Richard Nelson

Playwright, Director, Screenwriter
Revered as a national treasure of American theater, playwright Richard Nelson achieved fame for both his original plays as well as his interpretations of the classics. Fresh out of college, Nelson turned his interest in ... Read more »
Born: 10/17/1950 in Chicago, Illinois, USA


Writer (4)

Hyde Park On Hudson 2012 (Movie)


Ethan Frome 1993 (Movie)


The End of a Sentence 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)


Sensibility and Sense 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)



Revered as a national treasure of American theater, playwright Richard Nelson achieved fame for both his original plays as well as his interpretations of the classics. Fresh out of college, Nelson turned his interest in journalism into fodder for such early dramatic efforts as "The Killing of Yablonski" and "Jungle Coup" in the late-1970s. At New York's Playwrights Horizons, Nelson earned accolades for such plays as "The Vienna Notes" and gained recognition for his respected adaptations of the work of Chekhov and other iconic playwrights. Having lived abroad for a number of years, Nelson became interested in the differences between European and American cultures and explored those themes in plays like "Between East and West" (1983), "Chess" (1988) and "Some Americans Abroad" (1989). He later ventured into writing for the screen with the teleplay "Sensibility and Sense" (PBS, 1990) and the feature adaptation of Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome" (1993). Over the following decade, Nelson's continued work for the stage included his Tony Award-winning book for the musical adaptation of "James Joyce's The Dead" and the biographical drama "Frank's Home." He returned to screenwriting with an adaptation of his own radio play, "Hyde Park on Hudson" (2012), starring Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Endlessly fascinated by human nature and cultural dissimilarities, Nelson continued to probe these themes with a narrative voice as relatable as it was unique.


Jocelyn Anne Nelson


Zoe Elizabeth Nelson


Cynthia Bacon

married May 21, 1972

Richard Nelson


Viola Nelson

was a showgirl from age 15 until her marriage to Nelson's father died c. 1984


Hamilton College

Clinton , New York 1972



Adapted radio play for feature film "Hyde Park on Hudson," starring Bill Murray and directed by Roger Michell


Wrote and produced short film "Roots in Water"


Wrote radio play "Hyde Park on Hudson" (BBC Radio 4)


Wrote and directed the London play "Madame Melville" about an older woman and a younger man; production recreated in NYC in 2001


Received Tony nominations for writing book and lyrics (shared with Shaun Davey) for "James Joyce's The Dead"; also assumed directing chores after "creative differences" with original stager Jack Hoffsiss; won Tony Award for Book of a Musical


Helmed production of his play "Goodnight Children Everywhere" at Playwrights Horizons


"New England" produced by RSC and later off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club


Co-wrote (with Alexander Gelman) "Misha's Party" for RSC and Moscow Art Theatre


RSC produced "Columbus and the Discovery of Japan"


Expanded "The End of a Sentence" to the full-length NYC stage production "Life Sentences"


Wrote the screenplay for "Ethan Frome" (an "American Playhouse" theatrical feature), adapted from the novel by Edith Wharton


Received Best Play Tony nomination for "Two Shakespearian Actors," which originated at RSC 1990; dramatized rivalry between 19th-century actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready, which resulted in the Astor Place riots in NYC


Wrote "The End of a Sentence," a presentation of "American Playhouse" (PBS) starring Edward Herrmann and directed by Jones


Adapted his 1989 play "Sensibility and Sense" for PBS' "American Playhouse"; directed by David Jones


"Some Americans Abroad" produced by RSC received Olivier Award nomination for Best Comedy; played both off-Broadway and later on Broadway 1990


Authored the book for Broadway production of musical "Chess," with music by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson (of the rock band ABBA), and lyrics by Tim Rice


Wrote radio play "Languages Spoken Here" (BBC Radio 3)


First association with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), "Principia Scriptoriae"


Adaption of Dario Fo's "The Accidental Death of an Anarchist" played on Broadway; performed the previous year at Arena Stage


Co-directed (as well as scripted) "Between East and West" at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle, WA


Served as literary manager for Brooklyn Academy of Music Theatre Company; translated (with Helen Ciulei) "The Wedding" (based on a work by Bertolt Brecht) as "The Marriage Dance: An Evening of Farce" (1980) and adapted Brecht's "Jungle of Cities" (1981)


Adapted Moliere's "Don Juan" for Arena Stage


"The Vienna Notes" debuted at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN; moved to Playwrights Horizons 1979; received OBIE award


"The Killing of Yablonski" and "Conjuring an Event" separately staged in NYC


First play produced at NYC's Playwrights Horizons, "Jungle Coup"


Wrote "Scooping," a one-act play performed at Washington DC's Arena Stage


Two early plays produced at the Mark Taper Forum's Lab theater in Los Angeles, CA, "The Killing of Yablonski: Scenes of Involvement" (1975) and "Conjuring an Event" (1976)

Because of father's work as a salesman, family moved frequently, living near Gary, IN, Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, and Detroit, MI

After college, worked as a journalist

Appointed dramaturg at Tyrone Guthrie Theatre

Served as associate director of Chicago's Goodman Theatre; wrote "Bal" and adapted Nikolai Erdman's "The Suicide" (both 1980); adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters" staged in 1995, 11 years after its run at the Guthrie

Bonus Trivia


In 1983, Nelson received a Guggenheim Fellowship.


Nelson was an Honorary Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.


With Colin Chambers, he wrote a children's play titled "Kenneth's First Play" for the RSC.