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David Rabe Biography

(1940– ), The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, Sticks and Bones, Streamers, The Chameleon, The Orphan

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American dramatist, born in Dubuque, Iowa, educated at Villanova University, Pennsylvania. Rabe served in Vietnam in 19657, an experience which informs much of his early drama. A controversial trilogy of plays about Vietnam established his reputation—The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel (1971), Sticks and Bones (1971), and Streamers (1976). His other plays include The Chameleon (1959), The Orphan (1973), Boom Boom Room (1973), Goose and Tomtom (1982), and Hurlyburly (1984). Like Sam Shepard and David Mamet, Rabe is equally drawn to screenwriting, and wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman's 1983 film version of Streamers. His career in the 1970s forms part of the history of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre, founded by Joseph Papp in 1954, who staged five of Rabe's plays, and did much to enhance Rabe's reception in a series of brilliant productions. Rabe's native pessimism was deepened by his Vietnam experiences which he turned to rich account in his use of the military scenario as expressive of the nihilism at the heart of most human endeavour. His more recent works include the screenplay Casualties of War (1989), about Vietnam; and the plays Those the River Keeps (1991) and Crossing Guard (1995). See also Vietnam Writing.

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