David Auburn: Bio

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David Auburn was born in Chicago in 1969. Although his family moved soon after, he returned to the city for college, studying political philosophy at the University of Chicago. While at university, he became involved in Off-Off Campus— a student improv troupe for which he wrote and performed short comedy sketches. As he became more interested in theater, he also wrote for the Maroon, UChicago’s student newspaper, as a theater critic, and learned more about the Chicago theatre scene

After graduating in 1991, Auburn was offered a writing fellowship in LA, but left California for New York shortly after the fellowship ended. He spent several years working day jobs, and in 1994 was accepted into the Julliard School’s prestigious playwriting program. He worked with such established playwrights as Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman, and continued polishing his plays and monologues. In 1997, Auburn’s play Skyscraper, a comedy about urban architecture and couples in Chicago, was produced. While it only had a brief stint Off-Broadway, it impressed the literary staff at the Manhattan Theater Club (MTC), who invited him to submit his next play—which would prove to be a fruitful collaboration for both of them.

Proof had its first reading in April 1999 at the Manhattan Theater Club. The reading was very successful, and allowed MTC to schedule a full production for the coming season. Proof premiered in 2000, and that year Auburn became the most successful young playwright on Broadway, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, as well as a slew of other prizes. In the next few years, Proof became one of the most popular new plays both in the US and abroad

Auburn’s next play was 2004’s The Journals of Mihail Sebastian, a one-man show adapted from the journals of a Romanian novelist in WWII. Auburn considered it a passion project rather than a formal follow-up to Proof, but loved the source material, and Mihail Sebastian received positive reviews.

In the next few years, Auburn tried his hand at new ventures. He wrote a draft for the movie version of Proof, although he and the director disagreed on the direction of the piece, and wrote the screenplay for the Sandra Bullock vehicle The Lake House. In 2008 and 2010, he wrote well-received one-acts for New York festivals—one about an aging tennis star, and another centered on a political power-broker. He also tried his hand at directing, ranging from new pieces to modern classics, including a well-reviewed production of Albee’s A Delicate Balance in 2010.

Recently, however, Auburn has returned to writing in a big way. In 2011, his loose adaptation of The New York Idea, a society comedy from the early 20th century, was produced. Only a year later, in early 2012, his new play The Columnist arrived at the Manhattan Theater Club. Centered around notorious journalist Joseph Alsop, the production starred John Lithgow and received very good notices. One of the most honored playwrights of his generation, David Auburn continues to write for the stage and screen.