© Paul P. Reuben
Chapter 8: David Mamet (1947 - )
Page Links: | Primary Works | Selected Bibliography 1980-Present | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |
| A Brief Biography |
Site Links: | Chap. 8: Index | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page | November 2, 2011
Source: DM Info Page
American buffalo. NY: Grove P, 1977, 1976. PS3563 .A4345 A8
The water engine: an American fable and Mr. Happiness: two plays. NY: Grove P, 1978. PS3563.A4345 W3
A life in the theatre. NY: Grove P, 1977. PS3563.A4345 L5
The woods. NY: Grove P, 1979. PS3563 .A4345 W6
Reunion; Dark pony: two plays. NY: Grove P, 1979. PS3563.A4345 R4
Lakeboat. NY: Grove P, 1981. PS3563 A4345 L34
Edmond. NY: Grove P, 1983. PS3563 .A4345 E3
Glengarry Glen Ross. NY: Grove P, 1983, 1982. PS3563 .A4345 G56
The shawl; and, Prairie du Chien: two plays. NY: Grove P, 1985. PS3563 .A4345 S5
Goldberg Street: short plays and monologues. NY: Grove P, 1985. PS3563 .A4345 G65
Writing in restaurants. NY: Penguin Books, 1987, 1986. PS3563 .A4345 W7
Speed-the-plow. NY: Grove P, 1988, 1987. PS3563 .A4345 S64
Glengarry Glen Ross [videorecording] a Zupnik Enterprises presentation; produced by Jerry Tokofsky; directed by James Foley. Van Nuys, CA: Live Home Video, 1993. Video Cassette PN1997 .G535x
Oleanna. NY: Vintage Books, 1993. PS3563 .A4345 O4
The cryptogram. NY: Dramatists Play Service, 1995. PS3563 .A4345 C79
Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. NY: Columbia UP, 1998.
Selected Bibliography 1980-Present
Carroll, Dennis. David Mamet. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987. PS3563 .A4345 Z62
Dean, Anne. David Mamet: Language as Dramatic Action. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1990.
Heilpern, John. How Good Is David Mamet, Anyway? Writings on Theatre-And Why It Matters. NY: Routledge, 2000.
Kane, Leslie. ed. David Mamet: a casebook. NY: Garland, 1992. PS3563 .A4345 Z65
- - -. ed. David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross: Text and Performance. NY: Garland, 1996.
- - -. Weasels and Wisemen: Ethics and Ethnicity in the Work of David Mamet. NY: Palgrave, 1999.
McDonough, Carla J. Staging masculinity: male identity in contemporary American drama. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1997. PS338 .M46 M33
Nadel, Ira. David Mamet: A Life in the Theatre. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
A Student Project by Daniela Bieschke
David Mamet was born on November 30, 1947 to Bernard and Lenore Mamet in Chicago, Illinois. In the 1960s, Mamet attended Rich Central and Francis Parker High School where he also "performed in a musical and studied drama." (Bigsby 30) During this time he had also began working backstage at Hull House Theater. From 1965-1969 he attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont where he received his B.A. in Literature. This is where the first drafts of memorable pieces such as Reunion and The Duck Variations were written (Kane xxvii). Little did he know, this was only the beginning of a successful lifelong career.
During his younger years, Mamet first developed an interest in writing based on an opportunity he was given to start acting. Thanks to his uncle who was a chairman of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, Mamet was given the chance to participate in instructional dramas on radio and television on Sunday mornings (Bigsby, 30). With opportunities like these, it did not seem to take long before his career began taking shape. By 1970, Mamet was teaching at Marlboro College in Vermont where he soon after produced Lakeboat among several other works. It only took a few more years until Mamet also became the founder, along with Steven Schactor, William H. Macy and Patricia Cox of the St. Nicholas Theater Company. Shortly after, Mamet was also appointed to be a faculty member on the Illinois Art Council (Kane xxviii).
Very quickly, Mamet's career came underway. In 1974, plays such as Squirrels and The Poet and the Rent, directed by Mamet, were presented by the St. Nicholas Theater Company. Also Sexual Perversity in Chicago opened at the Organic Theater during this same time (Kane xxxviii). Throughout the years, Mamet began gaining much popularity but despite his successful reputation, things did not always come so easily. "Both The Water Engine and The Woods failed in New York in 1970, the former closing after sixteen performances and the latter after thirty-three. The same year Lone Canoe was staged at the Goodman and proved a disaster (Bigsby 2). Although at this point in Mamet's career looked as if it were headed downhill, things eventually improved.
Mamet refused to let this disappointment ruin his already productive career. Instead he continued moving forward to more successful plays. In The Cambridge Companion to David Mamet, Christopher Bigsby states:
When Glengarry Glen Ross, opened to much praise in London, in 1983, it seemed that he had confounded his critics. Highly successful at Britain's National Theatre, it did little business in New York until it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, at which point lines began to form around the theater. It ran 378 performances. (2)
At this point, Mamet's previous successful reputation had made its comeback. Over the following years, Mamet wrote more plays that became available for the public to view resulting in a plethora of awards. Some include an Obie for Distinguished Playwriting for both Sexual Perversity in Chicago and American Buffalo in 1976, The New York Drama Critics Award for American Buffalo in 1977, and the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for Distiguished Playwriting in 1978 (Kane xxix). Mamet's list of awards became phenomenal.
There came a point in Mamet's life when he began to put a focus on his religion&emdash;something he appeared to have put aside over the years. Not acknowledging this particular part of his identity helped make life easier on him when it came time for life's adjustments.
Bigsby quotes Mamet thoughts here:
The Jewish child . . . is often torn between the desire to belong to the dominant culture and the desire to remain true to his or her heritage religious observance, and cultural identity. (9)
Acknowledging the lack of values, desertion, and self-deceit among many other things quickly became apparent to Mamet in his work. He soon required some of his characters to recognize these elements based on the awareness of his own experiences (Bigsby 9). "Mamet has spent some time working his way back to what was, perhaps too readily surrendered: Homicide, The Old Neighborhood and The Old Religion offering a reflection of that process." (Bigsby 10) Although a realization about this neglected area in his life was quite influential in his works, other experiences in Mamet's life also did the same.
As a child of divorced parents, Mamet had written a very personal essay on an important reaction regarding his thoughts on this situation. Mamet examines the appeal "of the comic book hero Superman who, far from being invulnerable as most boys imagine, is 'the most vulnerable of beings, because his childhood was destroyed.'" (Kane, 35) As a result of this image, Mamet wrote Reunion as a reminder explaining that although moments can seem short-lived, the broken home is still the most important institution in America. This essay provides a great autobiographical interest regarding Mamet as well as the light it sheds on his male characters that portray an ongoing sort of toughness in his plays (Kane 34-6).
Much of Mamet's work seems to take form based on his personal experiences. Bigsby writes that as an ethicist, Mamet looks at his plays with a singular vision. This is a vision of a world where there is lack of moral balance between public virtue and private self-desire. Power over a theater such as this has created Mamet's distinctive and unsettling cultural poetics. Wit and comedy are easily noticeable yet beyond that there is something darker. Mamet's ideas come close to separating the individual from a genuine relationship. His reproduction of human commitments and desires in particular forms result in what is listed as: "commodity fetishism, sexual negotiations and exploitations, aborted or botched crimes, brutal physical assaults, fraudulent business transactions enacted by petty thieves masquerading as businessmen, and human relationships whose only shared feature is the presence of physical sex and the absence of authentic love." (Bigsby 3) Kane's ideas continue on the notion that nearly all of Mamet's plays take place entirely outside of the home (6). Mamet often presents his characters in unreal cities and is not so concerned with a particular staging of an objective reality. There is more concern over the flood of urban existence rather than the social forces that area arranged within his cities. (Kane 9).
The 1990s have proven to be successful years for David Mamet. He had taken the time to make some changes from his usual routine regarding tone, theme, and dramatic form as well as exploring areas with different literary genres and historical settings. Interestingly, Mamet has moved away from the typical aggressive and masculine traits he often uses in his characters like in American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross. He has also produced a large number of essays, novels, screenplays, and films since 1990, which shows his growing interest in focusing on other areas rather than specifically the stage (Bigsby 103).
Consequently, this adjustment has helped Mamet come up with some of his most engaging plays ever. Four of the most important plays that have surfaced as a result of this change are Oleanna (1992), The Cryptogram (1995), The Old Neighborhood (1998), and Boston Marriage (1999). Unlike the Mamet's prior aggressive and masculine characters, the characters in these plays are very different. They focus on using language as a weapon in a way that is more dangerous compared to the physical weapons used in his earlier works (Bigsby 103).
Although Mamet initially began his career onstage, the success of his films can be compared equally to his plays. In the 1980s, it did not take long before he had experience in various areas including adapter, author of original screenplays, director, and reflective essayist on the craft of film. A few of the many movies that Mamet has been involved in include American Buffalo, The Postman Always Rings Twice, House of Games, and The Untouchables (Bigsby 171-5).
David Mamet's history as a successful playwright has proven to be the solid foundation for what he has become today. On stage or in film, Mamet has contributed his expertise to many areas of American Drama.
Bigsby, Christopher, ed. The Cambridge Companion to David Mamet. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Kane, Leslie. Ed. David Mamet: a casebook. NY: Garland, 1992.
MLA Style Citation of this Web Page
Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 8: David Mamet." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL:http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap8/mamet.html (provide page date or date of your login).