It’s the birthday of playwright and novelist David Rabe (books by this author), born in Dubuque, Iowa (1940). He was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He didn’t actually fight — he worked in a hospital unit and did paperwork. He said: “Barriers were down; restrictions were down; behavior outside the norms. There was this giddy thing. You could go around one corner and see something horrible, around another and see something thrilling. It was a little like the Wild West.”
After his discharge, he went back to grad school. He said: “Something in the army experience had knocked out of me whatever was tying me up and inhibiting writing. I found I didn’t have the patience to write prose. But plays would overtake me, almost explode out of me.”
He wrote a trilogy of plays about Vietnam: The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel (1971), Sticks and Bones (1969), and Streamers (1976). Sticks and Bones is the story of a blind Vietnam veteran who comes home to a family who does not understand him anymore — his parents are named Ozzie and Harriet, a nod to a popular sitcom. Sticks and Bones won the Tony Award for best play.
His most recent play is Visiting Edna (2016)
David Rabe said: “I get a sentence, an idea, an image, and I start. I don’t know anything beyond it. I follow it.”