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Getting Out

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Title: Getting Out  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ellen Burstyn, Marsha Norman, Lucille Lortel, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Leo Burmester, Sweet Sue (play), Andrew Paulson
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Getting Out

Getting Out
Written by Marsha Norman
Characters Arlene
Guard Evans
Guard Caldwell
School Principal
Date premiered 15 May 1979
Place premiered Theatre de Lys
New York City
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting apartment in a run-down section of downtown Louisville, KY; present day

Getting Out is a play by Marsha Norman.

Production history

Getting Out, a play by Marsha Norman, was presented by Lester Osterman, Lucille Lortel, and Marc Howard at the Theatre de Lys in New York City, on 15 May 1979. The cast was as follows:

  • Arlene - Susan Kingsley
  • Arlie - Pamela Reed
  • Guard Evans - John C. Capodice
  • Bennie - Bob Burrus
  • Guard Caldwell - Fritz Sperberg
  • Doctor - William Jay
  • Mother - Madeleine Thornton-Sherwood
  • School Principal - Anna Minot
  • Ronnie - Kevin Bacon
  • Carl - Leo Burmester
  • Warden - Hansford Rowe
  • Ruby - Joan Pape

The crew was as follows:

  • Directed by: Jon Jory
  • Associated producers: Spencer H. Berlin and Marilyn R. Strauss
  • Scenery/Lighting: James Tilton
  • Costumes: Kurt Wilhelm
Other Productions

The world premiere was held at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky. The West Coast premiere was produced by the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum. The original New York City production was held at the Phoenix Theatre.

Setting and Original Performance Conditions

"Both acts are set in a dingy one-room apartment in a rundown section of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. There is a sink, an apartment-size combination stove and refrigerator, and a counter with cabinets above. Dirty curtains conceal the bars on the outside of the single window. There is one closet and a door to the bathroom. The door to the apartment opens into a hall."

"A catwalk stretches above the apartment and a prison cell, Stage Right, connects it by the stairways. An apron Downstage and Stage Left completes the enclosure of the apartment in playing areas for the past. The apartment must seem imprisoned." (Dramatists Plays Service Inc.)

Play Synopsis

"Released from prison Arlene returns to a run-down apartment in Louisville, intent on starting her life over. Rebellious and disruptive as a young girl, she has found strength in religion and wants to put her youth (as Arlie) behind her. But her struggles to find her way in the present (as Arlene) is counterpointed by flashbacks of her past (as Arlie), her two personalities being represented by two performers, who sometimes appear onstage simultaneously. We meet the guards and prison officials with whom Arlie waged a running battle; and the unfeeling, slatternly mother, the lecherous former prison guard, the pimp ex-boyfriend, and the touchingly friendly neighbor with whom Arlene is confronted in the present. Ultimately, the play, like life, offers no simple answers---but it conveys, with heart-rending honesty and compassion, the struggle of someone fighting for her life against incredible odds" (Dramatists Play Service Inc.)

Character summaries

  • Arlene: a thin, drawn women in her late twenties, who has just served an 8-year prison term for murder
  • Arlie: Arlene at various times in her life
  • Bennie: an Alabama prison guard in his 50's
  • Evans: a prison guard
  • Doctor: a psychiatrist in a juvenile institution
  • Caldwell: another prison guard
  • Mother: Arlene's mother
  • School Principal
  • Ronnie: a teenager in a juvenile institution
  • Carl: Arlene's former pimp and partner in various crimes; in his late 20's
  • Warden: Superintendent of Pine Ridge Correctional Institute for Women
  • Ruby: Arlene's upstairs neighbor; a cook in a local diner; also an ex-con, in her late 30's


  • Getting Out, A Play in Two Acts (Dramatists Play Service)[1]

Awards and recognition

  • 1979 Selection, The Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook, The Best Plays of 1978-1979[2]


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