a woman with post-polio paralysis living in a nursing home.
- Henry Flamethrowa, a thriller about a comatose girl who is believed to cause miracles.
- A Nervous Smile, a tragedy about the parents of a severely disabled child who consider abandoning her.
Belluso also wrote for television, including an episode of the HBO series Deadwood.
How did John Belluso die?
John Belluso died on February 10, 2006, at the age of 36, in his hotel room in New York City. He was working on a play for the Public Theater about a disabled veteran returning from Iraq, titled The Poor Itch. The exact cause of his death was never publicly revealed, but the police said that foul play was not suspected. According to his friends, he had a history of health problems related to his bone disease. His death was a shock and a loss for the theater community and the disability rights movement. He was survived by his mother and two sisters. His funeral was held at the Barrington Congregational Church in Rhode Island, and his play The Poor Itch was staged as an unfinished work at the Public Theater in 2008.