Born in Philadelphia and reared in North Carolina, Linney is an actor, director, novelist, and playwright who has achieved wide respect if not fame. His plays are often produced off-Broadway and in America's burgeoning regional theaters. He has also enjoyed success in Great Britain, Canada, Germany, and Austria. A number of Linney's plays are set in the South and are noted for their Faulknerian humor. Other of his works focus on historical figures such as Jesus Christ, Frederick the Great, and Lord Byron. His themes deal with social and personal values, religion, and death. Although his plots are sometimes melodramatic, his accurate and perceptive portrayals of the human condition have earned him praise. Linney's first stage play, "The Sorrows of Frederick" (1967), is a psychological study of the historic figure Frederick William II, the eighteenth-century king of Prussia. "The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks" (1972) is about an army general and his wife who commit suicide as a protest against the Vietnam War. Linney's first southern play, "Holy Ghosts" (1974), focuses on a Pentecostal sect that requires its members to handle poisonous snakes. "Laughing Stock" (1984) is set in different regions of the South and is composed of three one-acts: "Goodbye, Howard" portrays a North Carolina hospital where several quarrelsome sisters await the death of their brother; "Tennessee" dramatizes a woman's return to her childhood home; and "F.M." depicts a young writer enrolled in an Alabama college. Linney's most recent plays have been lighthearted in tone and have been mounted with simplicity and economy. "Pops" (1986) is composed of six vignettes dealing with romantic love and structured around six famous melodies performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra. "Heathen Valley", adapted from his first novel, was performed in 1987 as a part of the Philadelphia Festival for New Plays. The work, which is set in the mountains of North Carolina, was staged very simply with fiddles and dulcimers providing a musical background and the actors evoking the landscape. Linney's critical recognition includes a 1974 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in playwriting, a 1980 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1984 Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and a 1986 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. Linney also received the coveted Obie Award in 1980 for his play "Tennessee". In 1990, a number of his plays were featured at a New York theater, the first time this had been done for a playwright.