|Born||February 28, 1946
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Genre||Modern theatre, original works and translations|
Timberlake Wertenbaker (full name: Lael Louisiana Timberlake Wertenbaker) is a British-based playwright, screenplay writer, and translator.
Timberlake Wertenbaker was born on February 28, 1946, New York City, New York, United States. In 1942, Charles Wertenbaker, a journalist with Time magazine, had married Lael Tucker Wertenbaker, also a Time journalist, novelist and freelance writer. They had a son, Dr. Christian Wertenbaker, and a daughter, Timberlake Wertenbaker, now a playwright. She subsequently grew up in the Basque Country and was educated in France at schools near St. Jean-de-Luz.
She graduated from St. John's College, USA, in 1966 and began her career writing for Time-Life books. She then went on to professional teaching, lecturing in both Greek and French before moving to London in the early '80s.
Wertenbaker was the resident writer for Shared Experience in 1983 and the Royal Court Theatre from 1984-85. She was on the Executive Council of The English Stage Company from 1992-1997 and on the Executive Committee of Pen from 1998-2001. She served as the Royden B. Davis professor of Theatre at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. for 2005-2006. She was the Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Freud Museum in 2011.
Currently, Wertenbaker is the Chair in Playwriting at the University of East Anglia. She is also the artistic director of Natural Perspective Theatre Company. In addition, she is artistic adviser to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and on the council of the Royal Society of Literature.
Central topics in her work are the efforts of individuals, particularly women: pursuing quests, seeking change, breaking boundaries, and constructing or challenging gender roles. A central technique is the revisioning of actual or imaginary lives from the past, sometimes remote in place as well as in time.
There is a further recurring theme in her work: displacement. In her plays, characters are often removed from the familiarity of home and are forced to live in new cultures, sometimes defined by national boundaries, other times by cultural and class divisions. From this central theme emerge related themes, including isolation, dispossession, and the problem of forging an identity within a new cultural milieu. In her work, individuals often seem to assume roles, as if identity were a matter of persons performing themselves. Wertenbaker’s work also demonstrates a keen awareness that communication occurs through language that often inadequately expresses experience.
She has a home in north London, where she lives with her husband John Man. They have one daughter.
Honours and awards
- 1985 Plays and Players Most Promising Playwright Award for The Grace of Mary Traverse
- 1988 Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright for Our Country's Good
- 1988 Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play for Our Country's Good
- 1989 Eileen Anderson Central Television Drama Award for The Love of the Nightingale
- 1990 Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play (New York) Our Country's Good
- 1991 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards for Best West End Play (London) Three Birds Alighting on a Field
- 1992 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Three Birds Alighting on a Field
- 1992 Writers' Guild Award (Best West End Play) Three Birds Alighting on a Field
- 1992 Mrs Giles Whiting Award for her body of work.
Wertenbaker was made a fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in 2006.
Wertenbaker is currently writing a new play for Out of Joint.
She has written plays for the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company and other theatres:
- This Is No Place for Tallulah Bankhead, 1978
- The Third, 1980
- Second Sentence, 1980
- Case to Answer, 1980
- Breaking Through, 1980
- New Anatomies, 1981
- Inside Out, 1982
- Home Leave, 1982
- Abel’s Sister, 1984
- The Grace of Mary Traverse, 1985
- Our Country's Good, 1988
- The Love of the Nightingale, 1989
- Three Birds Alighting on a Field, 1992
- The Break of Day, 1995
- After Darwin, 1998
- Dianeira, 1999 (radio)
- The Ash Girl (adaptation of "Cinderella"), 2000
- Credible Witness, 2001
- Galileo's Daughter, 2004
- Scenes of Seduction, 2005 (radio)
- Divine Intervention, 2006
- The Love of the Nightingale, (Opera) Music by Richard Mills (PIA - 2006 & Sydney Opera House 2011)
- Jenůfa by Gabriela Preissova (adaptation), 2007
- Arden City (For the National Theatre Connections program), 2008
- The Line, 2009
- Our Ajax, 2013
Translations and adaptations
Her translations and adaptations include several plays by Marivaux (Shared Experience, Radio3), Sophocles’ Theban Plays (RSC), Euripides’ Hecuba (ACT, San Francisco), Eduardo de Filippo, Gabriela Preissova’s Jenufa (Arcola), and Racine (Phèdre, Britannicus).
- Mephisto by Ariane Mnouchkine (1986)
- Leocadia by Jean Anouilh (1987)
- False Admissions; Successful Strategies; La Dispute: Three Plays by Marivaux (1989)
- The Thebans by Sophocles (1992)
- Filumena by Eduardo De Filippo (1998)
- Hecuba by Euripides (2001) (radio)
- Hippolytus by Euripides (2009)
- Phedre by Jean Racine (2009)
- Elektra by Sophocles (2010 & 2012)
- Antigone by Sophocles (2011)
- Britannicus by Jean Racine (2011)
- What Is the Custom of Your Grief? (15 part adaptation of A. S. Byatt’s novel Possession for BBC Radio 4)
- The Memory of Gold (October 2012 for BBC Radio 3)
- The Love of the Nightingale, music by Richard Mills (Perth International Arts Festival 2006, Opera House 2011)
- Plays, Vol. 1: New Anatomies; The Grace of Mary Traverse; Our Country's Good; The Love of the Nightingale; Three Birds Alighting on a Field (Faber and Faber)
- Plays, Vol. 2: The Break of Day; After Darwin; Credible Witness; The Ash Girl; Diianeira (Faber and Faber)