Life Story

Playwright Adam Rapp has been an influential American playwright, novelist and director for more than two decades. His stories often feature working class protagonists with Midwestern roots who long for relief, joy, or to find more meaning in life. Read along as we chart Rapp’s life and career trajectory.

By Neena Arndt

Rapp is born in Chicago to Mary Lee (née Baird) and Douglas Rapp. He has a sister, Anne, and brother, Anthony. He later attends St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa and the Juilliard School

Rapp publishes his first young adult novel, Missing the Piano.


Mary Lee Baird Rapp, Adam’s mother, and an AIDS activist and nurse, dies of cancer.

Rapp’s play Finer Noble Gases, first developed at Juilliard, premieres at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. It goes on to enjoy success at several theaters around the country. The play centers around the former members of a band who now sit numb in their East Village apartment, longing to feel something again.


Rapp’s play Nocturne premieres at the New York Theatre Workshop, followed by productions at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. In the play, a former piano prodigy recounts the events that destroyed his family.

Stone Cold Dead Serious is produced at the American Repertory Theater. The play follows a young man who aims to win enough money to pay his father’s medical bills, put his sister in rehab and pull his whole family out of despair.


Red Light Winter, which follows two men and their evolving and complex relationship with a sex worker, is produced at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Rapp also writes and directs a film entitled Winter Passing, which stars Ed Harris, Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Amy Madigan, Amelia Warner, Dallas Roberts and Rapp’s brother Anthony.

Red Light Winter runs off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre. The play is a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Rapp also publishes his first adult novel, The Year of Endless Sorrows.


Rapp continues writing plays, novels and screenplays. He also teaches at Yale University.

The Sound Inside premieres at Williamstown Theatre Festival, starring Mary Louise Parker and Will Hochman.


Rapp makes his Broadway debut with The Sound Inside. The production features the same cast and creative team as the Williamstown production. It is nominated for six Tony Awards.

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