Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Altoona, Blair County
Awards: American Plays Prize, National Endowment for the Arts, Humanitas Award, Christopher Award, Image Award, Gemini Award, Romy Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, Camie Award
John Pielmeier was born and raised in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and earned his master's degree from The Pennsylvania State University in 1978. Pielmeier has written many award-winning plays and screenplays, including Agnes of God (1982), Courage (1983), a stage-adaptation of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist (2012), and countless others. Many of his plays have also been made into movies. His work has garnered awards, such as the Humanitas Award, Christopher Award, Gemini Award, Romy Award.
John Pielmeier was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on February 23, 1949, to Len and Louise Pielmeier. He grew up feeling comfortably isolated in his hometown and found companionship in nature; he has described his hometown as an “island” that gave him the chance to explore and grow on his own. Pielmeier’s passion for the stage manifested at an early age, when he would put on plays for fun as a child. His mother also read him the stories of J.M. Barrie often, particularly Peter Pan, which would serve as a source of inspiration later in life.
At first, Pielmeier studied and worked as an actor. He earned a BA from Catholic American University in 1970. A Shubert Fellowship allowed him to study playwriting at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), from where he earned an MFA in 1978. Pielmeier heavily credits Penn State’s theatre arts department (and particularly his mentor, Archie Smith) for his growth as an actor and writer. Even while completing these degrees, Pielmeier was an actor and writer for several regional theatre companies.
Following his graduation from Penn State, Pielmeier moved to New York City and began working on his most famous play, Agnes of God. In 1982, Agnes of God was performed on Broadway, following performances and revisions in Connecticut and Kentucky. The run on Broadway lasted more than a year and made Pielmeier a recognizable name. The author adapted his play for the screen, and in 1985 it was made into a movie starring Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Meg Tilly. Agnes of God has earned Pielmeier several accolades, including a prize from the Festival of New American Plays held by the Actors Theater of Louisville.
Arguably, Pielmeier’s most wellknown work is his stage adaptation of The Exorcist. Having received the direct blessing of author William Blatty, Pielmeier's adaptation focuses in on the themes of faith (especially lost faith) and on the events directly before the book's beginning. The play premiered in 2012 and continues to tour as of the time of this writing to very positive audience response.
Pielmeier’s notable works also include Courage (1983), a play about Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, and The Boys of Winter (1985), a Vietnam War drama. He has also written over 25 screenplays for television, including Choices of the Heart (1983), a movie about American missionaries in El Salvador that earned him the Christopher Award and the Humanitas Award. Though his work is primarily in screenwriting, Pielmeier has begun testing the waters with novels as of this writing. His novel Hook’s Tale (2017), a retelling of Peter Pan from Captain Hook’s point of view, has been met with very positive reviews, especially for a first novel.
At the time of this writing, Pielmeier continues to write plays and novels alongside his wife and fellow writer, Irene O’Garden, in Garrison, New York.
Agnes of God, produced on Broadway, 1982. Samuel French, New York City, 1982.
Courage, produced in Louisville at Actors Theater of Louisville, 1983, produced Off- Broadway, 1984, produced in Louisville, and filmed by Kentucky Educational Television, Fall 1988.
The Boys of Winter, produced on Broadway, 1985, produced at Pennsylvania State University, 1988.
The Classics Professor, produced in New York City, 1988.
Voices in the Dark, (two-act play, produced at George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, NJ, 1998), Broadway Play, New York City, 1998.
Choices of the Heart, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1983.
The Stranger Within. American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 1990.
Happy Face Murders. Viacom, 1999.
Submerged. National Broadcasting Company, 2001.
Sins of the Father. Fox (FX) Networks, 2001.
Living with the Dead. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Television, 2002.