Robertson, Lanie

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Robertson, Lanie


Born in Knoxville, IA; son of Archie Robertson (a pipeline construction superintendent) and Mildred Finlayson (a homemaker). Ethnicity: "White." Education: Temple University, Ph.D., 1972. Politics: Democrat.


Home—New York, NY. Agent—Ron Gwiazda, Abrams Artists Agency, 275 7th Ave., 26th Fl., New York, NY 10001.


Playwright, with work produced off-Broadway and throughout the United States, England, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Poland. Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia, PA, instructor, 1970-80.


Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild of America East.


Kliban Award, Kliban Foundation, 1985, for Stringbean; Outer Critics Circle Award, 1987, for Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill; Berrilla Kerr Foundation Award, 1995, for Last Gas till Turnpike; grant from National Endowment for the Arts.



The Insanity of Mary Girard, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1979.

Back County Crimes, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1980.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1987.

Nasty Little Secrets, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1988.

Alfred Aime O'Keeffe, L'Avant-Scene Theatre (Paris, France), 1998.

Woman before a Glass, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 2005.

Author of the script "I Ain't Elvis," published in Elvis Monologues, edited by Lavonne Mueller, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1998. Other produced plays include Alfred Stieglitz Loves O'Keeffe; Bringing Mother Down; Cannibal's Waltz; Closing the Halls Where Once Fatima Stood; In Separate Chambers; Last Gas till Turnpike; Nazi Women; Nobody Lonesome for Me; A Penny for the Guy; The Silver Skates; Stringbean; and What Does a Blind Leopard See? Other plays include Blythe Coward; God's Game; The Trial of Mrs. Surratt; and Walkin' the Dog.

Contributor to books, including Create Your Own Monologue, edited by Glenn Alterman, Allworth Press (New York, NY), 2005.


"My parents eloped at seventeen," Lanie Robertson told CA. "They were from the American South, but as my father was a pipeline worker, they began a peripatetic life, which we all shared. I was born in Knoxville, Iowa, a small town that we left when I was three or four years old. From kindergarten until high school graduation, I attended sixteen schools in fourteen of these United States. I believe my childhood influenced my theater work in many ways: it established me in my psyche as an eternal outsider; it attuned my ear to the sound of people's voices and to how meaning is often conveyed through intonations that revealed the truer feelings hiding behind the sense of the words people use; and it exposed me to a wide range of personality types and identities that lurk within regional identification. As a very young man I wrote plays, but I abandoned the craft after an established director asked why a character said what he said. I found I couldn't answer, for I didn't know. That undermined my sense of confidence, so I didn't write again for a decade.

"In 1976 while teaching at the Philadelphia College of Art and pursuing graduate work at Temple University, I took up playwriting again. My first play, The Insanity of Mary Girard, was produced that year in a small Philadelphia theater called the Painted Bride. That year six more of my plays were written and produced by various Philadelphia theaters. Also that year one was produced at the Berkshire Theater Festival and another at the Williamstown Theater Festival. In 1979 The Insanity of Mary Girard was published. In 1980 Samuel French also printed Back County Crimes. I decided then to quit teaching and attempt to earn my living as a playwright. I have.

"As a writer, I consider myself a student of Aristotle. That is, I believe in the value of a beginning, a middle, and an end in the structuring of dramatic art. Yet I agree with Jean-Luc Godard that those elements need not come in the usual order.

"About half my plays treat historical characters at a critical period of their lives. Some of those characters include Billie Holiday, Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, Stephen and Mary Girard, Jean Harris, Edward M. Stanton, John Wilkes Booth and Mary Eugenia Surratt, Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Eugene O'Neill, Hank Williams, Peggy Guggenheim, Magda Goebbels and Eva Braun, Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, Mae West, Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, and President Woodrow Wilson, among others.

"Each play is an expression of self. Writing historical characters is a way of hiding in plain sight from the audience. It's a way of wearing a mask while expressing intimate thoughts, values, and desires. It is also a means of holding a mirror up to nature. I strongly believe Santayana's dictum: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’"

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