I recently sent out some emails, begging fellow bloggers to suggest plays I should read in my current avalanche of free-time. I read plays rather regularly, but I thought they might have better information and some unusual choices. They did not disappoint. For the record, the questions I asked look like this:
Name the 10 plays I must read in order to understand the "state of the theatre" at this moment in history. (Assuming I have a solid background on most everything that's already happened in the theatre.)
Now name 5-10 plays you're pretty sure I haven't read and really should (because you think they're so great). (And don't be afraid of offending me.)
You better believe there are some lists after the so-called jump.
UPDATE: I've attempted to make commenting easier. Please let me know if it's not.
Answers to the first question were the most plentiful. I got about 20 responses and it was really fascinating to see the many different ways people approached the questions. I think it was mostly a matter of how they chose their perspective, what distance they chose to stand from "this moment in history." Some, for example chose plays that illustrate what's been going on this past season in New York and sent a list of works that have presented great challenges as I now try to track them down. Some presented an over-view of national trends over the past few years, and included mostly well-known works that are now widely-produced. And some highlighted older playwrights who have been influential on our current playwrighting trends, like Fornes, Brecht, Beckett, and Pinter. Most, however, used some combination of the above.
I've consolidated the responses into a few lists of names paired with the most oft-mentioned plays. They are listed in order from most mentions to fewest.
BUT, there's one name that needs mentioned first and foremost.
Sarah Kane must be the most influential writer of the last decade or so. Almost everyone named at least one of her plays. Many people simply suggested reading her complete works. I read them as they became available, starting with Blasted in Yale's Theater journal, so I'm feeling fairly natty.
1) Writers who were mentioned by at least half of the responders.
Adam Bock (The Thugs, The Typographer's Dream)
Sheila Callaghan (Dead City)
2) Writers who were named by at least a third of the responders.
Sarah Ruhl (The Clean House)
Anne Washburn (The Internationalist)
Quiara Alegria Hudes (Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue)
Adam Szymkowicz (Food for Fish)
3) Writers who were mentioned by at least quarter of the responders.
Adam Rapp (Red Light Winter, Nocturne)
Rolin Jones (The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow)
Kia Corthron (The Venus de Milo is Armed, Breathe Boom)
Martin McDonagh (The Pillowman, The Lieutenant of Innishmore)
Martin Crimp (Attempts on Her Life)
Victor Lodato (3f 4f)
Young Jean Lee
4) Names mentioned a lot less than I expected.
5) This is what I'm calling the "roots" list. Their work kept coming up as the path that leads to now. (They're in no particular order.)
Maria Irene Fornes
Tony Kushner (Angels in America)
Heiner Müller (Hamletmachine)
6) Important recent anthologies.
In addition, our blogging friends were very generous, suggesting pays written by each other and their friends, and many people have even helped me get in touch with theplaywrights so I can get a hold of the more difficult-to-find scripts. So, I have a very decent reading list for the spring. Many thanks to all those who helped with this. I encourage everyone to respond in the comments with your own suggestions for me and Theatreforte's readers.