Robert Schenkkan

Playwright & Screenwriter


Robert Schenkkan was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina but grew up in Austin, Texas. As a Plan II Honors student, he received a B.A. in Drama from the University of Texas at Austin (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude, and Friars' Society) and an M.F.A. in Theatre Arts (Acting) from Cornell University.  

Mr. Schenkkan is the author of twelve full-length plays, two full-length musicals, and a collection of short plays. The Kentucky Cycle was the result of several years of development, starting in NYC at New Dramatists and the Ensemble Studio Theatre. The two-part epic was later work shopped at the Mark Taper Forum, EST-Los Angeles, the Long Wharf Theatre, and the Sundance Institute. The complete "cycle" was awarded the largest grant ever given by the Fund for New American Plays and had its world premiere in 1991 at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle (Liz Huddle, producer) where it set box office records. In 1992, it was the centerpiece of the Mark Taper forum's 25th Anniversary Season. There it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the first time in the history of the award that a play was so honored which had not first been presented in NYC. It also won both the PEN Centre West and the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards for Best Play. In 1993, it appeared at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and opened on Broadway in November of that year where it was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards.

Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates had its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in December, 2005. By the Rivers of Babylon first appeared at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in February, 2005. The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune (published by Playscripts, Inc.) had its world premiere at the University of Texas at Austin in November, 2005. Handler (published by Playscripts, Inc.) premiered at the Actors Express Theatre. Heaven on Earth premiered off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre and won the Julie Harris/Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Award, and was a participant in the Eugene O'Neill Playwright's Conference. Final Passages premiered at the Studio Arena theatre. Tachinoki (Critic’s Choice, LA Weekly) premiered at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles.
Mr. Schenkkan has written two plays for children, The Dream Thief and The Devil and Daniel Webster. The Dream Thief had its premiere at Milwaukee's First Stage and is published by Dramatic Publishing. The Devil and Daniel Webster premiered at the Seattle Children’s Theatre in February, 2006.

Mr. Schenkkan has written numerous one-acts which are collected together and published by Dramatists Play Service as Conversations with the Spanish Lady. Among them is The Survivalist which premiered at ATL's Humana festival, went on to the EST Marathon in NYC, Canada's DuMaurier Festival, and the Edinburgh Festival where it won the "Best of the Fringe" award.

Mr. Schenkkan's film work includes The Quiet American, directed by Phillip Noyce. For television, he wrote the miniseries Crazy Horse (TNT), Spartacus (USA Netword) and The Andromeda Strain. He has written films for Sidney Pollack, Oliver Stone, Denzel Washington, Ron Howard, and Kevin Costner, among others. He is an Emmy-nominated writer/producer for Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks and HBO’s epic miniseries, The Pacific. He is currently adapting and co-executive producing Taylor Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy, America in the Time of King, as a seven part mini-series for HBO and Harpo productions, and adapting the Eisner-winning graphic novel, Incognito, as a feature for Fox and Peter Chernin.

Mr. Schenkkan is the recipient of grants from New York State, the California Arts Council, and the Vogelstein and the Arthur foundations. He is a New Dramatists alumnus and a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre and the National Theatre Conference. He lives in Seattle with his wife, the author, Maria Dahvana Headley (, and his two children, Sarah Victoria and Joshua McHenry.