“We are very excited to honor a playwright with a truly American voice. Linney’s prodigious work is greatly revered by his fellow playwrights,” said Peter Ellenstein, director of the William Inge Theatre Festival. “Fifteen of our past honored playwrights helped choose this year’s honoree, and yet Linney’s name is still not familiar to most Americans. We hope this well-deserved honor helps, in some small way, to introduce more of the public to Linney’s unique contributions to the American theater.”
Mr. Linney, the author of 13 full-length and 22 short plays, is renowned for the lyrical quality of his work, particularly in the ability to capture the nuance and richness of ordinary speech. Many of his works are set in rural locales, including his native Appalachia. Tennessee chronicles the fortitude of early Appalachian settlers while Heathen Valley, an adaptation of his 1962 novel, delves into the role that faith plays in the lives of people in the same region. In FM, a small Alabama college suddenly finds itself home to a genius.
Although perhaps best known as a perceptive storyteller of life in rural America, some of Mr. Linney’s plays take place in quite different settings. His simply titled 2 examines Nazi strongman Herman Goering during the Nuremburg trials and in Childe Byron the dying daughter of 19th century poet Lord Byron clashes with her estranged father. In April Snow an aging screenwriter takes a bittersweet look at his life and loves.
While his plays have been performed in the world’s major cities, Mr. Linney has remarked that most “are not urban in content” and “it has been in theaters across my country, some large, some modest, that these plays have had the most appeal and have been artistically the best understood.”
Mr. Linney’s long association with Yaddo started in the summer of 1964 when he was a guest artist in residence for 2 months. He has since returned to Yaddo several times and is a Member of The Corporation of Yaddo. He also has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and National Foundation for the Arts grants. Laughing Stock, Mr. Linney’s comic evening of one-acts, was selected one of the 10 best plays of 1984 by Time magazine and two of his works, Heathen Valley in 1987-88 and 2 in 1989-90, received the National Critics Award for Best Play of the Year. He also is the winner of the 1984 Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a 1992 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Playwriting. He is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
The William Inge Theatre Festival is named for the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Inge, author of Picnic, Bus Stop, and Splendor in the Grass, among others. Now in its 22nd year, the festival is held in Inge’s hometown of Independence, Kansas. Previous winners of the Inge Festival’s Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award include Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Neil Simon, and Stephen Sondheim. This year’s festival runs April 9-12.
For more information about the festival, click here.