Even with thousands of TV shows and movies being available at the click of a button, live drama still holds a place in our lives. The experience of buying tickets, sitting in an auditorium and watching living, breathing people embody the characters and ideas that someone worked hard to create is an other-worldly experience that can take us out of our lives and give us new perspective.
In honor of these people that have both transported us and turned our world views upside down, here are some of the most unforgettable playwrights in history:William Shakespeare
Most Famous Work: All of them
You could never even begin to talk about playwrights without Shakespeare immediately springing to mind. He brought the use of themes, metaphor and character development to the forefront of the art of fiction in a time where literature had yet to catch up to his genius.
Between tragedies like Othello, comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and histories like Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has given voice to some of the greatest lines ever spoken and some of the most memorable scenes ever penned. His works continue to influence the art of drama to this day, almost four centuries after his death.
Most Famous Work: A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams’ works explored the decaying nature of the American South’s legacy following the collapse of the plantation system. Plays like The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof all depict sympathetic characters trying to maintain their pride and composure in situations of hardship. His works are often haunting, even depressing, but the themes linger long after because of the realism in which they are portrayed.
Most Famous Work: Death of a Salesmen
Like Williams, Miller was concerned with depicting the American Dream and how it often falls apart. Miller’s approach was more allegorical, though, with elements of surrealism and interpolated narrative. Death of a Salesmen’s Willy Loman was meant to be a character that many could identify with, including his unreliable memory and refusal to accept the poor hands he was dealt.
The Crucible, Miller’s second most famous play, depicts the hysteria and inhuman cruelty of the Salem witch trials. His play was an allegory for anti-communist sentiments during the 1950s, but it resonates universally to this day.
Most Famous Work: The Odd Couple
Neil Simon sought to explore themes similar to those of Williams and Miller, but he decided to give it a more human touch. His characters have unique motivations and personality traits, although they can be seen as archetypes for people we may know.
Simon’s work The Odd Couple was one of the first plays to speak in the truthful language of people rather than adopting the lofty symbolism of his contemporaries. The fastidious Felix Unger (played in a film adaptation by Jack Lemmon) and the slovenly Oscar Madison (played on stage and on screen by Walter Matthau) were nothing if not honest with each other, even if they could not be honest with themselves.
Their attempts to pick up their lives at an age that many in their day would consider “past their prime” shows the redefining state of masculinity following the social revolutions of the 1960s. The play manages to be poignant but also hilarious, giving us a break from the more depressing but nonetheless memorable works of his early contemporaries.
These playwrights defined the stories of their generation, and now a new generation can step in and attempt to do the same. Our Summer Harvest 2015 event brings fresh, newly-written plays written by local playwrights to the stage for the very first time. Think of it as a farmer’s market, except for creative drama instead of veggies!
Click here to buy tickets and be wowed by the new talented generation of playwrights springing up in your backyard.