World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Richard Nelson (playwright)


Richard Nelson (playwright)

Richard Nelson
Born Richard John Nelson
(1950-10-17) October 17, 1950 (age 63)
Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater Hamilton College (1972)
Clinton, New York
Notable work(s) Template:Plainlist
Awards Obie Award, Rockefeller Playwright-in-Residence Award, Giles Cooper Award, Tony Award, Olivier Award, Drama Desk Award, PEN/Laura Pels Award

Richard John Nelson (born October 17, 1950) is an American playwright and librettist. He wrote the books for the Tony Award-winning musicals James Joyce's The Dead and the Broadway version of Chess.[1]

Personal life

Nelson was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Viola (née Gabriel), a dancer, and Richard Finis Nelson, an accounting-systems analyst and some times sales representative.[2] During Nelson's childhood, the family moved frequently to accommodate his father's work, but they settled for long stretches in Gary, Indiana, the outskirts of Philadelphia, and finally in a suburb of Detroit. Nelson's earliest theatrical influences were in musical theatre, and he estimates that he saw more than twenty-five musicals before ever seeing his first straight play.[3]

He married Cynthia Blair Bacon on May 21, 1972; they have two two daughters, Zoe (b. 1983) and Jocelyn (b. 1988).[2]


In early 2007, Frank's Home, about two days in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, played at Playwrights Horizons. In an interview in The Brooklyn Rail at the time of its debut, Nelson offers advice to young writers: "My advice is always to write, to write what really matters. I ask my students two questions: Why did you write it? And should I watch it? People ask about structure, form, character development, and I’m not even sure what all of that means. Try not to second guess yourself. Form will come if you focus on what you want to say with truth and honesty. Structure is the hand that holds up what you want to say."[4]From 2005-2008, Nelson was the chair of the playwriting department at the Yale School of Drama.[5]




  • The Killing of Yablonski, Los Angeles, Mark Taper Forum/Lab, 1975
  • Conjuring An Event, Los Angeles, Mark Taper Forum/ Lab, 1976
  • Scooping, Washington, D.C., Arena Stage, 4 February 1977
  • Jungle Coup, New York, Playwrights Horizons, 22 June 1978
  • The Vienna Notes, Minneapolis, Minn., The Tyrone Guthrie Theater, 6 October 1978
  • Bal, Williamstown, Mass., Williamstown Theatre Festival, July 1979
  • Rip Van Winkle, or The Works, New Haven, Conn., Yale Repertory Theatre, 4 December 1981
  • The Return of Pinocchio, Seattle, Washington, Empty Space, March 1983
  • An American Comedy, Los Angeles, Mark Taper Forum, 13 October 1983
  • Between East and West, Seattle, Wash., Seattle Repertory Theatre, 23 March 1984
  • Principia Scriptoriae, New York, Manhattan Theatre Club, 25 March 1986
  • Chess (bookwriter), New York, Imperial Theatre, 28 April 1988
  • Roots in Water, Woodstock, N.Y., River Arts Repertory, Summer 1988
  • Some Americans Abroad, Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Shakespeare Company, 19 July 1989
  • Two Shakespearean Actors, Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1990
  • Columbus and the Discovery of Japan, London, Royal Shakespeare Company, 22 July 1992
  • Misha's Party, (with Alexander Gelman), London, Royal Shakespeare Company, 21 July 1993
  • Life Sentences, New York, Second Stage Theatre, 1 December 1993
  • New England, London, Royal Shakespeare Company, 29 November 1994
  • The General from America, Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Shakespeare Company, 17 July 1996
  • Kenneth's Play, (with Colin Chambers), London, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1997
  • Goodnight Children Everywhere, Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Shakespeare Company, 11 December 1997
  • James Joyce's The Dead, (with Shaun Davey), New York, Playwrights Horizons, 28 October 1999
  • Madame Melville, London, Vaudeville Theatre, 18 October 2000
  • Franny's Way, New York, Playwrights Horizons, 27 March 2002
  • My Life with Albertine, New York, Playwrights Horizons, 13 March 2003
  • Rodney's Wife, Williamstown, Mass., Williamstown Theatre Festival, 7 July 2004
  • The Seagull (adaption of Anton Chekhov)
  • The Suicide (adaption of Nikolai Erdman)
  • Three Sisters (adaptation of Anton Chekhov)
  • The Wood Demon (adaptation of Anton Chekhov)
  • Nikolai and the Others, Lincoln Center Theater, May 2013

Nelson's plays are published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc., Faber, & T C G.

Radio Plays

  • Languages Spoken Here, BBC Radio 3, 11 December 1987
  • Eating Words, BBC Radio 4, 30 October 1989
  • Advice to Eastern Europe, BBC Radio 3, 27 December 1990
  • The American Wife, BBC Radio 4, 25 January 1996
  • Hyde Park-on-Hudson, BBC Radio 3, 7 June 2009


  • Terror in the Sky, television, (with Elinor and Stephen Karpf), CBS, 1971
  • Houston, We've Got a Problem, television, ABC, 1974
  • Sensibility and Sense, television, American Playhouse, PBS, 1990
  • The End of a Sentence, television, American Playhouse, PBS, 1991
  • Ethan Frome, film, adapted from the novel by Edith Wharton, Miramax, 1993
  • Roots in Water, 2011
  • Hyde Park on Hudson, film, Daybreak Pictures, 2012


Additional Reading

External links

  • Internet Broadway Database
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Richard Nelson at the Internet Off-Broadway Database

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.