David Ives

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David Ives (born July 11, 1950 in Chicago) is a contemporary American playwright.[1] His plays have appeared both Off-Broadway and on Broadway. He has written for the New York City Center Encores! staged concert series for many years.

Early life[edit]

A native of South Chicago, Ives attended Northwestern University, majoring in English. After graduation he wrote plays and worked at a bookstore in Hollywood. He then worked for three years as a junior editor at Foreign Affairs magazine in New York City. He attended the Yale School of Drama in 1981, where he received an MFA in playwriting.[2][3]

In the mid-1990s, after having been a contributor to Spy Magazine, Ives wrote occasional humor pieces for the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and other publications. In that same period, New York magazine named him one of the "100 Smartest New Yorkers".[4]


Ives' first play in New York was Canvas,[5] staged at the Circle Repertory Company in 1972, followed at the same theatre by Saint Freud in 1975. In 1987 his short play Words, Words, Words was presented at the Manhattan Punch Line Theatre, followed by Sure Thing,[3] Variations on the Death of Trotsky, Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread (1990),[6] and The Universal Language. A two-act play, Ancient History was produced Off-Broadway in 1989 by Primary Stages.[3]

Ives' All in the Timing originated as a presentation of six of his one-act plays that premiered at Primary Stages in 1993,[3] moved to the larger John Houseman Theatre, and ran for 606 performances. He won the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for Playwriting.[7] A New York Times writer described Ives' work: "In the world of the playwright David Ives, situations float at the far edge of the social map and quickly drift off into uncharted territory."[3] Primary Stages presented a revival of All in the Timing in January 2013 to April 2013, writing "When this evening of six one-act comedies premiered in 1993, Vincent Canby of The New York Times said 'Ives is wizardly...magical and funny...a master of language.' Canby also told audiences 'Drop-everything-and-go!'--and audiences did, for more than 600 performances. This new production, directed by John Rando, includes plays like Sure Thing and The Universal Language which have become contemporary classics..."[8]

English Made Simple premiered at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in April 1994, directed by Bill Irwin with Liz McCarthy as Jill and R. Hamilton Wright as Jack, and John Aylward as the Loudspeaker Voice.[9]

Most of his short plays can be found in the anthologies All in the Timing.[9] and Time Flies. His full-length plays up to 2005 are collected in Polish Joke And Other Plays. The title play, Polish Joke, provides a glimpse into Ives's Polish-American background.

In 2006 he wrote a new translation of Georges Feydeau's farce, A Flea in Her Ear, which premiered in Chicago. It won a Joseph Jefferson ("Jeff") Award for adaptation. Is He Dead?, ran on Broadway from December 2007 to March 2008, and is adapted from an "unproduced 1898 comedy" by Mark Twain.[10] New Jerusalem, concerning the excommunication of Baruch Spinoza, opened Off-Broadway in January 2008 (previews from December 2007) in a Classic Stage Company production.[11] New Jerusalem' won a Hull-Warriner Award.

In 2010, he adapted Pierre Corneille's comedy The Liar for The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.[12][13] It won the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play at the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington the following year. In 2011 his version of Molière's The Misanthrope premiered Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company under the title, The School For Lies.[14] Also in 2011 his adaptation of Jean-Francois Regnard's Le Legataire universel premiered at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. under the title, The Heir Apparent. The Heir Apparent opened Off-Broadway in March 2014 (previews) at the Classic Stage Company, and ran through May 2014.[15][16]

Venus in Fur opened Off-Broadway at the Classic Stage Company in January 2010 with Nina Arianda and Wes Bentley.[17][18][19] Venus in Fur premiered on Broadway in October 2011 (previews) at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club. Nina Arianda returned to the role she created Off-Broadway and Hugh Dancy played the role originated by Bentley. Walter Bobbie once again directed. The play transferred to the Lyceum Theatre in February 2012 for an extended run with Arianda and Dancy reprising their performances.[20]

All in the Timing was the most produced play in the United States during the 1995-1996 season, and Venus in Fur was most produced during the 2013-2014 season.[21]

His Lives of the Saints began in previews Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in February 2015, running through March 27, 2015. Directed by John Rando, Lives of the Saints consists of seven short plays.[22] The plays are: Enigma Variations, The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage, Babels in Arms, Soap Opera, Lives of the Saints, Arabian Nights, and Captive Audience. Several of the plays had been produced previously.[23] The Lives of the Saints was produced with five of the plays at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, Massachusetts in August and September 1999.[24]

Musical theatre[edit]

In the early 1990s Ives started working in musical theatre, writing the libretto for an opera based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (music by Greg Pliska). It premiered in Philadelphia in 1991 at the Pennsylvania Opera Theater.[25]

He then became a regular adapter for the New York City Center Encores! series of American musicals in concert, starting with Out Of This World in 1995, Du Barry Was A Lady in 1996, and working on two or three a year until 2012.[26] As of 2013, Ives ended his writing for Encores!, saying "I've very happily done 33 adaptations for Encores! But there comes a time when it's time for someone else to have that pleasure, especially given how full my platter is these days."[27] His Encores! adaptation of Wonderful Town moved to Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre in 2003, directed by Kathleen Marshall.

He adapted David Copperfield's magic show, Dreams and Nightmares, which premiered on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre in December 1996.[28] He also adapted Cole Porter's Jubilee (1998)[29] and Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific (with Reba McEntire) for concert performances at Carnegie Hall,[30] as well as My Fair Lady for a staged concert at Avery Fisher Hall in New York in 2007.[31]

He helped to rework the book for the Broadway version of the musical Dance of the Vampires, with book, music and lyrics by Jim Steinman and original German book and lyrics by Michael Kunze.[32] The musical opened on Broadway in October 2002 in previews, but closed in January 2003 after 56 performances.[33] He co-wrote the book for Irving Berlin's White Christmas, which premiered in San Francisco in 2004[34] and then went on to tour across the United States and had a limited engagement on Broadway in November 2008 to January 2009,[35] and again in November 2009 to January 2010.[36]

He is collaborating with Stephen Sondheim on a new musical based on two of the films of Luis Bunuel..[37]


Ives wrote a children's book, Monsieur Eek, which was released in 2001. The book is set in 1609, and is a "fairy tale–like story full of absurd characters who make bizarre interpretations..."[38] His next book was Scrib (2005), set in the American West in 1863, which follows the adventures of the teen-aged "Scrib", who writes letters and delivers mail.[39][40] His latest book is Voss, which was released in 2008.[41]


Ives lives in New York City with his wife, Martha Ives, who is a linoprint artist.[42]


  1. ^ David Ives, 2011 Goodreads Inc
  2. ^ Collins, Scott. "Theater. Talk About Your Good Timing" Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1996
  3. ^ a b c d e Grimes, William. "David Ives's Quick-Hit Approach To Staging the Human Comedy" The New York Times, January 4, 1994
  4. ^ "David Ives Offers 'Lab' for Playwrights," Columbia University Record, February 10, 1995, Vol. 20, No. 16
  5. ^ Roszkowski, David. Canvas. Ballet, Arthur H. editor. Playwrights for Tomorrow: A Collection of Plays. Vol.11. University of Minnesota Press. 1979 page 6. ISBN 978-0816606979
  6. ^ Gussow, Mel. "Review/Theater; 'Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread'" The New York Times, February 4, 1990
  7. ^ Awards Archive, 1993-1994" outercritics.org, accessed February 6, 2014
  8. ^ " All in the Timing, 2013" primarystages.org, accessed February 6, 2014
  9. ^ a b Ives, David. English Made Simple All in the Timing: Fourteen Plays (2010), Random House LLC, ISBN 0307772616
  10. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Rare Mark Twain Play, 'Is He Dead?', Comes to Life on Broadway" playbill.com, November 8, 2007
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Spinoza Clashes With Community in Premiere of Ives' New Jerusalem, Opening Jan. 13" playbill.com, January 13, 2008
  12. ^ " 'The Liar' Teacher Curriculum Guide" shakespearetheatre.org, accessed February 7, 2014
  13. ^ Wren, Celia. "Playwright David Ives updates "The Liar" for the Shakespeare Theatre Company" Washington Post, April 4, 2010
  14. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review. 'The School for Lies' " The New York Times, May 1, 2011
  15. ^ Purcell, Carey. 'The Heir Apparent', Featuring Olivier Winner Suzanne Bertish, Begins Run at Classic Stage Company March 28" playbill.com, March 28, 2014
  16. ^ Sommer, Elyse."Review" curtainup.com, April 4, 2014
  17. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Back From the Depths, Rebuilding a Career" New York Times, February 7, 2010
  18. ^ Healey, Patrick. "Run Extended for 'Venus in Fur'" The New York Times, February 3, 2010
  19. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "One Object of Desire, Delivered" The New York Times, January 28, 2010
  20. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Venus in Fur, in a Commercial Mood, Resumes on Broadway Feb. 7" Playbill, February 7, 2012
  21. ^ American Theatre Magazine as reported on Theatre Communications Group website.[1]
  22. ^ "Primary Stages Announces Casting for David Ives' 'Lives of the Saints' " theatermania.com, December 9, 2014
  23. ^ Ives, David. Lives of the Saints books.google.com, Dramatists Play Service Inc, 2000, ISBN 0822217465, p.2-5
  24. ^ Sommer, Elyse. " Lives of the Saints Review"curtainup.com, August 18, 1999
  25. ^ Valdes, Lesley. "'The Secret Garden,' New Opera From Tpot" articles.philly.com, February 25, 1991
  26. ^ "Encores! Previous Seasons" nycitycenter.org, accessed February 7, 2014
  27. ^ Gans, Andrew. "After 33 Adaptations for the City Center Encores! Series, David Ives Is Passing 'The Blue Pencil'" playbill.com, May 13, 2013
  28. ^ Viagas, Robert and Webber, Katie. "Copperfield Opens His B'way Dreams" playbill.com, December 4, 1996
  29. ^ " Jubilee 1998 Concert Production" sondheimguide.com, accessed February 6, 2014
  30. ^ "'South Pacific' in Concert From Carnegis Hall" www.pbs.org, accessed February 6, 2014
  31. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review. 'My Fair Lady' " The New York Times, March 9, 2007
  32. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "Broadway 'Dance of the Vampires' Librettist Michael Kunze Reveals Changes for Broadway" playbill.com, October 18, 2002
  33. ^ McKinley, Jesse. " 'Dance of the Vampires,' a $12 Million Broadway Failure, Is Closing" The New York Times, January 16, 2003
  34. ^ Connema, Richard. "Review of San Francisco production" talkingbroadway.com November 14, 2004
  35. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. Photo Call: Snow Falls on Broadway in White Christmas" playbill.com, November 21, 2008
  36. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Williamson, Ogden Stiers, Errico, Yazbeck Will Be Merry and Bright in Broadway's 'White Christmas' " playbill.com, September 29, 2009
  37. ^ Kempler,, Adam. "Rolling Along: Sondheim Discloses He’s Working on a New Show". ArtsBeat. New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  38. ^ "Review. 'Monsieur Eek' " publishersweekly.com, May 28, 2001
  39. ^ "review. 'SCRIB' " publishersweekly.com, March 28, 2005
  40. ^ "Book Reviews. 'Scrib'" kirkusreviews.com, February 15, 2005
  41. ^ "Review. Voss: How I Come to America and Am Hero, Mostly" publishersweekly.com, October 20, 2008
  42. ^ The Art of Martha Ives online

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