An Early History of Fire

by  David Rabe

Full Length Play, Dramatic Comedy  /  5m, 2f

Longing and confusion. Hearts pounding, time ticking away. Early 1960s in a Midwestern town. Danny Mueller’s working class life is one of fierce loyalty to childhood friends, Jake and Terry. But the bigger world is stirring once he meets Karen, back from college in the east and alluring because of what she knows, and unsettling for that same reason.


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An Early History of Fire

by  David Rabe

License Estimator

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    5m, 2f
  • Duration

    Duration

    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Period
  • Accolades

    Accolades

    Not Applicable
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Scene work
    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult

Additional Info

Longing and confusion. Hearts pounding, time ticking away. Early 1960s in a Midwestern town. Danny Mueller’s working class life is one of fierce loyalty to childhood friends, Jake and Terry. But the bigger world is stirring once he meets Karen, back from college in the east and alluring because of what she knows, and unsettling for that same reason. The grip of Danny's past is intensified by his father, a German immigrant mourning a vanished world of lost prestige. For Pop the question is how to let go of a son and life he never quite had now that the future has shrunk to almost nothing. While Danny hopes to change without betraying the bonds that have sustained him, Karen, a whirl of brilliance, looks to J.D. Salinger for answers and to Danny for a simplicity he does not possess. To fall in love, to have a destiny, to know what it is. That’s what they all want, even Benji hanging onto Pop, and Shirley, too, adrift in a way she could not have foreseen. old look backward and the young look ahead, while we watch from the future they long to inhabit. And it’s all about to burn in the heat of whatever's coming. The way it always does.

Click here to read an interview with David Rabe by TDF Stages.

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Reviews

REVIEWS

“Combustible quality...beautifully captures both the age of the characters and of the country they belong to. Their glazed but rapturous expressions summons an eternal chapter of youth....Portraits of friendship...Testosterone-pumping friction...A tumultuous work...touchingly earnest anger and confusion." - The New York Times

“FOUR STARS...sharp...smoldering...make[s] the past a fine place to be.” - TimeOut NY

"Suspenseful...an emotional roller-coaster of a party...humorous moments...Rabe creates memorable characters, moments of volatility and warmth, and phrases that stick in your mind.”- Associated Press

“David Rabe's autobiographically-inspired new play…beautifully captures a specific moment in history in the early 1960s...The language is simple and natural...Scenes fly by with an epic sweep...Like the hit TV series Mad Men, it also acts as a time capsule of sorts that lets us measure our own lives and our society's progress.” - Theatermania

"Attention must be paid. A perceptive play." - New York Observer

“Poignant voice...Rabe's writing both strong and striking...Surprisingly lyrical aria” - Variety

“Fine writing...intense...sexual...a memorable tornado” - Backstage

“Shining moments of spot-on dialogue" - Entertainment Weekly

Videos

  • Beyond Broadway interview with cast of An Early History of Fire
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Considerations

Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

Cautions

  • Caution Alcohol Alcohol
  • Caution Drugs Drugs
  • Caution Intense Adult Intense Adult Themes
  • Caution Strong Language Strong Language
  • Caution Smoking Smoking

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $75 per performance

Production

Details

  • Time Period: 1960s
  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting: The Mueller home in a medium-sized Midwestern town. Early fall, 1962.
  • Additional Features: Not Applicable
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes

Music

  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Chorus Size: N/A (Not a musical)

Casting

5m, 2f
DANNY
POP
SHIRLEY
KAREN
TERRY
JAKE
BENJI
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Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)
  • Parts for Senior Actors

Casting Notes

POP speaks with a distinct German accent. The others are all Midwestern.

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Authors

David Rabe

David Rabe

An Early History of Fire was first produced Off Broadway by The New Group in New York City on April 30, 2012. It was directed by Jo Bonney.

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