Wertenbaker, (Lael Louisiana) Timberlake 1951-

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WERTENBAKER, (Lael Louisiana) Timberlake 1951-

PERSONAL: Born 1951, in the United States; daughter of Charles Wertenbaker (a foreign correspondent); married John Man; children: one daughter. Education: St. John's College, graduated. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, flowers.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Casarotto Ramsay Ltd., National House, 60-66 Wardour St., London W1V 4ND, England.

CAREER: Writer, journalist, teacher, playwright, and translator. Time-Life Books, worked as staff writer; teacher of French in Greece; Shared Experience, London, England, resident writer, 1983; Royal Court Theatre, London, writer in residence, 1984-85.

MEMBER: Royal Society of Literature (fellow), Dramatists Club, Writer's Guild of Great Britain, Theatre Writers Union.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named Plays and Players most promising playwright, 1985, for The Grace of Mary Traverse; Evening Standard most promising playwright designation, and Laurence Olivier Award, play of the year, Society of West End Theatre, both 1988, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, best foreign play, 1991, and Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best play, 1991, all for Our Country's Good; Eileen Anderson Central Television Drama Award, 1989, for The Love of the Nightingale; Mrs. Giles Whiting Award, 1989; Critic's Circle Award, best West End play, 1991, Writer's Guild Award, best West End play, 1992, and Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 1992, all for Three Birds Alighting on a Field.



This Is No Place for Tallulah Bankhead, produced in London, England, 1978.

The Third, first produced in London, England, at Kings Head Theatre, 1980.

Second Sentence, first produced in Brighton, England, at Brighton Actors Theatre, 1980.

Case to Answer, first produced in London, England, at Soho Poly Theatre, 1980, produced in Ithaca, NY, 1981.

Breaking Through, produced in London, England, 1980.

New Anatomies (first produced by Women's Theatre Group in London, England, at ICA Theatre, 1980; also broadcast on radio by British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]), published in Plays Introduction, 1984.

Inside Out, first produced in Stoke on Trent, England, at RAT Theatre, 1982, also produced in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Home Leave, first produced in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, at Wolsey Theatre, 1982.

Abel's Sister, first produced in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 1983, produced in New York, NY, 1985.

The Grace of Mary Traverse (first produced in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre Downstairs), Faber (Boston, MA), 1985, reprinted with The Love of the Nightingale, Faber (Boston, MA), 1989.

Our Country's Good (based on The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally; produced in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre Downstairs and Garrick Theatre, both 1988, produced in New York, NY, on Broadway, 1990), Methuen (London, England), 1989.

The Love of the Nightingale (first produced by Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England, at Other Place Theatre, 1988, produced by Mandolin Productions in Los Angeles, CA, at Stage 52 Theatre, 2002), published with The Grace of Mary Traverse, Faber (Boston, MA), 1989.

The Children (screenplay; based on work by Edith Wharton), Film Four International, 1990.

Three Birds Alighting on a Field (first produced in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, 1991), Dramatic Publishing (Woodstock, IL), 1993.

The Break of Day (first produced by Out of Joint theater company in London, England, at Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, 1995), Faber (Boston, MA), 1995, also published in Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays 2, Faber (Boston, MA), 2002.

Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays I, Faber (London, England), 1996.

After Darwin (produced in London, England, at Hampstead Theatre, 1998), also published in Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays 2, Faber (Boston, MA), 2002.

The Ash Girl (produced in Birmingham, England, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2000), published in Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays 2, Faber (Boston, MA), 2002.

Credible Witness (produced in London, England, at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, 2001), published in Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays 2, Faber (Boston, MA), 2002.

Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays 2 (contains "The Break of Day," "After Darwin," "Credible Witness," "The Ash Girl," and "Dianeira"), Faber (Boston, MA), 2002.

Also adapter of scripts for radio and television broadcasts, including Do Not Disturb (television script), BBC.


Jean Anouilh, "Leocadia," published in Five Plays, Methuen (London, England), 1987.

Sophocles, The Thebans (produced in San Francisco, CA, at American Conservatory Theater), Faber (Boston, MA), 1992.

Pierre Marivaux, False Admissions produced by Shared Experience on tour, 1990.

Pierre Marivaux, Successful Strategies, produced by Shared Experience on tour, 1990.

Eduardo de Filippo, Filumena (produced by Peter Hall Company, 1998), published, 1999.

Also translated La Dispute, by Pierre Marivaux, 1990, Pelléas and Mélisande, by Maurice Maeterlink, 1999, The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca, Hecuba by Euripides, and Mephisto by Ariane Mnouchkine, produced by Royal Shakespeare Company.

SIDELIGHTS: Since 1978, Timberlake Wertenbaker has written over a dozen plays, translated more than ten dramatic works by non-English-speaking playwrights, and written the 1990 screenplay The Children. An Anglo-American, Wertenbaker's work has received numerous awards and has been produced on both sides of the Atlantic.

The play The Grace of Mary Traverse features the daughter of an eighteenth-century merchant with social ambition. Mary Traverse's father schools his daughter intensely in hypocritical behavior, but she manages to preserve her inborn thirst for knowledge and "a feeling for nature." With the guidance of her servant, she leaves home and explores the underside of civilization; she returns after a confrontation with her father, this time his equal in hypocrisy. Based on the underlying notion that grace involves a realistic acceptance of human nature and of the world, The Grace of Mary Traverse was described by Judy Meewezen in the British Book News as "a parable on behalf of women."

Wertenbaker's play Our Country's Good is based on Thomas Keneally's novel The Playmaker, which was in turn based on the 1789 production of George Farquhar's dramatic comedy The Recruiting Offıcer. The Recruiting Offıcer was the first play ever performed in Australia, and it was performed by the first group of male and female convicts to arrive there—with the idea that the activity of producing and acting in a play might help rehabilitate the prisoners. Wertenbaker's play is intended to be performed in repertory with The Recruiting Offıcer, with actors from one play appearing in corresponding roles in the other.

In Three Birds Alighting on a Field, Wertenbaker satirizes the English art establishment. The plays opens with a blank white canvas selling for a fortune at auction. In an art gallery, the audience meets an Englishwoman, an art collector who is trying to satisfy her rich Greek husband's desire that she become "interesting": she is told that the painting is "about America." According to New Yorker critic Nancy Franklin, "the play seems to want to argue that the financial free-for-all of the eighties destroyed a cherished system of values." Characteristic of Wertenbaker's interest in multiple castings, nine actors cover the twenty-four roles the script demands.

In The Break of Day, Wertenbaker presents three twentieth-century women who fulfill themselves through work, rather than through marriage and motherhood—except that two of them, a journalist and a singer, want desperately to have a child. The journalist, who just turned forty, is considering in vitro fertilization, while the singer is trying to get around both the law and the bureaucracy in Eastern Europe in order to adopt. Only one of the three, the academic, is content with what she does. A women-centered play, The Break of Day nevertheless features a large number of men in its cast. The leading female characters are of the generation that led the women's movement for individual and political progress, but, as Clare Bayley wrote in New Statesman and Society, the "great tragedy of the play is seeing how the same women who changed history have themselves been caught unawares by time."



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 10, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.


Back Stage West, January 31, 2002, Laura Weinert, review of The Love of the Nightingale, p. 18.

British Book News, March, 1986, Judy Meewezen, review of The Grace of Mary Traverse, pp. 182-183.

New Statesman and Society, December 1, 1995, Clare Bayley, review of The Break of Day, pp. 33-34.

New York, May 13, 1991, p. 88; February 21, 1994, p. 52.

New Yorker, May 20, 1991, Nancy Franklin, review of Three Birds Alighting on a Field, p. 94; February 21, 1994.

New Republic, June 19, 1991, p. 29.

Times Literary Supplement, September 27, 2002, Claire Macdonald, review of Timberlake Wertenbaker: Plays 2, p. 31.

Variety, March 21, 2001, Matt Wolf, review of Credible Witness, p. 48.*