Pseudonymy and Identity Politics: Exploring
J. Ellen Gainor
The Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, under the Artistic Directorship of Jon Jory,1 has emerged as one of the more prominent professional regional theaters in the United States, known particularly for its script development through its internationally recognized Humana Festival of New American Plays. Simultaneously, the Actors Theatre has gained considerable notoriety in the past two decades for perpetuating one of the longest-running mystery stories in the American theater—the real identity of the pseudonymous playwright “Jane Martin,” the author of more than a dozen plays to date, almost all of which were first produced at Louisville and directed by Jory. Since presenting “her” first work in 1981, Jory and his staff have steadfastly refused to divulge any information about the identity of the playwright, other than to maintain that “she” is a Kentucky resident who wishes to protect “her” privacy and who has entrusted “her” work to the Actors Theatre.2
Journalists have repeatedly highlighted the Martin mystery amidst their coverage of the annual Humana Festival. The press, in their single-minded dedication to this story, has thus, albeit unintentionally, deflected attention from a closer analysis of the works themselves, or of Martin as a Southern woman writer, or of the broader theatrical and cultural ramifications of the relationship between Martin and the Actors Theatre. This essay will touch on each of these neglected topics. Its primary concern, however, is with Jane Martin as a pseudonymous author, and I am frankly uninterested in who Martin “really” is. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of Martin has real significance for literary theory, gender studies, and theater history, and these areas will be the focus of my exploration.
According to legend, the Actors Theatre sponsored an “in-house, one-act play[writing] competition” (Gussow, “Mystery” 58) in 1981. A short script en-