Biography

Rebecca Gilman, an American playwright, was born in 1964 in Trussville, Alabama. She attended Middlebury College, graduated from Birmingham-Southern College and earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa (1991). She currently lives in Chicago and serves on the board of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Rebecca Gilman’s plays include The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, The Glory of Living, and the Goodman Theatre world premieres of Spinning Into Butter, Boy Gets Girl, and Blue Surge. Her plays have also been produced at the Lincoln Center Theatre in New York, Royal Court Theatre in London, the Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Manhattan Class Company, as well as other theaters around the country and abroad.

She is a three-time Joseph Jefferson Award-winner. The Glory of Living was also named a Time Magazine Top 10 play for 2001, and it won Gilman the George Devine Award and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. Gilman was the first American playwright to win an Evening Standard Award. She was awarded the 2008 Harper Lee Award.

Others on Gilman

Chicago Tribune Critic Chris Jones has said of Gilman that “she writes plays with such intriguing plots that the audience finds itself hungry for what is going to happen next-and once she has the viewer under that narrative spell, she does not shirk from exposing complex themes with a strongly feminist sensibility, dispensed with just the right quirky touch of nouveau Southern gothic.”

Gilman adheres to the broad outlines of the original drama, a commentary on gender roles and middle-class consumerism. Gilman, who wrote the requisite bad poetry in high school and still toys with fiction on the side, decided on theater as the medium most likely to have that kind of power.

Rebecca Gilman may have shed most of her Trussville, Alabama, twang since moving to the Midwest, but she remains, to all appearances, the product of a place where gentility and polite euphemism reign.

Gilman doesn’t object to the label of “social issues playwright” that critics have affixed to her.

(clip from commentary of Blue Surge) Of the new young playwrights who have emerged in the past decade, Rebecca Gilman is unique in that she has embraced a kind of drama that most of her contemporaries have rejected: the social problem play. Gilman notes that the American Dream comes in all sizes, and that, despite our insistent ideology of self-made success, for the most part our choices and chances in life continue to be defined by where we come from. Gilman’s realism is structurally cinematic in its alternation of short scenes set in various locales: massage parlor, bar, Curt’s place, police station.

Gilman, an Alabama native currently based in Chicago, established her reputation for tackling provocative, controversial subjects early on in her career…..Gilman’s ability to confront difficult issues seem to bode well for her future as a playwright, and according to Arney, for the future of theater in general.

Gilman is — quite unabashedly — an old-school dramatist, conjuring recognizable characters and situations and telling her story in straightforward fashion. She constantly upends your expectations.” Gilman, who’s based in Chicago, certainly upends the expectation one has of a provocateur, and somehow it comes as no surprise that her models are theatrical grenade-throwers like Bertolt Brecht and Wallace Shawn. And yet a girlish shyness finds Gilman addressing many of her remarks, prefaced or punctuated by giggles, directly to the floor, and she admits she frequently reminds herself to speak louder.

Gilman on Gilman

First of all you should know that I never think about these things while I’m writing. It’s only when people are interviewing me that I have to analyze my own plays.

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