Adam Rapp

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Adam Rapp
Born (1968-06-15) June 15, 1968 (age 46)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Playwright, novelist, director, screenwriter
Nationality American
Education St. John's Military Academy, Clarke College, The Juilliard School
Notable awards 2012 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award, 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book Award for "Punkzilla", 2007 Benjamin H. Danks Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, 2006 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama for "Red Light Winter", 2006 Princess Grace Statue Award

Adam Rapp (born June 15, 1968) is an award-winning American novelist, playwright, screenwriter, musician and director.[1] His play, Red Light Winter, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2006.[2]

Early life[edit]

The son of Mary Lee (née Baird) and Douglas Rapp, Adam Rapp was born in Chicago and spent most of his youth in Joliet, Illinois.

He is a graduate of St. John's Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin and Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he captained the varsity basketball team.[3] After college he moved to New York City's East Village, where he landed a day job in book publishing and wrote fiction and plays at night. He later completed a two-year playwriting fellowship at The Juilliard School.[3]


He is the author of numerous plays, many of which he also directed. NOCTURNE (American Repertory Theater) received Boston's Elliot Norton Award as well as the Best New Play Award from the Independent Reviewers of New England. For NOCTURNE, he also was shortlisted for the inaugural William Saroyan International Writing Prize and won The Helen Merrill Prize. RED LIGHT WINTER, which he directed, won Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best New Work, three OBIE Awards, and was named a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. His production of FINER NOBLE GASES garnered a Fringe First Award at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he received The List’s Best Newcomer Prize. In 2011 he directed the world premiere of Karen O’s psycho opera, STOP THE VIRGENS, for The Creators Project at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which was then selected for The Vivid Live Festival, where it sold out the Sydney Opera House for six performances. In 2012 he directed Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST at Actors Theatre of Louisville, which was named one of the 2012 Best Moments in Culture by Louisville’s N.P.R. Affiliate, WFPL.

He has published eight novels for young adults, including THE BUFFALO TREE (Front Street Books, 1997), UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG (Candlewick Press, 2006), which was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize, Punkzilla (Candlewick Press, 2009), which was named a 2010 Michael J. Printz Honor Book, and THE CHILDREN AND THE WOLVES (Candlewick Press), which was named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews. He is also the author of the adult novel, THE YEAR OF ENDLESS SORROWS (Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2006), and the graphic novel, BALL-PEEN HAMMER (First Second Books, 2009), which he is currently developing as a series for HBO.

As a filmmaker he wrote and directed the feature, WINTER PASSING, for Focus Features and Stratus Films. Starring Ed Harris, Zooey Deschanel, and Will Ferrell, WINTER PASSING was an Official Selection of the 2005 Toronto Film Festival and was released in February of 2006. His second feature, BLACKBIRD, which he adapted from his play, won Best Narrative Feature at the Charlotte Film Festival, and received a Special Jury Award for Achievement in Directing from the Florida Film Festival. BLACKBIRD was also an Official Selection of South by Southwest and The Edinburgh Film Festival. He also directed the dramatic comedy LOITERING WITH INTENT, starring Marisa Tomei, Sam Rockwell, and Brian Geraghty, which was an Official Selection of the 2014 TriBeca Film Festival.

He is also a member of the band, Less the Band, which released the albums BEAR and ROBOT.

His new novel, KNOW YOUR BEHOLDER, will be published by Little Brown & Co. in Feb. ’15. He currently writes for the new original cable drama, FLESH AND BONE, for Starz! He lives in New York City.


Rapp attended the O'Neill Playwrights Conference in 1996.[4] His play Finer Noble Gases was staged by the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in 2000, by Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2001, by Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte in 2003, and by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York City in 2004.[5] In 2001, Nocturne was premiered by the New York Theatre Workshop.[5] It has also been staged at by American Repertory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.[5] His play Stone Cold Dead Serious was produced in 2002 by the American Repertory Theater.[5]

Rapp's Red Light Winter received the Joseph Jefferson Award in 2005 for its production at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.[citation needed] The play was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2006.[2] Rapp directed a production of Los Angeles, by Julian Sheppard, in 2007 at the Flea Theatre. As of 2007, Rapp was the resident playwright at the Edge Theatre Company in New York City.[citation needed] He teaches at the Yale School of Drama.[6] In 2011, Rapp's The Metal Children was given its regional debut by Swine Palace on Louisiana State University's campus.[7]

The majority of Rapp's plays feature small casts and are set in small spaces.[1] Many characters in the plays are lower-class Americans.[8] His plays often combine stories of Midwestern longing with the idea of finding escape in New York. He combines humor with gloom, preferring dark themes[6]

In a conversation with fellow playwright Gina Gionfriddo published in The Brooklyn Rail, Rapp says: "When you see something powerfully acted on stage, it hits a nerve in the way music hits a nerve … Watching someone twelve feet from you falling in love or being abused … There’s something raw about that experience that you don’t get from film or TV."[9]


Rapp's first young adult novel, Missing the Piano, was published in 1996. After writing his second book, The Buffalo Tree, in 1999, Rapp was invited to be the first author in residence at Ridgewood High School.[10] The Buffalo Tree was censored by the Muhlenberg School Board in Reading, Pennsylvania due to its themes, graphic language and sexual content.[11] His 2003 novel 33 Snowfish was one of Young Adult Library Services Association's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults.[12] He released Under the Wolf, Under the Dog in 2004. His first adult novel, The Year of Endless Sorrows, was released in 2006.[citation needed] Rapp made his graphic novel debut with the release of Ball Peen Hammer in September 2009.[citation needed]

Rapp has said that his ideas for characters and stories come to him most often while playing basketball or walking the streets of New York. He is interested in the rhythm and language that he hears while listening to conversations and voices.[3]

Film, television and music[edit]

Rapp directed his first film, Winter Passing with Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell (2005), and was a creative consultant for the television show The L Word.[citation needed] While working on The L Word, Rapp left in the middle of the season to attend the Edinburgh Festival.[4] He wrote for the 2010 season of HBO's In Treatment.[citation needed] He was a member of the band Bottomside, which released the independent CD The Element Man in September 2004.[13] He is a member of "Less the Band", which released the album Bear in April 2006.[14]

List of Works[edit]


Year Nominated work(s)/Awards Category Result
1995 Missing the Piano Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association Won
1995 Missing the Piano Best Books for Reluctant Readers citations, American Library Association Won
1997 Trueblinka Herbert & Patricia Brodkin Scholarship, National Playwright's Conference Won
1999 Playwriting award Princess Grace Fellowship Won
2000 Roger L. Stevens Award Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Won
2001 Nocturne Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights Won
2004 Under the Wolf, Under the Dog Los Angeles Times Book Award nomination Won
2006 Red Light Winter Pulitzer Prize for Drama (finalist) Nominated
2006 Under the Wolf, Under the Dog Schneider Family Book Award, teen category Won


  1. ^ a b c "Adam Rapp". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale Biography in Context. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Drama". The Pulitzer Prizes. Columbia University. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Angel, Ann. "E-view With Adam Rapp". The Alan Review. Virginia Tech. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Hart, Sarah. "Looking Both Ways". American Theatre. Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Author Details". Twentieth Century North American Drama. Alexander Street Press. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Ng, David (October 2007). "Cutting Loose With Adam Rapp". American Theatre: 38–41. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Calendar of Events". Culture Candy. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  8. ^ Cummings, Scott T (April 2002). "26th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays". Theatre Journal 54: 635–39. doi:10.1353/tj.2002.0118. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  9. ^ Gionfriddo, Gina; Adam Rapp (November 2007). "Peering in at the Zoo: Adam Rapp and Gina Gionfriddo on American Theater". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  10. ^ Blubaugh, Penny. "An Author in Residence? Why Bother?". Educational Resources Information Center. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  11. ^ Hatza, George (May 30, 2010). "Censorship Battle over the Buffalo Tree". Reading Eagle. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  12. ^ Gallo, Don (July 2004). "Bold Books for Innovative Teaching: Summer Reading 2004". The English Journal 93 (6): 112–15. JSTOR 4128905. 
  13. ^ "Bottomside". MOG. 
  14. ^ "Less the Band". Less the Band. Louisville Music. 

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