"Those who came before us -- their greatness and tragedy -- they walk amongst us and live with us in a very potent and visceral way," says Rebeck, who was commissioned by the departments of English and Theatre to guest teach a variety of English courses, deliver a lecture to students in the Freshmen Year Experience program and create a play for the University's 19 professional actors.
In a time when contemporary playwrights are being told to write for small casts ("a production with five actors is considered big"), she was immediately drawn to the project and to "the fantastic actors."
Rebeck is an American playwright, television writer, novelist, Pulitzer Prize finalist and executive producer (alongside Steven Spielberg) of Smash, an NBC pilot that will debut this fall. Raised in "a very Catholic" household in Ohio, she read the Bible "from cover-to-cover several times" and initially sought to write about a girl trying to have an abortion with nobody to talk to. "It's a story that just seems real to me," she says.
But to write for 19 people, she realized, "you better have something epic to say."
She started O Beautiful in the summer of 2010, finishing the second act just a few months before the Tea Party's primary election victory shifted Delaware into the national spotlight.
No fan of the recent populist movement, Rebeck had a rather tragic epiphany when, while writing the script, she watched a TV interview of a mother whose child had just committed suicide after being bullied.