John Pielmeier Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Pielmeier (PEEL-mi-yur) achieved acclaim as a playwright early in his career when one of his first plays, the provocative Agnes of God, met with considerable critical and commercial success on Broadway in 1982. In the years following his promising entrée into American theater, Pielmeier struggled to replicate this success but continued to gain attention and admiration with smaller productions in regional theater and by writing for television. Pielmeier considers the playwright’s job one of simple storytelling, and his work, especially with its emphasis on biographical adaptations and attention to character, reflects this concern.

The playwright was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Len and Louise Pielmeier. At a young age, John Pielmeier expressed an interest in performing and often entertained family members with plays he wrote and performed. It was, however, acting, not writing, that captured Pielmeier’s imagination early, and wishing to become a film star, he left his small town in 1966 to study drama and speech at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

At Catholic, Pielmeier fell deeply in love with the theater and became quite an accomplished actor. Upon graduation, the artist was hesitant to join the endless sea of actors in New York and decided instead to delay the process by going to graduate school. Pielmeier applied to the M.F.A. acting program at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), to be near his then-ailing father, but was rejected. Determined to pursue his dream of a life in theater, Pielmeier instead enrolled in Penn State’s nearly empty M.F.A. playwriting program, and his acceptance to the program altered the course of his career, eventually turning him from actor to writer.

While at Penn State, Pielmeier was asked to adapt George Jackson’s 1970 collection of prison...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brennan, Bridget. “John Pielmeier.” In Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, edited by Christopher J. Wheatley. Vol. 266 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Article discusses the questions Pielmeier raises in his diverse works.

“John Pielmeier.” In Contemporary Dramatists, edited by Thomas Riggs. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. This short biography offers an excellent summary of the important moments of Pielmeier’s career and life.

Pielmeier, John. “Writers and Their Work.” Interview by Gregory Bossier. Dramatist 2 (September/October, 1999): 14-23. An in-depth interview with Pielmeier, in which he discusses his childhood, career, and personal life.