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Playwright Romulus Linney Dies at Age 80

Playwright Romulus Linney Dies at Age 80
Romulus Linney
Romulus Linney was the first playwright honored with an entire season of works at Signature Theatre Company.

Playwright Romulus Linney died of lung cancer on January 15. The author of a variety of plays, the 80-year-old Linney was also the father of Time Stands Still star Laura Linney, who did not attend the January 16 Golden Globes ceremony, in which she won a Best Actress award for her Showtime series The Big C.

Best known for his adaptation of Ernest Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying, Linney was the author of The Sorrows of Frederick, the story of Frederick the Great; Childe Byron, about the poet Lord Byron; and 2, which centered on Nazi war criminal Herman Goering. He was the author of several plays about life in Appalachia, a region where he spent a great deal of his youth: Tennessee, Holy Ghosts, Sand Mountain, Gint and Heathen Valley.

In 1992, Linney was the first playwright to have an entire season devoted to his plays by the Signature Theatre Company. He had most recently been working with composer Scott Wheeler on an opera adaptation of The Sorrows of Frederick, which had been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater. In addition to his plays, Linney was the author of the novels Slowly, By Thy Hand Unfurled; Heathen Valley and Jesus Tales.

Linney won two Obie awards, one for sustained excellence in playwriting; two National Critics Awards; three Drama-Logue Awards, and many fellowships, including grants from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and winner of its Gold Medal for Drama.

In addition to Laura Linney, the playwright is survived by his wife, Laura Callanan, and daughter Susan Linney. His family has asked that contributions in his name be made to the Signature Theatre Company. A memorial service later in the year will be announced.

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