To call Vincent Murphy, artistic producing director of Atlanta's Theater Emory, a fan of the work of Naomi Wallace is an understatement. Her writing, he says, is "Brecht seen through the lens of Faulkner and Caryl Churchill."
Murphy illustrates his admiration by describing a scene from Wallace's 1998 drama The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek. The couple Gin and Dray, rural factory workers in Depression-era Kentucky, are discussing their situation: Dray has been laid off from his job, and Gin works in a glass factory where a new process has turned the hands of the women workers glow-in-the-dark blue. Their teenage son is in jail on suspicion of murder, and they're having difficulty remembering why, years ago, they fell in love with each other (a love that, as in all of Wallace's plays, is frankly sexual). As they talk, Wallace's text requires that they throw a plate back and forth--and that it shatter at the end of the scene.
"Who does this? Who thinks this way?" Murphy marvels, as he remembers being "blown away" by the scene when the play debuted at the Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival. "This is a voice we don't understand"--which for him is the mark of a potentially great writer.
Never one to let his enthusiasms lie untested, Murphy asked himself--and the entire Atlanta theatre community--a question: "What if a dozen theatres across Atlanta got together to present the works of this nor-so-well-known American playwright, Naomi Wallace?" His colleagues were mostly unfamiliar with Wallace's work (none of her plays had ever …