A Guide to Modern Playwrights, Plays, and Productions

Major Modern Playwrights (including Ibsen, Strindberg, and Shaw)

Modern drama as we know it in the twentieth and twenty-first century began when Nora slammed the door on her family in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Together with Strindberg and Shaw, Ibsen swept away romantic melodrama heavy with the passions of stereotypical heroes and heroines to create dramatic works that presented real-life characters in action that reflected and questioned prevailing morals and mores. Dialogue, once florid and poetic became sharp, pointed, and often witty.

Albee, Edward
If you visit Albeeland, expect the unexpected. Sea creatures may engage you in conversation, friends may drop in and then move in, and if a stranger joins you on a park bench, beware: the encounter may end in murder. The fascination of a play by Edward Albee is that its unexpected quirkiness is viewed as ordinary and everyday....MORE

Beckett, Samuel
The greatest dramatist of the twentieth century and the most influential, Samuel Beckett was forty-six when his first successful play, “Waiting for Godot,” written in French as En attendant Godot, opened in Paris in January 1953...MORE

Brecht, Bertolt
Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany, in February 1898, studied medicine in Munich and served in an army hospital during World War I....MORE

Chekhov, Anton
Russian playwright Maxim Gorky said of Chekhov that in his presence, "everyone felt in himself a desire to be simpler, more beautiful, more oneself. . . MORE

Churchill, Caryl
Caryl Churchill, with "Top Girls" being revived at the Aldwych Theatre in the West End and "Far Away" scheduled to open in New York, wouldn't mind being called "The Mother of Us All." ... MORE

Coward, Noel
"Mr. Coward. . . is his own invention and contribution to this century." John Osborne ...MORE

Eliot, T. S.
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1888.  He is not only one of the greatest playwrights of the twentieth century, but he is also the poet of that century....MORE

Gorky, Maxim
In its premiere by the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1902 the stark realism of Gorky’s "The Lower Depths," with its cast of derelicts and drifters struck the death knoll for stage romanticism....MORE

Hellman, Lillian
America’s foremost woman playwright is as well known for her private life as for her plays, thirteen in all, including prize-winners...MORE

Ibsen, Henrik
In London in 2003 Henrik Ibsen enjoys a popularity equal to that of Shakespeare,  with impressive productions that shed new light on the well- and lesser-known works and reveal the playwright’s timeless appeal...MORE

Kaufman, George S.
Satirist George S. Kaufman, witty master of American theater comedy, inventor of the  stage "wisecrack," and titled "the great collaborator," because he preferred being a co-author,  was born in Pittsburgh November 14 1889....MORE

LaBute, Neil
You might not guess it from his plays, but thirty-nine-year old Neil LaBute is a mild-mannered, practicing Mormon and the father of two....MORE

Lorca, Federico Garcia
The greatest Spanish poet and playwright of the twentieth century, Federico Garcia Lorca was executed at the age of 38 by Franco’s Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War....MORE

Mamet, David
David Mamet was born on November 30, 1947, in Flossmore, Illinois, received his B.A. at Goddard College in Vermont in 1969, and became interested in theater while working as a busboy at the Second City in Chicago...MORE

Miller, Arthur
Arthur Miller in his ninetieth year died just before the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the historical figure he most identified with, according to a Vanity Fair questionnaire....MORE

O'Neill, Eugene
Mourning Becomes Electra, one of Eugene O'Neill's greatest plays, was presented by the National Theatre in 2003 celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the playwright's death.....MORE

Pinter, Harold
Harold Pinter at seventy is indisputably Britain’s greatest living playwright, and he was celebrated in July 2001 at a Pinter Festival in New York at Lincoln Center, with productions of nine of his plays and eight films....MORE

Shaw, George Bernard
When Bernard Shaw died in 1950 at the age of ninety-six, his plays had been famous, or infamous, for over half a century...MORE

Shepard, Sam
Sam Shepard’s works, especially those concerning the American family, have been growing in popularity.  Once considered too far out, these plays are becoming more and more significant, especially as it is recognized that while they may look naturalistic, their  symbolic and mythic overtones speak to our times...MORE

Sondheim, Stephen
With three major productions running simultaneously in London and New York, and a fourth scheduled, Stephen Sondheim’s contribution to musical theater is foremost in both capitals....MORE

Stoppard, Tom
Tom Stoppard is making theater news again, with a hit play in the West End and his trilogy opening on Broadway in the new season....MORE

Strindberg, August
Johan August Strindberg, the foremost Swedish playwright and a major influence on modern drama, was born in Stockholm on January 22, 1840, the son of a shipping merchant and his former servant....MORE

Wilde, Oscar
The life of Oscar Wilde was as theatrical as his plays, and his downfall and death  more melodramatic than the stage of the Victorians who first celebrated him and then condemned him....MORE

Williams, Tennessee
“Tennessee Williams Explored” will celebrate the playwright in a festival from April to July at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C....MORE