Timberlake Wertenbaker

Timberlake Wertenbaker (1951 – present) is a contemporary dramatist, librettist, screenwriter, and translator based in Britain. Her most famous play, Our Countrys Good (1988), won the Laurence Olivier Award.

Timberlake Wertenbaker Timberlake Wertenbaker

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    Timberlake Wertenbaker: Biography

    Timberlake Wertenbaker was born on 19th February 1951 in New York. Her mother, Lael Wertenbaker, was a writer, and her father, Charles Wertenbaker, was a journalist. Wertenbaker grew up in the village of Ciboure in the Basque region of France. As a child, she was influenced by adventure novels, especially the works of Alexandre Dumas (18021870). Her interest in theatre also developed during her early education in France. In 1955, her father died of cancer, and the mother and daughter moved back to New York. This was Wertenbakers first memorable experience of displacement and cultural dislocation, which became a recurring theme in her works.

    Wertenbaker studied philosophy at St. Johns College in Annapolis, where she was influenced by the works of Plato (428/427348/347 BCE). Through her twenties, she worked as a caption writer in New York. Although her job was prestigious, as her thirtieth birthday was approaching, she became restless and felt dissatisfied with the corporate environment in which she was working. In 1975, Timberlake moved to Somerset in England to work as a stable hand. It was during that time that she started writing. She briefly returned to New York, only to embark on another journey soon after. In 1976, Timberlake moved to the Greek island of Spetse, where she worked as a French teacher and began to write drama. That year, she wrote the first draft of her play The Third, but it wasnt published until 1980.

    She returned to England, and her playwriting career started in the late 1970s in London. At first, she was writing for small playhouses, but by the 1980s, her career had soared. In 1983, she was a resident writer for the Shared Experience Theatre Company. Between 1984 and 1985, she was a resident writer for the Royal Court Theatre. In 1988, she produced her two most famous plays, Our Countrys Good and The Love of the Nightingale. Our Countrys Good premiered on 10th September 1988 at the Royal Court Theatre. The same year, the play won the Laurence Olivier Award for the best new play.

    The Love of the Nightingale was first performed in 1988 at The Other Place, Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford. It won the Eileen Anderson Central Television Drama Award. In 1991, Timberlake Wertenbakers play, Three Birds Alighting on a Field, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. It won several awards. The same year, Our Countrys Good was nominated for a Tony Award. Between 1992 and 1997, the playwright was on the Executive Council of the English Stage Company. From 1998 to 2001, she was on the Executive Committee of PEN.

    Between 2005 and 2006, Timberlake worked as a professor of theatre at Georgetown University in Washington DC. In 2011, she was an artist-in-residence at the Freud Museum in London.

    At present, Timberlake Wertenbaker is the artistic adviser at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Chair in Playwriting at the University of East Anglia. She is also on the council of the Royal Society of Literature. Wertenbaker lives in North London with her husband, the writer John Man, and their daughter.

    Timberlake Wertenbaker plays and major works

    To date, Wertenbaker’s most important plays include Our Country’s Good, The Love of the Nightingale, and Three Birds Alighting on a Field.

    Our Countrys Good (1988)

    Justice and humaneness have never gone hand in hand. The law is not a sentimental comedy

    (Captain Watkin Tench, Act 1, Scene 3).

    Our Countrys Good is a two-act play by Timberlake Wertenbaker. It premiered on 10th September 1988 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The play was nominated for a Tony Award in 1991. It won the 1988 Laurence Olivier Award for Play of the Year and the 1991 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.

    Our Countrys Good is based on Thomas Keneallys novel The Playmaker (1987). Set in the 1780s, the play follows British convicts, who were sent to the first penal colony in Australia, and the Royal Marines who took them there. It is based on the true story of Australias first theatre production, a play performed by the convicts. Our Countrys Good explores themes of displacement, politics, and the importance of theatre as a force of education and social change.

    The Love of the Nightingale (1989)

    Love, stealing with grace into the heart you wish to destroy, love, turning us blind with the bitter poison of desire, love come not my way. And when you whirl through the streets, wild steps to unchained rhythms, love, I pray you, brush not against me, love, I beg you, pass me by (Female Chorus, Scene 5).

    The Love of the Nightingale is a two-act tragic play by Timberlake Wertenbaker. It premiered in 1988 at The Other Place theatre in Stratford. The play received the Eileen Anderson Central Television Drama Award. In 2007, The Love of the Nightingale was also adapted into an opera with music by Richard Mills and a libretto by Timberlake Wertenbaker herself.

    The Love of the Nightingale is a feminist adaptation of the ancient Greek myth of the rape of Philomena. The play follows Philomena, who is raped by her brother-in-law Tereus. Together with her sister Pracme, she avenges him. The play ends with the gods turning Philomena into a nightingale.

    Three Birds Alighting on a Field (1991)

    I was like the final touches of a well-decorated house. It gives pleasure but you dont notice it (Biddy, Act 1, Scene 1).

    Three Birds Alighting on a Field is a two-act play by Timberlake Wertenbaker. It was first performed in 1991 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The play won three awards: the London Critics Circle Best West End Play Award, the Writers Guild Award for best West End play, and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

    Three Birds Alighting on a Field is a satire about the London art scene during Margaret Thatchers time. It explores feminism, politics, and Greek mythology.

    Main Themes in Timberlake Wertenbaker's plays

    Key themes in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s work include displacement, identity, and social change.

    Displacement

    In many of Timberlake Wertenbakers plays, the characters are displaced from their homeland and have to move to a foreign country. Within the theme of displacement, the dramatist explores further motifs of cultural differences, multiculturalism, belonging, and the isolation of being a foreigner.

    Identity

    Wertenbaker discusses identity and its connection to heritage, culture, and language. Many of the characters perform their identities: they act as they want to be perceived rather than as their authentic selves. Some of them are people who move to a foreign country and assume certain identities so that they can fit in better.

    Social change

    Most of Wertenbakers plays are centred around the theme of social change. The societal issues she explores colonialism, sexism, classism, immigration are depicted as reasons why social transformation is needed. For example, in Our Countrys Good, change is possible in the small society of the penalty colony. In The Love of the Nightingale, rape is presented from a feminist perspective as a larger issue affecting all of society, rather than as only the struggle of individuals.

    Timberlake Wertenbakers contribution to English literature

    Timberlake Wertenbaker is one of the most influential contemporary dramatists in the postmodern landscape of English literature. She has written a total of twenty-seven dramas spanning four decades. Her most recent play, written in 2017, is called Winter Hill. Wertenbaker has produced numerous translations and adaptations of the works of authors such as Sophocles (496405 BCE), Euripides (484406 BCE), and Jean Racine (16391699). She has also written for radio and television. Wertenbakers works cover a wide range of historical subjects, such as colonialism and reinterpretations of Greek mythology, and contemporary issues, such as immigration and the power of art.

    Timberlake Wertenbaker - Key takeaways

    • Timberlake Wertenbaker is a contemporary British-based dramatist, librettist, screenwriter, and translator.
    • Timberlake Wertenbaker was born on 19th February 1951 in New York.
    • Wertenbakers most well-known plays are Our Countrys Good (1988), The Love of the Nightingale (1989), and Three Birds Alighting on a Field (1991).
    • The main themes in Wertenbakers works are displacement, identity, and social change.
    • Timberlake Wertenbaker has also translated and adapted works for radio and television.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Timberlake Wertenbaker

    What are the main themes in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s works?

    The main themes in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s works are displacement, identity, and social change.

    Who is Timberlake Wertenbaker?

    Timberlake Wertenbaker (1951 – present) is a contemporary British-based dramatist, librettist, screenwriter, and translator. Her most famous play is Our Country’s Good (1988).

    When was Timberlake Wertenbaker born?

    Timberlake Wertenbaker was born on 19th February 1951 in New York.

    Who has Timberlake Wertenbaker written plays for?

    Timberlake Wertenbaker has written plays for the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and other theatre companies and organisations.

    What is a famous play written by Timberlake Wertenbaker?

    Our Country’s Good (1988) is a famous play by Timberlake Wertenbaker.

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