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Theatre Row/Acorn Theatre

An Early History of Fire

An Early History of Fire, Theatre Row/Acorn Theatre, NYC Show Poster
Theatre Row/Acorn Theatre

410 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Important Dates
Apr 05, 2012
Apr 30, 2012
May 26, 2012
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The New Group presents David Rabe's new drama about a young man struggling to break free from his immigrant father.


Beyond Broadway: <I>An Early History of Fire</I>

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What Is the Story of An Early History of Fire?
Set in a medium-sized Midwestern town in the early 1960s, An Early History of Fire is the story of Danny, a twenty-something who lives in his childhood home with Pop, his German immigrant father. When Danny meets Karen, an affluent college student, at the bus stop, he discovers Catcher in the Rye, marijuana and a passion inside him that he never knew existed. As Danny struggles to discover himself and grapple with the repressed pain of his mother’s death, he pushes against the influence of his idealistic father, who keeps his only son on a tight leash. Ultimately, Danny must choose between a small-town life filled with familiar faces and a new world of unlimited possibilities.

Critics’ Reviews

[An Early History of Fire] is an entertaining, accurate portrayal of a time when America was on the cusp of social upheaval.

Review by Jennifer Farrar from Associated Press

There’s a moment of stopped time, in which Ms. Darke’s character holds a spoon filled with peanut butter over a piece of bread while the others stare unblinkingly into the future, that beautifully captures both the age of the characters and of the country they belong to. Their glazed but rapturous expressions summon an eternal chapter of youth when, to borrow from a Stephen Sondheim lyric, everything is possible and nothing makes sense.

Review by Ben Brantley from The New York Times

Cast & Creative


  • Danny
    Theo Stockman
  • Karen
    Claire van der Boom
  • Pop
    Gordon Clapp
  • Shirley
    Erin Darke
  • Terry
  • Benji
    Devin Ratray
  • Jake
    Dennis Staroselsky


  • Written by
    David Rabe
  • Director
    Jo Bonney
  • Set Designer
    Neil Patel
  • Lighting Designer
    Lap Chi Chu
  • Costume Designer
    Theresa Squire
  • Sound Designer
    Ken Travis

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is An Early History of Fire Like?
An Early History of Fire is set in Danny’s threadbare childhood home, where he feels both stifled by and responsible for his retired chess-playing father. Helmed by Jo Bonney, the play is filled with tidbits about 1960s literature, a subject Danny longs to learn despite having dropped out of college. Scratchy Elvis hits play on the record player while Danny, Karen and their friends drink Scotch, smoke “grass” and struggle to understand the limbo between high school graduation and adulthood.

Is An Early History of Fire Good For Kids?
No. An Early History of Fire depicts drug and alcohol use, and Danny and Pop sling physical and verbal insults at each other throughout the play. Although older teens may be mature enough to handle the subject matter, it’s best to see the production first before bringing them along.