Authors: Jane Martin

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Pseudonym for unknown American playwright

Author Works


The Boy Who Ate the Moon, pr. 1981

Cul de Sac, pr. 1981

Talking With, pr. 1981

Coup/Clucks, pr. 1982

Shasta Rue, pr. 1983

Summer, pr. 1984

Travelin’ Show, pr. 1987

What Mama Don’t Know: Five Plays, pb. 1988

Vital Signs, pr., pb. 1990

Cementville, pr., pb. 1991

Criminal Hearts, pr., pb. 1992

Keely and Du, pr., pb. 1993

Middle-Aged White Guys, pr., pb. 1995

Pomp and Circumstance, pb. 1995

Jack and Jill, pb. 1995

Jane Martin: Collected Plays, 1980-1995, pb. 1995

Tumblin’ After, pr. 1996

Mr. Bundy, pr. 1998

Anton in Show Business, pr., pb. 2000

Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage, pr., pb. 2001

Jane Martin: Collected Plays, 1996-2001, pb. 2001

White Elephant, pr. 2001

Good Boys, pr. 2002


Jane Martin is a reclusive American playwright who has yet to make a public appearance. Nothing about her life is known beyond the supposition that she was born in Kentucky. Because of her close relationship with ATL, the Actors Theatre of Louisville (she is an often-produced playwright of the famed Humana Festival, with ten full-length plays performed there between 1982 and 2001), many have concluded that Jane Martin is actually the pseudonym of Jon Jory, formerly the artistic director of ATL. Jory, a professor of drama at the University of Washington in Seattle, himself a successful playwright under his own name, has repeatedly denied allegations of his actually being Martin. On the issue, Jory was quoted in the Seattle Weekly, July 13, 1994, as saying that “Martin feels she could not write plays if people knew who she was, regardless of her identity or gender.” As he adamantly denies that he is Martin, critics have been led to speculate, because Jory has served as stage director for all the ATL productions, that he is actually collaborating with and perhaps covering for his wife, Marcia Dixcy Jory. The continuing mystery of Jane Martin has caused her to become known as the best unknown playwright in America.{$I[A]Martin, Jane}{$S[A]Jory, Jon;Martin, Jane}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Martin, Jane}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Martin, Jane}{$I[tim]unknown;Martin, Jane}

Martin’s plays have met with critical and popular success. Her best-known work, Keely and Du, premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. The most often produced new work in the United States in 1993, it received the Best New Play Award from the American Theatre Critics Association and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Two additional works also merited the ATCA’s Best New Play Award: Jack and Jill and Anton in Show Business.

Few of Martin’s plays have adhered to traditional women’s issues, expanding instead into territory usually reserved for more politically active authors. Keely and Du deals with antiabortion extremism, while Mr. Bundy chronicles the conflicts visited upon an American conservative neighborhood when a convicted child molester takes up residence. Her drama Good Boys confronts the lingering need for healing after a public school shooting. Even her comedy Anton in Show Business rings with satire aimed at the business of theater in the United States. Marcia Dixcy Jory, writing in the introduction to Jane Martin: Collected Plays, 1980-1995, states:

If Jane Martin is a woman, her anonymity has bought her the freedom to be politically incorrect, to castrate, to violate, to satirize a society in all its heinous specificity. If Jane Martin is a man, his anonymity has bought him the freedom to be not in charge, to be out of control, to be intuitive, to give voice to the mysterious femina within all of our species.

That Jane Martin possesses the capacity to impact viewing audiences in the United States is unquestioned. Her critics have been unified in their positive appraisal of her abilities. Susan Booth, in Jane Martin: Collected Plays, 1996-2001, writes:

The thing is, beyond the mystery there’s this writer. And s/he’s got an uncanny ability to find the weirdly beating human heart at the core of whatever America happens to be chewing on at any given time. Be it love, fame, danger, or hope, Jane’s in there mucking around with his/her emotional Geiger counter and hearing the unspoken. Long may s/he reign.

Charles Mee in the same volume writes, “Jane Martin’s plays have in them such pleasure in the theater itself, such delirious relish in the theater, such joy and comfort and familiarity and adroitness in the art, as to be, finally, irresistible.” William Mootz in his review of Vital Signs, Louisville Courier-Journal, March 22, 1990, observes that “when her vision is at its sharpest, she can sum up a whole lifetime in the words of a single searing metaphor.” Despite the obscurity of the author’s identity, it is clear that her works are a significant force on the American theater scene.

BibliographyHealy, Samantha Rachel. “Love and Pain.” American Theatre 17, no. 6 (July/August, 2000): 26-27. Healy gives a short history of the Humana Festival and explains Martin’s role in its growth. She also reviews Martin’s play Anton in Show Business.“Jane Martin.” In Contemporary Dramatists, edited by Thomas Riggs. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. This article discusses the onstage life of Martin as well as the controversy of her identity. It lists some of her works and discusses her writing style.Rich, Frank. “Stage: Talking With, a Find from Louisville.” Review of Talking With, by Jane Martin. The New York Times, October 4, 1982. Rich reviews the Manhattan Theater Club production of Talking With, examines the writing of Martin, and speculates on her identity.
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