Born on the South Side of Chicago on November 30, 1947, David Alan Mamet became interested in the theater as a teenager. He worked at the Hull House Theatre and at Second City, one of Chicago’s richest improvisational performance sites at the time, experiences that he recognized as having exerted an important influence on his language, characterizations, and plot structures. His mother, Lenore Silver, was a schoolteacher, his father, Bernard Mamet, a labor lawyer and minor semanticist, and though the parents’ intellectual awareness of language plainly influenced their son, their divorce seems to have affected the young Mamet even more greatly. Exiled to what Mamet saw as a sterile suburb of Chicago—Olympia Fields—his geographical move seemed all the more complicated because of his familial dislocations. His stepfather apparently (Mamet revealed in a 1992 essay entitled “The Rake”) physically and psychologically abused the Mamet family, and it seems as if the world of the theater offered the playwright some form of reprieve and, later, recognition from a tension-filled youth. As a boy, Mamet also acted on television, an opportunity made possible by his uncle, who was the director of broadcasting for the Chicago Board of Rabbis. Mamet often was cast as a Jewish boy plagued by religious self-doubt and concerns.
After graduating from Francis Parker, a private school in downtown Chicago, Mamet attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, where he majored in theater and literature. At Goddard, he wrote his first play, Camel, which fulfilled his thesis requirement for graduation and was staged at the college in 1968. During his junior year (1968-1969), Mamet moved from Plainfield to New York City, where he studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner, one of the founding members of the Group Theatre in the 1930’s. While his...
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