Romulus Linney

Romulus Linney

1991-92 Residency 1 Playwright

Romulus Linney has written more than 25 plays including The Sorrows of Frederick, Holy Ghosts, Childe Byron, A Woman Without a Name, Sand Mountain, Three Poets and 2. His plays have been produced widely over the past thirty years in theatres across the U.S. and abroad.

Six of his one-act plays have appeared in Best Short Plays, including Laughing Stock, which was also featured in Time Magazine as one of the 10 best plays of 1984. He has also written for film and television, including the teleplays "The Thirty-Fourth Star" (CBS), "Feeling Good" (PBS), and a film version of his play Holy Ghosts.

Many of his stories, essays, and articles have appeared in literary journals such as Pushcart Conjunctions and Kenyon Review. He received the National Critics Award for 2 (in its 1990 Humana Festival production at the Actors Theatre of Louisville) and for his adaptation of his 1962 novel Heathen Valley, which appears in Best Plays of the Year 1987-88. In 1998, Gint, his Appalachian version of Peer Gynt, was invited to the International Ibsen Festival at the Norwegian State Theatre in Oslo.

Mr. Linney was born in Philadelphia in 1931 and raised in the Appalachian town of Madison, Tennessee. He was inspired to pursue theatre by his mother, an amateur actress, and went on to receive a B.A. from Oberlin College and a M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama. He moved New York City in 1958 and began his professional career, which has also included directing many productions of his own plays.

In 1991, after working on a production of Heathen Valley that Mr. Linney also directed, James Houghton was inspired to create a theatre that would honor one living playwright each season. His collaboration with Mr. Linney in the rehearsal process convinced him that living playwrights should be more involved in the productions of their plays than is common in the American theatre today. Mr. Linney became the first Playwright-in-Residence of the newly formed Signature Theatre, and in its first season the theatre produced five revivals and the world premiere of Ambrosio.

Immediately following his Signature Season in 1992, Mr. Linney won an Obie for Sustained Achievement in Playwriting, and two anthologies of his plays were published. Mr. Linney has won many other awards including a 1980 Obie for Tennessee, three Hollywood Drama-Logue Awards, the Mishima Prize for Fiction, and the 1984 Award for Literature from the American Academy and Institute for Arts and Letters. He has been awarded two Fellowships from the NEA, as well as Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and National Foundation for the Arts grants.

He has received honorary doctorates from Oberlin College (1994), Appalachian State University (1995), and Wake Forest University (1998). He was a member of the Council of the Dramatists Guild, Inc., Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Fellowship of Southern Writers, National Theatre Conference, College of Fellows of the American Theatre, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Yaddo.

Mr. Linney was also an active teacher. He was formerly chair of the M.F.A. Playwriting program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts from and was Professor of Playwriting in the Actors Studio M.F.A. Program at the New School in New York. His theatrical adaptation of Ernest Gaines' novel A Lesson Before Dying was commissioned by Alabama Shakespeare Festival and then received its New York premiere as part of Signature Theatre's 10th Anniversary All-Premiere Celebration.

Past Productions

A Lesson Before Dying
The Love Suicide of Schofield Barracks
The Sorrows of Frederick
Heathen Valley
A Woman Without a Name
Pictured above: Founding Artistic Director James Houghton and Romulus Linney. Photo by Laura Callanan.

Now At The Center