Eugene OʼNeill, Tennessee Williams, and David Mamet are literary laureates, perhaps the most revered of American playwrights. Scarsdaleʼs own Dan OʼBrien, a successful playwright and poet who graduated from SHS in 1992, aspires to join this list. OʼBrien, with a Masters in Fine Arts from Brown University, has had his plays produced off-Broadway and at theaters across the country, and has won the Osborn Award presented by the American Theatre Critics and the Mark Twain Comedy Writing Award. With such accolades under his belt, OʼBrien is currently working on his next productions including The Three Christs of Ypsilanti and The Body of an American, and has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Princeton University, and University of the South.
OʼBrienʼs SHS experience had a profound impact on his current literary career. OʼBrien notes, “My favorite class was English. It was the place I got to be most creative, in the way I wanted to be creative, occasionally getting to write stories and poems.” In particular, certain books and poems that OʼBrien read during his English classes inspired him to write his own work involving similar themes of family and relationships. OʼBrien explains, “Joyceʼs Portrait of the Artist, Faulknerʼs Sound and the Fury were difﬁcult and beautiful books that told the truth. Anne Sextonʼs poetry especially told me what I had to do with my life. These haunting depictions of suburban trauma, sadly, reminded me of my familyʼs secrets and dysfunction, and the concept that art could somehow make pain into something beautiful, at least meaningful and artful.” These books and poems were, according to OʼBrien, his “life-changing realization at SHS.”