Romulus Linney Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Romulus Linney was born in Philadelphia and reared in Madison, Tennessee. His father, a doctor and an avid outdoorsman, greatly influenced Linney’s life but died when Linney was thirteen. He and his mother moved to Washington, where she taught public speaking. After he was graduated from Oberlin College in 1953, Linney attended the Yale School of Drama, where he received an M.F.A. degree in directing in 1958. He began his writing career as a novelist, writing Heathen Valley in 1962 and Slowly, by Thy Hand Unfurled in 1965. After some struggling, he wrote his first play, The Sorrows of Frederick, and found his true voice. After that time, Linney wrote many plays. He was a member of New Dramatists for seven years, and he continued to write, lecture, and conduct workshops at several colleges in the New York area, where he settled.

Linney’s first attempt at Broadway, The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks, while beautifully acted and staged, did not receive the necessary rave reviews to keep it running. Clive Barnes, in particular, complained of the script’s improbability: “The play could not . . . ever make a particularly convincing or satisfying evening in the theater.” Its subject matter, the double suicide of a general and his wife, was not palpable to the typical Broadway audience.

An imaginative writer, Linney wrote from two usually distinct points of view: the Tennessee-born background of such...

(The entire section is 590 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Romulus Linney was one of the most widely produced playwrights on the American regional theater circuit, achieving the distinction without resorting to the commercialism of Broadway or Hollywood. Born in Philadelphia but reared in rural Tennessee, he lost his father at the age of thirteen, a tragedy that forced his family to move to Washington, D.C. The happy memories of those early years, however, were to inform his work, especially the rural plays of simple mountain folk. The bright, introspective young man was educated at Oberlin College, then attended the Yale School of Drama, receiving the M.F.A. in directing in 1958. After some experiments in prose writing (including Heathen Valley, which was published in 1962), Linney found his dramatic voice with The Sorrows of Frederick, a complex, nonlinear discovery of the private Frederick II inside the great public general. Since then, produced in most major cities in the United States and widely respected in Europe, Linney received virtually every national award for playwriting, including the National Endowment for the Arts Award (1974), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1980), and a citation from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1984). He enjoyed long-term relationships with many leading new theater companies involved in play development, including New Dramatists, Philadelphia Festival for New Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville, South Coast Repertory Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum. In Canada, England, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, productions of Linney’s plays have been included among the best American dramatic works.

Linney’s plays can be divided into two fairly distinct kinds. His historical dramas, such as The Sorrows of Frederick and Childe Byron, portray the conflict between personal integrity and public compromise. The most complex example of this genre is The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks, a postmodernist piece that dramatizes the retelling of a dual suicide by staging a reproduction of the tragedy itself,...

(The entire section is 838 words.)