Richard Greenberg (born February 22, 1958) is an American playwright and television writer known for his subversively humorous depictions of middle-class American life. He has had more than 25 plays premiere on and off-broadway in New York City and eight at the South Coast Repertory Theatre (Costa Mesa, California), including The Violet Hour, Everett Beekin, and Hurrah at Last.
Greenberg is perhaps best known for his 2003 Tony Award winning play, Take Me Out about the conflicts that arise after a Major League Baseball player nonchalantly announces to the media that he is gay. The play premiered first in London and ran in New York as the first collaboration between England's Donmar Warehouse and New York's Public Theater. After its Broadway transfer in early 2003, Take Me Out won widespread critical acclaim for Greenberg and numerous prestigious awards.
Background and education
Greenberg grew up in East Meadow, New York, a middle-class Long Island town in Nassau County, east of New York City. His father, Leon Greenberg, was an executive for New York's Century Theaters movie chain and his mother Shirley was a homemaker. Greenberg graduated from East Meadow High School in 1976 and later went on to attend Princeton University, where he graduated magna cum laude. At Princeton, Greenberg studied creative writing under Joyce Carol Oates and roomed with future Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw. He later attended Harvard for graduate work in English and American Literature, but later dropped out of the program when he was accepted to the Yale School of Drama's playwriting program in 1985.
Along with Take Me Out, Greenberg's plays include The Dazzle, The American Plan, Life Under Water, and The Author’s Voice. His adaptation of August Strindberg’s Dance of Death ran on Broadway in 2002, starring Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren and David Strathairn.
He received the George Oppenheimer Award, presented by Newsday in 1985 for The Bloodletters, produced Off-Off Broadway while he was at Yale. He the first winner of the PEN/Laura Pels Award for a playwright in mid-career in 1998.
In 2013, Greenberg worked on three shows: on Broadway, an adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Assembled Parties and the book for the musical Far From Heaven which opened in June 2013 at Playwrights Horizons.
His play Our Mother's Brief Affair premiered at the South Coast Repertory Theatre, Costa Mesa, California in April 2009. Directed by Pam MacKinnon, the cast featured Jenny O'Hara, Matthew Arkin, Arye Gross and Marin Hinkle. This was a commission from South Coast. The play opened on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, on December 28, 2015 (previews), officially on January 20, 2016, starring Linda Lavin.
His play The Babylon Line premiered Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on November 10, 2016 in previews, officially on December 5. Directed by Terry Kinney, the cast features Josh Radnor as a writing teacher and Elizabeth Reaser as his student. The play was first performed at New York Stage and Film & Vassar College's Powerhouse Theater in June to July 2014, starring Josh Radnor.
According to The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary American Playwrights, Greenberg's "most prominent" interest is in history "and the past". "He has a pronounced tendency to draw on historical characters or events-the Lost Generation, the Collyer Brothers, the New York Yankees." He also has an intellectual and "witty use of language."
Awards and nominations
- 1989: "Ask Me Again" (based on "An Old-Fashioned Story" by Laurie Colwin), American Playhouse, PBS.
- 1989: "Life under Water" (based on his one-act play), PBS.
- 1989: "The Sad Professor," Trying Times, PBS.
- 1990: "The Sacrifice," Tales from the Crypt.
- 1991: "Georgie through the Looking Glass," Sisters, NBC.
- 1999: "The Time the Millennium Approached," Time of Your Life, Fox.