In the first installment of the Reading List, we covered a great deal of ground. We came across plays that brought us through poetic meditations and vast narrative landscapes. We met nuns convicted of criminal activity. We examined themes of consciousness and womanhood. We absorbed tonal language that spanned a great spectrum. Now, let's see how four more playwrights answered the question What play should every playwright read?
Lee Blessing, Core Writer
This was one of the pioneering plays of the 1960's off-Broadway movement. I love the play for its unique interplay of thought and language, but also for the fact that Ms. Owens wrote it in the late 1950's when she had almost no connection to the Broadway-dominated theatre of the time. She wrote it in her off moments while working a dreary office job, completely on spec and without any prospects of production. The type of theatre that could produce it had yet to be invented. So it's visionary on many levels.
Lee Blessing has been writing plays for several centuries and have worked with the PWC since the mid-1970's. He has had productions at every level of theatre and in numerous foreign countries. He is proudest of his copy of his play A Walk in the Woods in Arabic.
Ken Urban, Core Writer
Not a play, but a collection of Brecht's essays. I return to these often to help me figure out what theatre can be and why I make theatre. It's fun to watch the concepts develop and deepen.
Ken Urban is a playwright based in New York. His plays include Sense of an Ending, The Awake, The Correspondent and The Happy Sad.
Deborah Yarchun, Affiliated Writer
Each scene is vivid, visceral mini-lesson in dramatic objects, physicality, and tactile imagery. I use it when I teach playwriting. It’s about huge/larger messy human things like class issues without being overtly political and still being deeply intimate. It’s set during the bubonic plague of 1665 with characters from different classes in forced, closed quarters, and an example of how a history play can be a commentary on all times. It’s violent and sensual with extremely high stakes. And the power dynamics between the characters constantly shift.
Deborah Yarchun’s honors include two Jerome Fellowships at The Playwrights’ Center, The Kennedy Center’s Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, an EST/Sloan Commission, University of Arkansas’ Kernodle New Play Award, University of Iowa’s Richard Maibaum Playwriting Award, and the Iowa Arts Fellowship. M.F.A., University of Iowa. Read about her work at DeborahYarchun.com.
Philip Dawkins, Core Writer
This is a hard question for me because it's different from "What is your favorite play?" As a habit, I try to avoid the word "should." There's already so much expected of playwrights, especially young playwrights. I see no need to throw yet another "should" on the "shouldpile." Read what excites you, and read a lot of it. And don't let anybody tell you that you should be reading something else. You should be reading what you're most exciting to read. Just don't stop reading. Read a lot.
Philip Dawkins is a Chicago playwright and educator. His favorite play changes daily.