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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: March ::
50 Best American Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0102  Friday, 6 March 2009

[1]  From:   John W Kennedy <
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      Date:   Tuesday, 03 Mar 2009 23:03:08 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

[2]  From:   Dan Venning <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 00:33:21 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

[3]  From:   Matthew Henerson <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 09:13:12 -0800
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

[4]  From:   Paul Hebron <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 12:25:32 -0500
      Subj:   re: SHK 20.0089 50 Best American Plays

[5]  From:   Joe Conlon <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 15:42:35 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0089 50 Best American Plays

[6]  From:   Carol Barton <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 04 Mar 2009 20:58:36 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

[7]  From:   Scot Zarela <
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      Date:   Thursday, 05 Mar 2009 13:03:57 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      John W Kennedy <
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Date:      Tuesday, 03 Mar 2009 23:03:08 -0500
Subject: 20.0094 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

John Knapp 
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 >Best plays, American or otherwise, for middle school students:

Hmmm . . . .  The problem is that there are so many land-mines nowadays. 
I remember "The King and I" being in the curriculum when I was that age, 
but it's likely to be verboten today for colonialism. Most students that 
age could probably handle "The Octoroon", but it's obvious why you can't 
touch that. "Fashion" has a "darkie" servant, and "Metamora" is 
effective, but crude. And every non-musical from the 20th century seems 
to have something to do with sex and/or ennui. "Andre" might make it, 
but the language could be a bit too hard.

                      See what employment
    For a dying man. Take thou these verses;
    And, after my decease, send them to her
    Whose name is woven in them; whose image,
    Hath controul'd my destiny. Such tokens
    Are rather out of date. Fashions
    There are in love as in all else; they change
    As variously. A gallant Knight, erewhile,
    Of Coeur de Lion's day, would, dying, send
    His heart home to its mistress; degenerate
    Soldier I, send but some blotted paper.

I think the safest thing to go with would be musicals.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Dan Venning <
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Date:      Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 00:33:21 -0500
Subject: 20.0094 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

Such a list is a very hard list to compile, and obviously leaves a lot 
of room open to taste.

I'd suggest looking at Michael Patterson's THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF 
PLAYS (Oxford, 2005), which lists the 1000 "most important" plays for 
literary or theatrical study, giving brief plot synopses as well as 
dates and production requirements. The book is designed for scholars who 
study primarily in English--more than half of the plays listed were not 
originally written in English, but the focus is on the Anglophone (or at 
least Western) dramatic literature and history.

145 American plays are listed, 84 of these plays are post-1944; the 
oldest American play included is Mercy Otis Warren's THE GROUP (1775), 
and the most recent is Richard Greenberg's TAKE ME OUT (2002). The most 
listed playwrights are O'Neill (9), Williams (9), Miller (8), Albee (7), 
and Shepard (6).

Obviously, some possibly worthy / important plays are left off the list: 
PICNIC comes to mind, and a few others.

Compiling a list also raises the question: are we including only 
straight plays? What about the American musical -- a rather distinctive 
theatrical genre? Cheryl Newton included GODSPELL in her original list, 
but Patterson leaves them out of his volume. I'd suggest that FOLLIES is 
among the best American theatrical works ever written; I'd be tempted to 
include PAL JOEY, SOUTH PACIFIC, CABARET, and the original version of 
BABES IN ARMS on my list of 50 favorites, too.

I'm pretty stunned, though, that no one has mentioned ANGELS IN AMERICA. 
But then again, inviting the 50 "best" plays is asking for everyone to 
weigh in with personal taste.

Dan Venning

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Matthew Henerson <
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Date:      Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 09:13:12 -0800
Subject: 20.0094 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

I can't seem to find a master list, so forgive me if the following 
suggestions are redundant.

Tony Kushner's Angels in America, both parts.

John Guare's House of Blue Leaves and/or Six Degrees of Separation.

Lanford Wilson's Burn This and/or Talley's Folly.

Richard Dresser's Below the Belt.

Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns and/or Conversations with My Father.

Jo Swerling and Abe Burrow's book for Guys and Dolls.

Jose Rivera's Marisol.

I find it hard to believe, as some recent posts have suggested, that 
anybody managed to put together this kind of list without reference to 
anything by O'Neil, but I would certainly include Long Day's Journey at 
the very least.  I would also include both Glengarry Glen Ross and 
American Buffalo by Mr. Mamet. And I'm assuming the master list includes 
some Sam Shepard as well, perhaps True West or Buried Child.

It's a tough assignment. We're a heterogeneous bunch, so if we're 
talking about a dramatic literature which defines the American 
experience, we have any number of American experiences from which to 
choose. Fortunately for our cultural identity -- in which we seem, as a 
people, to be only peripherally interested -- we have enough excellent 
playwrights to prevent us from having to make the inclusion vs. quality 
kinds of decisions which might have bedeviled compilers of such a list 
50 years ago. Angels in America was a seminal event in American Theatre, 
and not just a "gay play." The same is true of August Wilson's ten play 
sequence. Not all of them would make my personal Top 50, although Joe 
Turner and The Piano Lesson certainly would. 50 years ago exactly, 
listers looking for a play dramatizating the African-American experience 
wouldn't even have had access to Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the 
Sun. It's first and only preview occurred on March 10, 1959, and it 
opened on the 11th, making the fifty year anniversary of it's opening 
night exactly a week away.

Matt Henerson

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Paul Hebron <
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Date:      Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 12:25:32 -0500
Subject: 20.0089 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   re: SHK 20.0089 50 Best American Plays

If this list is to carry the weight of O'Neil, then perhaps it could be 
leavened with lighter fare as well. . . . some possibilities:

     * The Philadelphia Story............................Phillip Bary
     * You Can't Take It With You....................Kaufman and Hart
     * The Man Who Came To Dinner.....................Kaufman and Hart
     * Arsenic and Old Lace..........................Joseph Kesselring
     * Harvey...............................................Mary Chase
     * Boy Meets Girl.............................Bella and Sam Spewack
     * Room Service...................................Murray and Boretz
     * The Time Of Your Life............................William Saroyan

And a plug for a few other personal favorites: J.B. by Archibald 
MacLeish, Golden Boy by Clifford Odets, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, and 
A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.

-- Paul Hebron

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Joe Conlon <
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Date:      Wednesday, 4 Mar 2009 15:42:35 -0500
Subject: 20.0089 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0089 50 Best American Plays

I would add Neil Simon's Plazza Suite.

Joe Conlon
Warsaw, IN, USA

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Carol Barton <
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Date:      Wednesday, 04 Mar 2009 20:58:36 -0500
Subject: 20.0094 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

Death of a Salesman. The Crucible.

Or is Miller no longer in vogue, in academic circles?

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Scot Zarela <
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Date:      Thursday, 05 Mar 2009 13:03:57 -0500
Subject: 20.0094 50 Best American Plays
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0094 50 Best American Plays

I agree with Charles Weinstein; nevertheless, I would look for the 
inclusion of "The Front Page" and "House of Blue Leaves".

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