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Marsha Norman Biography

(1947– ), Getting Out, Third and Oak, Circus Valentine, Holdup, 'night, Mother, Traveler in the Dark

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: New from Tartary to Frank O'connor

American dramatist, born in Louisville, Kentucky, educated at the University of Louisville. Her first play, Getting Out (1977), was produced by the Actors' Theatre of Louisville where she became a playwright in residence. Third and Oak (two one-act plays) was produced there in 1978, as was Circus Valentine and a workshop production of Holdup, which had its full première in San Francisco in 1983. Norman's most celebrated play, 'night, Mother (1981; Pulitzer Prize) is an extended dialogue between a widowed mother and her divorced daughter who announces her intention to commit suicide; she also wrote the 1986 screenplay for the film version directed by Tom Moore. The play was followed by Traveler in the Dark (1984) and Sarah and Abraham (1988). Her first novel, The Fortune Teller, appeared in 1987. Norman's plays focus on women and issues of female identity, as in the mother–daughter relationship, sisterhood, and women's autonomy. However, she has been attacked by feminists for her conservatism and apparent indifference to feminist ideology, especially in her refusal to propose social prescriptions which may help to improve conditions for women. More recently she has written an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (1991) with music by Lucy Simon.

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