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Release: June 25, 1999

Iowa Playwrights Workshop graduate Naomi Wallace receives MacArthur 'genius grant'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Playwright Naomi Wallace, who received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1994 and will return to the UI this fall to teach in the department of theatre arts, is the recipient of a 1999 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, popularly known as the "genius grant." Wallace will receive $285,000, plus comprehensive health insurance, from the foundation over a five-year period.

The foundation's announcement described Wallace as a playwright who "employs poetic and highly original language and a strong socio-political sensibility in her works. Exploring the human condition through such settings as the Persian Gulf War and 17th-century plague-ridden England, her plays deal with subject matter grounded in human reality not typically seen in modern theater. Wallace brings her rigorous intelligence and poetic use of language to the dramatic investigation of material not often represented on stage."

A native of Kentucky, Wallace received a bachelor's degree from Hampshire College before coming to the UI for her Master of Fine Arts degree. While she was at the UI, the department of theatre arts premiered several of her scripts, including "War Boys" and "In the Heart of America." She remained in Iowa City for several years after her graduation, eventually moving to England after her plays became popular there.

Her professional productions include "Slaughter City" (1995), for which she received the Mobil Prize; "In the Heart of America" (1995), for which she received a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize; "One Flea Spare" (1996), for which she received a 1997 Obie Award; "Birdy" (an adaptation of the William Wharton novel, 1997); and "Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" (1998). The Public Theater in New York has commissioned her to write a play for its 1999-2000 season, and she is also under commission by the Royal Shakespeare Company of London.

Wallace is also the author of a book of poetry, "To Dance a Stony Field" (1995), and the screenplay for the independent film "Lawn Dogs" (1997).

The MacArthur Fellows Program provides "unrestricted fellowships to exceptionally talented and promising individuals who have shown evidence of originality, dedication to creative pursuits, and capacity for self-direction. The foundation awards fellows an income over five years so that they may have the time and the freedom to fulfill their potential by devoting themselves to their own endeavors at their own pace."

The MacArthur Foundation's biography and photos of Wallace may be accessed on the World Wide Web at <http://www.macfdn.org/programs/fel/1999fellows/naomi_wallace.htm>.