This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for March 10, 2017: Revival

Mar. 10, 2017: birthday: David Rabe

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.”