Rebecca Gilman was born in 1964 in Trussville, Alabama, where she enjoyed a quiet southern upbringing—a childhood that is evidenced in her mild demeanor and soft southern drawl. After experiencing an unremarkable upbringing, Gilman left home at seventeen to attend college on the East Coast. A restless student, she attended four schools on her way to receiving two degrees. She dropped out of Middlebury College—an experience that would later inspire a play—before receiving her B.A. in English from Birmingham-Southern University in Alabama. Subsequently, she dropped out of graduate studies at the University of Virginia before receiving an M.F.A. in playwriting from the University of Iowa. She had been writing plays since the age of eighteen—her first play was about a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop—and some of them were produced either nonprofessionally or as student productions at Birmingham-Southern and later the University of Iowa. Many of these early works were children’s plays, with titles such as Hansel and Goosel, and bear little resemblance to the gritty body of work for which she is now known.
After Gilman was graduated from the University of Iowa, she took a hiatus from her writing career. She got married, moved to Iowa City, and began working for a standardized testing agency to earn money. After three years and a divorce, Gilman moved to Chicago and worked as a temporary office worker while reexamining herself as a writer and...
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