Feature: Playwright David Mamet

Date posted: 24 Oct 2016Author: STC Production: Speed-the-Plow

David Mamet photo by Brigitte Lacombe
David Mamet (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe)


Born in Chicago in 1947, David Mamet had an unhappy childhood – shaped by a violent stepfather, a distant mother and an exacting father.

In his teens, he began performing bit parts and helping out at local theatres. He penned his first play at college and went on to teach acting, starting a theatre company with some of his students, including the now-renowned William H Macy.

The St Nicholas Theatre Company as it was called, staged Mamet’s plays including, in 1975, Mamet's first major success, American Buffalo, which transferred to Broadway two years later.

Mamet also began a parallel, at times intertwined, career in writing for film. His screenplay adaptations of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, and The Verdict (1982), starring Paul Newman and Charlotte Rampling, established credentials that were gilded by the immense box office success of The Untouchables in 1987.

In 1984, his play Glengarry Glen Ross won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He wrote Speed-the-Plow in 1988 on the back of his time in Hollywood working on The Untouchables. His 1992 play Oleanna was the first to be performed here at STC, featuring Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett on debut (she went on to win a Sydney Critics’ Circle Award for her performance). 

​Mamet’s distinctive dialogue has became as admired as his penchant for profanity and coarse idiom has become the source of complaint. When people wrote to him taking exception to the frequent swearing in his plays, Mamet generally responded with a proforma letter: “Too bad, you big cry baby.”

Mamet continues to write for both stage and screen, from films including Wag the Dog and Hannibal, to TV show The Unit, to plays such as Boston Marriage. A prolific writer, he has also published several books and collections of essays on writing, theatre and filmmaking.

You will find excerpts of his writing and a full profile in our printed Speed-the-Plow program, available at the theatre for $10.




One of David Mamet's most well-known pieces of writing is this scene from the movie of Glengarry Glen Ross – Alec Baldwin's character isn't in the original play.



Mamet wrote the screenplay for the film The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma, starring Sean Connery and Kevin Costner.



In this 1997 comedy, written by Mamet, Robert De Niro plays a White House spin doctor who employs a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to create a fake international war.



Speed-the-Plow, 8 Nov – 10 Dec 2016, Roslyn Packer Theatre

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