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Rabe was born in Dubuque, Iowa where he went to Loras College and studied creative writing under Reverend Ray Roseliep, a renowned poet and writer of Haiku. Drafted into the Army in 1965 he was stationed in Vietnam in a Medical Headquarters unit. Discharged in 1967, he returned to Villanova University to study theater under Richard Duprey, Robert Hedley, and Jim Christy. This was a heady time, creatively, and it continued when he returned to teach in that department. Many of his early plays were written during this period, and some given productions.

The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel was his first play in New York in 1971. This was followed by Sticks and Bones, which won the 1972 Tony, The Orphan, In the Boom Boom Room, and Streamers, all produced by Joseph Papp, who provided opportunity when it seemed none existed. To Joe, David remains hugely indebted and grateful. 

Other plays include Goose and Tom Tom, Hurlyburly, Those The River Keeps, A Question of Mercy, The Dog Problem, The Black Monk based on Chekhov, An Early History of Fire, Good For Otto, Visiting Edna, and Cosmologies

Four of Rabe’s plays have been given Tony nominations. He has received numerous awards, including three Elizabeth Hull-Kate Warriner Drama Guild Awards. His fiction includes three novels, Recital of the Dog, Dinosaurs on the Roof, Girl by the Road at Night, and a book of stories, A Primitive Heart. Recent stories have been published in The New Yorker and at Narrative online. One of his New Yorker stories, Things We Worried About When I Was Ten, was selected as a O.Henry Prize winner in 2021. 

A collection of stories and a novella, Listening for Ghosts is scheduled to be published by Delphinium Books.




Explores a primitive, medieval world which exists outside of actual human history. The inhabitants of the world of the play are agrarian peasants who work the land, and are all too human in their battles to live in spite of their superstitions and struggles. When a young child falls from a tree, the angel of death comes to claim him for the underworld. The father embarks on an effort to hide the child with help from one of two angels who are overseers of the stars and planets of the night sky and other random tasks they don't fully grasp. Everyone, including the angels, speaks in a language as broken as their circumstances. At the same time wandering monks speculate in highly formal language. Almost too weary to feel emotion these men and women labor on, absurdly comic in their ignorance and their effort to understand and decide anything about their lives, particularly whether or not another child should ever be permitted to be born.





The Tent

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