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Ball, Alan (b. 1957)  
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Screenwriter, director, and producer Alan Ball has had great success in both film and television. He came to wide public attention with his Academy Award-winning writing for the film American Beauty and followed that triumph with his acclaimed work on the popular television series Six Feet Under.

The youngest of four children of Frank and Mary Ball, an aircraft inspector and a homemaker, Alan Ball was born May 13, 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in nearby Marietta.

Ball's youth was marred by tragedy. His only sister, Mary Ann, was driving the thirteen-year-old Ball to a piano lesson when they were involved in a car crash. He was not injured, but his sister was killed on her twenty-second birthday. Their father died some six years later from cancer.

In a 2000 interview Mary Ball described her son as "a smart little boy" who had "always written a lot" and was very active in school activities. He was the editor of the school newspaper, a member of numerous clubs, the president of his senior class, and the drum major of the band, in which capacity he choreographed a half-time show.

Despite these genuine accomplishments, Ball said that in his high school years he felt inauthentic, as though he had invented "this persona of myself of really being an overachiever, kind of an All-American guy that really wasn't me."

This feeling of inauthenticity is not uncommon among young glbtq people who are necessarily or pragmatically closeted. They know or intuit that the face they present to the world is not who they really are, and they consequently wonder if the popularity and respect they earn as the result of their accomplishments are really deserved, since they know (or fear) that they would lose status were their secret revealed.

Ball's fine performance in high school earned him admission to the University of Georgia. After his first year he transferred to Florida State University, from which he graduated with a degree in theater in 1980.

Although he had done some acting, Ball aspired to write for the theater. After his graduation, he moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he wrote plays for the General Nonsense Theater Company.

In 1986, believing he had to move to the center of the theater world, he relocated to New York and supported himself with a job as a graphic artist while continuing to write. He founded the Alarm Dog Repertory Theatre company, which produced Bachelor Holiday, based on his experience of living in a Brooklyn brownstone apartment with some friends from college. The play received little notice, but his next effort was more successful.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress (1993) was described by reviewer Steven Uhles as "sharp and biting, [a] play [that] takes a Peyton Place approach to wedding sweetness and light." The play brings together five bridesmaids who have decided to duck out of a tedious wedding reception. Despite not having much in common except for their dresses and a lack of fondness for the bride, the characters find friendship as they talk about their disparate lives.

It was not until Ball began achieving professional success that he found the courage to come out to his mother. She understood his trepidation about broaching the subject--"He didn't know if I was going to kick him out of the house or what"--and admitted that the announcement made her uncomfortable.

"It took a little getting used to," she said, "but he gave me some books to read, and I understand that God made him like that."

Ball's brothers were immediately supportive when they learned of his homosexuality, but some other relatives were not accepting. "They think he's going to hell," stated Mrs. Ball.

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