David Rabe was born on March 10, 1940, in Dubuque, Iowa, where he attended Roman Catholic parochial schools. He began to write short stories and plays while an undergraduate at Loras College, a Catholic institution in Dubuque, from which he was graduated in 1962 with a B.A. in English. He was drafted into the army in 1965 and served with a hospital support unit at Long Binh, South Vietnam. Although he did not go into actual combat himself, he observed many casualties. After his discharge in early 1967, he resumed his interrupted graduate studies at Villanova University and earned a master’s degree in 1968. While at Villanova, he wrote the draft scripts of The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and Sticks and Bones, inspired by his experiences of Vietnam and then of the United States as encountered by a returned Vietnam veteran. Under the auspices of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel opened in New York at the Public Theatre on May 20, 1971, with Sticks and Bones following, also at the Public Theatre, on November 7 of the same year. With these productions, Rabe was saluted by many critics as a most promising young dramatist.
Rabe’s third play, The Orphan, a puzzling retelling of the dramas of Aeschylus that made repeated allusions to Vietnam, was roundly criticized. With his fourth play, In the Boom Boom Room (originally produced in 1973 as Boom Boom Room and later revised and retitled), Rabe...
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