Culture

From the Vault: 'Six Degrees of Separation' by John Guare, Starring Stockard Channing

New York City art dealer Flan Kittredge (Donald Sutherland), and Ouisa (Stockard Channing), his wife, live a plush lifestyle as Fifth Avenue socialites. They have three kids -- two at Harvard, one at Groton -- and are the ideal prey for an accomplished con artist like Paul (Will Smith). Pretending to be Sidney Poitier's son, and a close friend of their children's, Paul impresses the Kittredges with his cultured wit and taste in order to swindle them into welcoming him into their home and lending him money.

John Guare's play -- and by extension, Fred Schepsi's film -- explores the premise that everyone in the world is connected through a mere six degrees of separation. The story was inspired by David Hampton, an infamous con artist in the 1980s who defrauded wealthy New Yorkers out of thousands of dollars by pretending to be Sidney Poitier's son. Hampton thereby connected his victims to one another through their shared experience.

John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation" was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Tony Award for Best Play. The 1993 film of the same name, directed by Fred Schepsi, stars Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, Will Smith, Mary Beth Hurt, Bruce Davidson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ian McKellen. Stockard Channing was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Ouisa Kittredge.

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