Robert Frederic Schenkkan, Jr., was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, son of Robert Fredric and Jean (McKenzie) Schenkkan. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975, and he received an M.F.A. in Theatre Arts from Cornell University in 1977. In 1984 he married the actress Mary Anne Dorward. He was active in theater and film as both a writer and actor, but the work that established his reputation was the sequence of nine short plays that make up The Kentucky Cycle, a huge box office success at its 1991 world premiere at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle and winner of five Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards. It is the only play ever to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama without having been first produced in New York. The play germinated in Schenkkan’s mind after a trip through Appalachia in the early 1980’s, when he was shocked at the poverty he saw and richer people’s brutal indifference to it.