Writing and Acting for the Stage and Screen
JOHN PIELMEIER began his career as an actor, working at Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Guthrie Theater, Milwaukee Rep, Alaska Rep, Baltimore’s Center Stage, and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference. It was at the O’Neill that his play Agnes of God was first staged. A co-winner of the Great American Play contest, Agnes premiered professionally at Actors Theatre of Louisville, which production was followed by several regional productions and a seventeen month run on Broadway. His other plays include Voices in the Dark, produced on Broadway and winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Best Play (published by Broadway Play Publishing); Haunted Lives, a collection of one-acts published by Dramatists Play Service; Courage, a one-man show about J.M. Barrie, produced at the Lambs’ Theatre off-Broadway, published by Playscripts, Inc. and filmed for public television (performed by the author); The Boys of Winter, produced on Broadway and published by Playscripts, Inc.; Sleight of Hand, produced on Broadway; Jass, presented at the O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference and workshopped at the New Harmony Project; Impassioned Embraces, a collection of short plays and monologues, published by Dramatists Play Service; Steeplechase the Funny Place, a musical (with music and lyrics by Matty Selman) workshopped at the New Harmony Project; Young Rube, a musical (also with Mr. Selman), workshopped at the Gathering at Bigfork in Bigfork, Montana and first produced at the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis; Willi, a one-man show based on the speeches of mountaineer Willi Unsoeld, which premiered (and was performed by the author) at A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle (breaking box office records); The Classics Professor, workshopped at The Gathering at Bigfork and at CAP21, New York City (and performed by the author); and Slow Dance with a Hot Pickup, a musical with Mr. Selman workshopped at the New Harmony Project, Sarasota Shakespeare Festival, and the Musical Workshop at Indiana University, and which premiered at The Barnstormers Theatre in Tamworth, New Hampshire in 2007, winning 4 New Hampshire Theatre Awards, including Best Production of a Musical and Best New Play. He has been a writer-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Ossabaw Island, The Gathering at Bigfork, and the New Harmony Project, and has received alumni awards from the Catholic University of America and Penn State. In 2003 he was inducted into the Blair County, Pennsylvania Arts Hall of Fame. His play, Madonna and Child, was read at the 2007 New Harmony Conference, where he was in residence, and at the Lark Theatre. He served as the Keynote Speaker for the Harriet Lake Festival of New Plays in Orlando, Florida in February 2008.
For Choices of the Heart, a television movie he wrote about the slain American missionaries in El Salvador, he received a Christopher Award, the Humanitas Award, a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Teleplay, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He has written over 25 movies for television, including Sins of the Father (which broke viewer records when it was first aired on FX; also nominated for the Humanitas Award and a Writers Guild of America Award); Happy Face Murders (which broke viewer records when it was first aired on Showtime); The Stranger Within; The Last P.O.W.: The Bobby Garwood Story; The Shell Seekers; Through the Eyes of a Killer; Reunion (co-written with Ron Bass); Submerged (co-writer; received a special screening at the White House, attended by Mr. Pielmeier); Original Sins (which he also co-produced); a miniseries adaptation of Dominick Dunne’s An Inconvenient Woman; Dodson’s Journey; Forbidden Territory (National Geographic’s premiere television film on Stanley’s search for Livingstone); We Are Circus, an episode of Showtime’s series on the rescue efforts of Righteous Gentiles during the Holocaust; a new adaptation of Flowers for Algernon; Living with the Dead, a miniseries inspired by James van Praagh’s life and experiences; the critically acclaimed Hitler: The Rise of Evil (Emmy nomination, Best Miniseries), The Capture of the Green River Killer, a miniseries which broke viewership records by 250% when it aired on Lifetime Movie Network and was named by Variety as the Best Television Movie of 2008, an adaptation of Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (WGA nomination for Best Adapted Teleplay) which became the most-watched Lifetime movie in thirteen years when it aired in April, 2008 (receiving an Emmy nomination for Best Television Movie), and a new adaptation of Sybil. He wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Agnes of God (Writers Guild nomination for Best Screen Adaptation) and co-wrote the narration for National Geographic’s IMAX film Mysteries of Egypt.
His adaptation of Gifted Hands, the inspiring autobiography of Doctor Ben Carson, was nominated for the Humanitas Prize and for a Critics Choice Award, was named one of the top ten movies of the year by Movieguide, and won three Image Awards (for Outstanding Actor, Actress, and TV movie) and the prestigious Camie Award. His adaptations of two Patricia Cornwell mysteries, At Risk and The Front, aired on Lifetime in April 2010, and his adaptation of The Pillars of the Earth, an eight-hour series based on Ken Follett’s best-selling novel and a piece he is particularly proud of, aired throughout the world beginning in July, 2010. It received three Golden Globe nominations, garnered him his fifth nomination for a Writers Guild Award, won a Gemini Award, a Romy Award, and an Emmy nomination for Best Miniseries. His eight-hour adaptation of World Without End, Ken Follett’s sequel to Pillars, premiered in the autumn of 2012. His latest film (for Lifetime), The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother’s Hunt For Justice, aired in February 2021.
Recently, his stage-adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist was produced in London’s West End to wonderful reviews, toured the U.K., and was subsequently produced in Italy and Mexico.
His first novel, Hook’s Tale, was published to great acclaim by Scribner in 2017. He has adapted it for the stage and it will soon premiere at Houston’s Stages Theatre. He’s recently completed his newest play, Fathers and Sons, is working on La Dottoressa, a musical with Matty Selman based on the life of Maria Montessori while writing a new play commissioned by The Denizen Theatre (Marlowe! Goethe! Faust!), and finishing two novels, The Fever and The Locked Door.
A proud member of the Dramatists Guild and the Writers Guild of America East, as well as Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA, and an alumnus of New Dramatists, Mr. Pielmeier has been a guest lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State, and the University of Vermont. His keynote address at the 2008 Harriet Lake Festival of New Plays in Orlando, “Writing What Matters,” was reprinted by The Dramatists Guild magazine. He is married to poet/playwright Irene O’Garden and resides in Garrison, New York.