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00:00:04 - Kentucky Writers Oral History Project intro

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Partial Transcript: This is an oral history interview with Naomi Wallace being conducted by Linda Beattie for the Kentucky Writers Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: The names of the interviewer and interviewee are given, as the well as the date and location of the interview.

Keywords: Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Louisville (Ky.); Naomi F. Wallace; Naomi Wallace; Playwrights; Playwriting; Prospect (Ky.); Theater; Theatre

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Wallace, Naomi

00:00:25 - Parents and family history

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Partial Transcript: What is your full name and where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Wallace gives her full name and date and location of birth, and then goes on to describe her trans-Atlantic and cross-class family history, her father being privileged and American and her mother working class and Dutch. She also briefly mentions her childhood spent traveling between the U.S. and Holland.

Keywords: Louisville (Ky.); Occupied Holland; Occupied Netherlands; Prospect (Ky.); Tangier; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II

Subjects: Wallace, Naomi; World War, 1939-1945

00:04:55 - Childhood

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Partial Transcript: What was it like? Especially dividing your time between Kentucky and Amsterdam.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace further discusses her trans-Atlantic childhood, with her parents being not legally separated, but merely working very far apart, and the very "international" education she received as a result.

Keywords: Amsterdam (Netherlands); Education; Louisville (Ky.); Prospect (Ky.)

Subjects: Education.; Playwriting.; Wallace, Naomi

00:08:24 - Early experiences with literature and writing

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Partial Transcript: Um, how about favorite subjects?

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about Wallace's early experiences with literature and writing. Wallace considers herself to have been fairly not precocious in terms of what she read, but always interested in storytelling and the language of the working class.

Keywords: Bilingualism; Literature; Louisville (Ky.); Poetry; Prospect (Ky.)

Subjects: Bilingualism.; Literature.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

00:12:25 - Class differences / storytelling

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Partial Transcript: --because, I'd say, y'know, that happened later for me, when I grew up, around my friends.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace discusses her exposure to storytelling, which was her adolescent friendships with working class teenagers, and how they'd talk about their lives and hopes and dreams in the face of all their disadvantages.

Keywords: Classism; Communism; Literature; Louisville (Ky.); Marxism; Poetry; Privilege; Prospect (Ky.); Working class

Subjects: Classism.; Communism.; Literature.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi; Working class.

00:16:06 - College experience / "isolationism" at Iowa Writers' Workshop

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Partial Transcript: What about college?

Segment Synopsis: Wallace discusses her fairly unconventional education, attending three different colleges, studying in Madrid, taking time off to live with her mother in Amsterdam, and eventually graduating from Hampshire College with a self-made major. She then went to the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She talks about the positives and negatives of that workshop, criticizing its isolationist and America-centric tendencies.

Keywords: Education; Hampshire College; Iowa Writers' Workshop; Kentucky; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry; University of Iowa; University of Louisville; University of St. Louis

Subjects: Education.; Hampshire College; Iowa Writers' Workshop.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; University of Louisville; Wallace, Naomi

00:24:01 - Beginning writing plays

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Partial Transcript: You had talked about writing poetry from an early age.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace discusses her reasons for switching from primarily writing poetry to primarily writing plays. From there, she and Beattie talk about writing across genres as well as what makes her plays unique.

Keywords: Iowa Writers' Workshop; Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Iowa Writers' Workshop; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

00:30:08 - Being a new playwright / personal life from Iowa on

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Partial Transcript: Well, what was your, uh--I'm gonna talk about this, this book, but before that, what was your, um, theatre experience like at Iowa?

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about the beginning of her playwriting career, and from there, how she met her husband, her daughters, and her family's recent move to Yorkshire in England.

Keywords: Iowa Writers' Workshop; Literature; Playwrights; Playwriting; Theater

Subjects: Iowa Writers' Workshop.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Theater.; Wallace, Naomi

00:34:47 - Reception in England / teaching writing / nature of creativity

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Partial Transcript: Uh, yeah, I wondered.

Segment Synopsis: Beattie briefly inquires about the greater reception she's received in England than in America. From there, they begin talking about teaching writing, both her career in it and how either of them do it themselves. Beattie then asks about Wallace's thoughts on the nature of creativity, for which Wallace gives an unconventional answer in correspondence with her political views.

Keywords: Education; Iowa Writers' Workshop; Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwriting; University of Iowa

Subjects: Iowa Writers' Workshop; Literature.; Wallace, Naomi

00:41:38 - On critics and criticism of plays

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Partial Transcript: As I was saying earlier, I think much of the dialogue in your play, "One Flea Spare," is poetic and reads much like a prose poem.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace and Beattie discuss critics and criticism of plays, and further talk about the uniqueness of her voice and use of language, and how the critics perceive it. Wallace puts some of the criticism down to criticism of her politics, which are very leftist and focused on the working class.

Keywords: Communism; Literature; Marxism; Playwriting; Poetry; Theater; Theatre

Subjects: Communism.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Theater.

00:46:42 - Her play, "Slaughter City" / more on the beginning of her career and reception in the U.K.

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Partial Transcript: Um, I understand that "Slaughter City," your portrait of the 1992 Fischer Meat Packing Company, um--[indecipherable]--

Segment Synopsis: Wallace and Beattie discuss Wallace's play "Slaughter City," productions of it, reactions to it, and the political messages behind it. From there, they talk about how "The War Boys" kick-started her career in the U.K. while she was still in graduate school at Iowa.

Keywords: Classism; Communism; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: Classism.; Communism.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

00:51:24 - On "One Flea Spare" / her depictions of class struggle / more on criticism

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Partial Transcript: Um, it's been pointed out in certainly several Louisville articles that there's irony in the fact that your Louisville debut, "One Flea Spare," produced by the 1996 Humana Festival of New American Plays, was a play concerning class struggle in England.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace and Beattie further discuss Wallace's mixed reviews from critics on either side of the Atlantic, winning awards in America despite a more favorable reputation in England. Wallace further discusses politically conservative critics' dislike of her due to her being openly leftist.

Keywords: Classism; Communism; Criticism; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: Classism.; Communism.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

00:55:55 - Audience reception of her work

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Partial Transcript: Y'know, although I would say, y'know, I find that audiences are a lot more receptive than the critics are of my work.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace explains why she thinks that her work is better received by audiences than by critics, particularly in Britain, because they're more open about their class system and are known for a more political theatre industry.

Keywords: Classism; Communism; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: Classism.; Communism.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

01:03:34 - More on reception in Britain

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Partial Transcript: You've been called a, quote, "a compelling voice in British theatre," unquote.

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about why Wallace thinks her plays are so well-received in Britain. Wallace puts that down to a variety of factors: the British are a more theatregoing people, they enjoy seeing a different version of America than in mainstream theatre, and the previously mentioned British tradition of political theatre. She explains the plot of a play of hers that was particularly popular over there.

Keywords: Gulf War; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: Literature.; Playwriting.; Wallace, Naomi

01:09:12 - On sense of place

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Partial Transcript: Um, what about sense of place in your work?

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about Wallace's sense of place in her writing and they agree that her sense of place is more emotional and idealistic than explicitly geographical, despite writing a lot from her experience as a Kentuckian.

Keywords: Communism; Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwriting

Subjects: American literature.; Communism.; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Wallace, Naomi

01:14:34 - On "The War Boys" / experimenting with structure / limits in writing

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Partial Transcript: Um, will you discuss another of your plays, "The War Boys"?

Segment Synopsis: Wallace explains experimenting with structure and content, how she knows what to do and what not to do, and how she enjoys having limits, and thus enjoys commissioned writing for certain spaces.

Keywords: Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

01:19:37 - On representation / on writing about youth culture and the present

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Partial Transcript: Y'know, I have a little problem: men writing from a white woman's perspective, and often not being as friendly towards feminism and women as I could appreciate.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace discusses representation, and how she's fine with people writing from perspectives that aren't their own, as she does, as long as they are respectful. At this point, Beattie inquires about her play, "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek," which was inspired by hatred for youth culture, but set during the Great Depression. This launches Wallace into a discussion of her attempt to see heterosexuality from a nontraditional perspective, using her experience writing queer stories.

Keywords: Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Wallace, Naomi

01:25:20 - More on "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" / using language for politics

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Partial Transcript: And I think like I said about the "baddies" and the "goodies"--

Segment Synopsis: Wallace returns to talking about "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek," which she intended to use to turn the "dysfunctional family" trope on its head, by showing a family that would be fine were it not for their impoverished situation during the Great Depression. She then returns to using language to convey politics.

Keywords: Classism; Communism; Great Depression; Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwrights; Playwriting; Poetry; Theater

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Depressions--1929; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Theater.; Wallace, Naomi

01:32:00 - The movie "Lawn Dogs"

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Partial Transcript: Um, last year, "Lawn Dogs," a Hollywood movie for which you wrote the script, was filmed here in Louisville.

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about an indie film, "Lawn Dogs," for which Wallace wrote the script, and what her first foray into screenwriting was like. She discusses why she wrote it, being involved in the production, and critics' and audiences' receptions of it.

Keywords: Literature; Playwriting; Poetry; Screenwriting

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Screenwriters.; Wallace, Naomi

01:37:49 - Fighting stereotypes of Kentuckians

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Partial Transcript: But I am very proud of the film.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace compares what she sees as a positive portrayal of Kentuckians in "Lawn Dogs" as opposed to attempts at portrayal in a Steven Seagal film shot at the same time in Eastern Kentucky.

Keywords: Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Classism.; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Seagal, Steven

01:39:58 - Her father's farm / more on "Lawn Dogs"

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Partial Transcript: And speaking of the farm, while you're talking about it, it is not your typical farm when you think of a farm.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace discusses her father's farm, on which the interview is being taped, and the role it plays in her fathers', family's, and Jefferson County residents' lives. She briefly mentions upper-class Louisvillians' dislike for her family because they perceived them as "dirty communists," and then Beattie asks more about "Lawn Dogs" and her future screenwriting endeavors.

Keywords: Agriculture; Classism; Communism; Kentucky; Kentucky writers; Literature; Louisville (Ky.); Playwriting; Prospect (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture.; American literature--Kentucky.; Kentucky--In literature.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

01:43:55 - Adapting stage for film / on minimalist staging

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Partial Transcript: But, I would think that, um, your minimalist approach to staging, of course that's not just you, you, but the other people working with you--

Segment Synopsis: Beattie asks about the differences between staging theatre and staging movies, and how each medium has its own challenges and opportunities compared to the other.

Keywords: Literature; Playwrights; Playwriting; Screenwriters; Screenwriting; Theater

Subjects: Literature.; Playwriting.; Screenwriters.; Theater.; Wallace, Naomi

01:46:50 - Writing poetry and in other genres

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Partial Transcript: You have been produced or published in three genres, and we haven't really talked about your book of poetry.

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about Wallace's career writing across genres, focusing on her book of poetry, and then asking if she'll ever write prose fiction. Wallace says that she's not into short stories so much any more, but has a novel saved on her computer.

Keywords: Kentucky writers; Literature; Playwrights; Playwriting; Poetry; Screenwriters; Screenwriting

Subjects: Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Screenwriters.; Wallace, Naomi

01:49:40 - What she reads / writers' influences on her

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Partial Transcript: Y'know, I, I mean I read more novels than I ever read poetry or theatre.

Segment Synopsis: Wallace begins talking about the sort of things she reads, which are primarily novels, which she doesn't really write, instead of poetry and plays. However, she does mention some influences from particular plays on her own work (Churchill's "Cloud 9" on her "One Flea Spare").

Keywords: Literature; Playwriting; Poetry; Screenwriters; Screenwriting

Subjects: Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Screenwriters.; Wallace, Naomi

01:55:37 - On career mentors

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Partial Transcript: But, ha, has any one person, or have several people, been mentors to you in terms of your writing?

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about specific career mentors who have helped along her playwriting and poetry careers.

Keywords: Literature; Playwrights; Playwriting; Poetry; Theater; Theatre; Tony Kushner

Subjects: Bond, Edward; Kushner, Tony; Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

01:59:31 - On her writing process

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Partial Transcript: What are your work habits?

Segment Synopsis: Wallace discusses her writing process, the huge amount of research usually involved and how much she learns just preparing to write plays, and the short timeframe she sets for herself to actually rough out a script.

Keywords: Literature; Playwriting; Poetry

Subjects: Literature.; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi

02:02:43 - Professional and personal life in England / befriending playwrights / finding an agent

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Partial Transcript: I know north Yorkshire is not close enough to London to be there, unless you want to be, all the time...

Segment Synopsis: Beattie inquires about any potential friendships with British playwrights of Wallace's, which she answers that she doesn't really have, as they're all pretty isolated. She has, however, generated some connections, but they were mostly done out of her own impetus.

Keywords: Literature; Playwriting; Poetry; Tony Harrison

Subjects: Harrison, Tony; Kushner, Tony; Literature.; Nagy, Phyllis; Playwriting.; Poetry.; Wallace, Naomi