The 2018–2019 season showcased an array of new voices, particularly in the arena of straight plays. Of the 21 plays produced on Broadway this past season, eight were written by authors making their Broadway debuts. Though none could honestly be called “new writers,” these playwrights reached a broader audience this year. And now they, and their fellow Broadway colleagues, want to expand your horizons further.
Artists are our entertainers, but they are our also teachers. While attending the 2019 New Dramatists Luncheon, celebrating new voices in the American theatre, actors, writers, composers, and choreographers weighed in to recommend at least one play any theatre buff must add to their reading list.
Warren Carlyle, Tony-winning choreographer: “August: Osage County [by Tracy Letts]. I really loved it. I loved watching that family just kind of implode. That’s one that I saw numerous times, actually.”
Rachel Chavkin, Tony-winning director: “Susan Soon He Stanton. She has a play called we, the invisibles that I think is quite extraordinary. She also had a play a couple seasons ago called TAKARAZUKA!!! That was like f*cking mind-blowing both in form and language. It was beautiful.”
Courtenay Collins, actor: “Since I’m southern, I’m going to go with Tennessee Williams, because not only are [his plays] incredible visual pieces to see, they have character development and sensual plot elements that he has in all of his plays. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Glass Menagerie… To read them, they’re so full. It’s just a bouquet of southern incredibleness.”
Robin De Jesús, Tony-nominated actor: “Years ago, I was so incredibly moved by Ruined [by Lynn Nottage] and I’ve been waiting for it to come back. I don’t think it got its fair shot and I think it warrants a Broadway revival.”
André De Shields, Tony-winning actor: “Derek Walcott is the author and the title of the play is Dream on Monkey Mountain. I had an opportunity to play the central character, Makak, in this play at the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Derek Walcott is a writer from Trinidad Tobago and this is considered his King Lear. It’s gorgeous literature and it’s part of the Americas.”
Robert Horn, Tony-winning book writer: “Everybody should read Our Town because the language in it is so glorious—and any play by Neil Simon, especially The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park. Any Neil Simon play, you will do yourself a service.”
Caitlin Kinnunen, Tony-nominated actor: “The Lieutenant of Inishmore. It’s my favorite.”
Josh Lamon, actor: “We have to start with Neil Simon as our basics. Get into Lost in Yonkers—one of the best. Now we’re getting to see a whole new slew of writers, diverse writers, queer writers. Start exploring these new people that we’re finding.”
Taylor Mac, Tony-nominated playwright: “The one that’s popping into my head right now is One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace. I love it.”
Anaïs Mitchell, Tony-winning composer-lyricist: “This Enda Walsh play Disco Pigs. It’s based in Cork and he creates his own dialect in the show and every word has multiple implications. It’s really brilliant.”
Isabelle McCalla, actor: “A Raisin in the Sun [by Lorraine Hansberry]. I think it was 11th grade and we had to read it. It’s really indicative of race relations that are still present today. More contemporary Clybourne Park [by Bruce Norris] would be a great [companion] to that, as well. Those two plays are fantastically written.”
Kristine Nielsen, Tony-nominated actor: “I’ll go back to an old chestnut that I did a few years ago, You Can’t Take It With You [by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart]. It’s one to read as a reminder of how kind we were to each other, how we all lived together, all the thing that are going wrong right now.”
Eva Noblezada, Tony-nominated actor: “A Streetcar Named Desire [by Tennessee Williams]. I’ve read that like five times. I love that play so much.”
Heidi Schreck, Tony-nominated playwright and actor: “Any play by María Irene Fornés. I’m going to pick Fefu and Her Friends. Somebody put Fefu and Her Friends on Broadway, please.”
Christopher Sieber, Tony-nominated actor: “I’m such a fan of Torch Song Trilogy. That play means so much to me because I did it when I was in Voice and Speech. We did this dramatic interpretation and I won the Nationals speech for doing that. Then [the playwright] Harvey Fierstein and I became really close friends and I told him the story about how my mom didn’t want me to do it because it was about gay stuff and I did it anyway and won. I didn’t tell her I was doing it. I told Harvey that and he was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I actually still had my old hardcover script of the play and he said, ‘Give me that.’ He signed it for me and he wrote a lovely whole thing. That story is about so many different types of relationships, especially with gay men: gay men with their mothers, gay men with their partners, gay men with their children, just trying to figure it out."
David Yazbek, Tony-winning composer-lyricist: “There’s a play called The Shadow Box [by Michael Cristofer] about people who are basically living in kind of a spa or summer camp for people who are dying. I saw it as a kid, probably in the mid-'70s, and it still affects me when I think about it. I think about the subject matter and how beautifully it was written and how some of the dramatic decisions were made in that production.”