Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Playwright Romulus Linney Dies at Age 80

Playwright Romulus Linney died Saturday of lung cancer at home in Germantown, N.Y. He was 80 years old and also had a home in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

Though Linney never achieved the same level of popularity as playwrights like Edward Albee or Neil Simon, his work was often performed Off Broadway and at regional theaters. The Signature Theater Company in New York presented a full season of Mr. Linney's work in 1991.

Linney wrote more than 30 plays during his lifetime, covering a wide variety of styles. Many were one-acts, some comic, some somber, and often full of literary and historical references. Only one was performed on Broadway.

"In terms of scope of ambition, Mr. Linney may be our bravest living playwright," Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote in 1996, "running from rural dramas about hillbilly homicides to lush meditations on Lord Byron's ghost and Frederick the Great."

Mr. Brantley was referring to some of Mr. Linney's better-known works: "True Crimes" (1996), "Childe Byron" (1977), and "The Sorrows of Frederick" (1966).

Mr. Linney adapted Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" for the stage and his play "Unchanging Love" was a version of Chekhov's short story "In the Ravine." He also adapted contemporary novels "A Lesson Before Dying," and "Going After Cacciato."

Mr. Linney wrote plays about August Strindberg, Oscar Wilde, Delmore Schwartz and Anna Akhmatova. He wrote about the Nuremberg trials and the Vietnam War. His play "The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks," played on Broadway and was about a strange crime committed in the name of opposition to the war policy of President Richard M. Nixon. Unfortunately it closed after five performances in 1972.

Romulus Zachariah Linney IV (his great-grandfather was a North Carolina congressman ) was born Sept. 21, 1930, in Philadelphia and grew up until the age of 13 largely in the South. His family lived in Boone, N.C., and Madison, Tenn., and when his father died, Romulus moved with his mother to Washington.

He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio, spent two years in the Army and later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in directing at the Yale School of Drama.

Mr. Linney's first two marriages, to Ann Leggett and Margaret Jane Andrews, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, Ms. Callanan, whom he married in 1996, and his daughter Laura, who lives in Connecticut, he is survived by another daughter, Susan Linney, of Brooklyn.

For the full article, click here.

Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You