Letts, Tracy 1965-

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LETTS, Tracy 1965-

PERSONAL: Born 1965, in Tulsa, OK; son of Dennis (an actor) and Billie (an author) Letts.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 758 West North Ave., 4th floor, Chicago, IL 60610.

CAREER: Playwright, actor. Member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, IL, 2002—. Appeared in Steppenwolf productions, including Homebody/Kabul, The Dazzle, Glengarry Glen Ross, Three Days of Rain, The Road to Nirvana, Picasso and the Lapin Agile, and The Glass Menagerie; actor in plays of other production companies, including The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Red Orchid Theatre, Conquest of the South Pole, Famous Door, and Bouncers, Next Lab; actor in films, including Paramedics, 1988, Straight Talk, 1992, U.S. Marshals, 1998, Chicago Cab, 1998, and Guinevere, 1999; actor in television series, including Home Improvement, Seinfeld, 1997, The Drew Carey Show, 1998, Judging Amy (pilot), 1999, and The District, 2001.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama, 2004, for The Man from Nebraska.



Killer Joe, produced in Chicago, IL, 1993.

Bug, produced in London, England, 1996, and in New York, NY, 2004.

The Man from Nebraska, produced in Chicago, IL, 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Tracy Letts was a 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play, The Man from Nebraska, adding to his recognition as a contemporary American playwright. Letts, who is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, is also an actor, and has appeared in a number of films and television series.

His debut play, Killer Joe, was first produced by Steppenwolf in 1993. The 1998 Off-Broadway production at Soho Playhouse starred Scott Glenn as hitman Joe Cooper hired by Chris Smith to kill his mother for the insurance money. Amanda Plummer played Chris's sister, the trashy Sharla Smith, married to Ansel (Marc A. Nelson), who acts inappropriately with their daughter Dottie (Sarah Paulson). The characters are clearly portrayed as stereotypes. They live in a trailer, swill beer, walk around in their underwear, watch the Home Shopping Network, and have Southern accents. Variety's Charles Isherwood noted that "the play's success abroad—it traveled to the Edinburgh fest and on to London after debuting in Chicago—is easily traced to its portrayal of the lower depths of American culture as luridly violent, a canard always popular with the English."

Bug was first produced in London, England. In reviewing a 2004 New York production, New York Times contributor Ben Brantley reflected back on Killer Joe, calling it "tense, creepy, and a hoot, and it let you keep a sardonic distance from its vicious, moronic characters." Bug, he remarked "inspires laughs all right, but of a much more uneasy variety. Directed with expert and sadistic timing by Dexter Bullard, and acted by a smashing cast led by Shannon Cochran and Michael Shannon, this production ultimately drags you by force into the fear and squalor on stage."

The central character, waitress Agnes White (Cochran), lives in a motel on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, where she enters into a relationship with Peter Evans (Shannon), a man introduced to her by her lesbian best friend. The relationship accelerates under the influence of neat vodka and cocaine, which causes clothing to fall and secrets to be revealed. Peter, a Gulf War veteran, tries to convince Agnes that the government is implanting bugs, or secret devices, in the bodies of its citizens.

Variety's Chris Jones reviewed the Chicago opening of The Man from Nebraska, calling it "an agnostic version of a Medieval morality drama fused with elements of both About Schmidt and David Mamet's Edmund." Nebraskan insurance agent Ken (Rick Snyder) has lost his faith, and encouraged by his understanding wife, he travels to London for a vacation. He hangs out in London's artsy East End, under the guidance of Tamyra (Karen Aldridge), while his family and church stumble along without him until he returns. "A play about life as it is lived (at times, at least), The Man from Nebraska does connect with an audience familiar with day-to-day depressions and the desire to pack it all in," concluded Jones.



New York Times, October 23, 1994, Vincent Canby, review of Killer Joe, p. B1; October 19, 1998, Ben Brantley, review of Killer Joe, p. B1; March 1, 2004, Ben Brantley, review of Bug, p. E7.

Variety, October 26, 1998, Charles Isherwood, review of Killer Joe, p. 135; December 8, 2003, Chris Jones, review of The Man from Nebraska, p. 65.


Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (May 6, 2004).*