Wednesday, August 10, 2011


                         Behind the scenes
                              David Rabe

Dear Friends,

I've set plays at various points in recent history, Vietnam , Hollywood in the '80s, but for a long while I've wanted to go back to the time in the Midwest where I was a young man. This was the moment when the 50's began to break apart under pressure from the passions the preceding decades held in place. People were about to step into what became known as the Sixties without knowing what that time would be. My friendships then had begun in childhood, were primary into my twenties, and all male. With the introduction of sexual desire the need to reach out was a jolt, a welcome though puzzling, irresistible jolt. And of course we didn't know all that much about any of it. But we did know that a moment of freedom could bring pregnancy and divert our lives into dead ends. The sexes were kept apart as long as possible. Yearning and ignorance peered through desire distorted by an exotic, exaggerated romanticism or narrowed by wary resentment.

Meanwhile, the adults, who had lived through their own disillusionment and discovery, pretended they didn't know what they knew. Some because they didn't dare admit it, others because the coming change seemed too late for them.

I centered the play around the friendship of three young men, the father of one, a girl they thought they knew well and another girl unlike any they'd ever met, with one of the young men feeling the need to pull away, not to merely grow older, but to change. At some point I saw the possibility that I might be able to throw light not only on that period, but backward and forward in time, reaching faintly even into the present. Having grown older, I could recall the way we seemed to not merely discover the world but bring it into existence. I knew my parents had felt similarly, and I'd witnessed this discovery in my children as they reached their twenties. I hoped to evoke the way the fire of time both ignites and incinerates our lives. Generations arrive with hunger to do, to take, to live, and then they are shoved aside sooner or later by what follows.

The New Group, home to Scott Elliott's excellent revival of my play, Hurlyburly, is an ideal environment for An Early History of Fire. Reteaming with Scott, this time as producer, working with Jo Bonney, a director I strongly admire, I feel the play is in the hands of people who will bring out the best in every facet of production. With Jo and Scott on hand, I'm very glad to be back at The New Group, back in the theater.


Spring 2012
World Premiere
By David Rabe

Directed by Jo Bonney

From one of the most influential playwrights of our time, a world premiere set at the tipping point of the early 1960s. In a Midwestern town, Danny's world is defined by friendship and loyalty. But the bigger world is encroaching in the form of Karen, back from college in the east, alluring and unsettling because of what she now knows. Still, Danny can't escape the grip of his immigrant father, who is mourning a vanished world of lost prestige and clinging to his only son. Awhirl in longing and confusion, An Early History of Fire marks David Rabe's return to The New Group, following our acclaimed revival of Hurlyburly.

 Fall 2011

World Premiere
By Thomas Bradshaw

Directed by Scott Elliott

Winter 2012

World Premiere
By Erika Sheffer

Directed by Scott Elliott

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