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Musical Theatre Today

2700 F St.: Musical Theatre Today
Forget everything you thought you knew about Broadway-style shows because this performance gives you an insider’s look at modern musical theater—musical theater today.
Theater, Backstage, Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays

Superman 2050

Cuesheet: Superman 2050
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Superman 2050! Fast forward 35 years from now to see the fearless Man of Steel battle his arch-enemy Lex Luthor.
Backstage, Theater, Playwrights & Plays, Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Girl Who Forgot To Sing Badly

Cuesheet: The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly
It’s hard to make your voice heard, especially when you’re small.
Backstage, Theater, Playwrights & Plays

Moby Dick

Cuesheet: Moby Dick
Hoist sail, raise anchor, and join the hunt for the great white whale! Set off on an epic sea adventure as one of America’s greatest novels comes to life on stage.
Backstage, Theater, Playwrights & Plays

OLIVÉRio

Cuesheet: OLIVÉRio
OLIVÉRio adapts the themes, events, and characters of the novel Oliver Twist into a story full of the sights and sounds of modern-day Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Backstage, Theater, Playwrights & Plays, Latin America

Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play

Cuesheet: Elephant and Piggie's We Are in a Play
Straight from Mo Willems’ award-winning book series, best friends Gerald and Piggie sing and dance their way through fundamental questions like, should you share your ice cream? And how can two friends play with one toy? Discover the answers and much more!
Animals, Backstage, Theater, Playwrights & Plays

Titus

Cuesheet: Titus
Ten-year-old Titus has seen life’s disappointments pile up and he’s on edge—the edge of the school roof to be exact. From that perch, he shares the story of his life and all the losses that have left him hurting. He still has his wicked sense of humor, but can he find a ray of hope and happiness for the future?
Theater, Family, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord's The Suit

Cuesheet: Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord's The Suit
Hearts will be broken in this tragic tale of a wife’s betrayal and a husband’s revenge set in South Africa during the days of apartheid. Can music and wit soften the pain?
Theater, Family, Playwrights & Plays

Man of the House

Cuesheet: Man of the House: A World Premiere Kennedy Center Commission
“Son, I’ve got to go. Now you are the man of the house.” Pablito never forgot those words from his father. Now it’s time to do something about them.
Backstage, Family, Theater, Playwrights & Plays

Four Little Girls

Cuesheet: Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that took the lives of four young girls, this reading remembers this seminal event in American history and how it helped to galvanize the American Civil Rights Movement.
America, Controversial, History, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Elephant & Piggie's We Are In A Play

Cuesheet: Elephant and Piggie's We Are in a Play (Premiere)
Straight from Mo Willems’ award-winning book series, best friends Gerald and Piggie sing and dance their way through fundamental questions like, should you share your ice cream? And how can two friends play with one toy? Discover the answers and much more!
Animals, Backstage, Theater, Playwrights & Plays

All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Cuesheet: All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
The a cappella voices of Cantus and actors from Theater Latté Da recall the remarkable World War I truce between Allied Forces and German soldiers on Christmas, 1914. All is Calm brings this extraordinary tale to life with words and songs from the soldiers who laid down their arms to celebrate Christmas.
History, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Europe

Death of a Salesman

Master + Work: Arthur Miller and Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s voice of social conscience and theatrical imagination changed the face of American theater. Meet him through his masterwork, Death of a Salesman.
America, History, Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Controversial

As You Like It

Article: Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare made the pursuit of love just as difficult as leading men to war, or solving your father's murder
Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Tragedy, Literature, Theater

Romeo and Juliet

Article: Romeo and Juliet
Find out why William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is such an enduring love story. Learn more about Act II’s balcony scene and the tragedy’s most well-known adaptations
Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Tragedy, Literature, Theater

comedy and tragedy masks

Collection: Theater Resources
Take a peek behind the red curtain and discover the artistry and history behind the world of theater. Explore the playwriting process first-hand, learn about the cultural impact of performance, and read and perform some of the most influential works of the 20th century.
America, Art Venues, Backstage, Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Language Arts

Collection: Language Arts Resources
How do fables and myths explain the unknown and preserve cultures? What makes a good story? How do plays comment on societal issues? Grab a pencil and prepare to create original poems, experience the Civil War through letters, and parse symbolism and metaphor in this exploration of language arts.
America, Europe, Folklore, Language, Literature, Native America, Playwrights & Plays, Poetry

African-American Boy

Collection: African-American History
Learn about the African American experience through the arts — and discover the contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of the United States.
Africa, America, Folklore, Geography, History, Jazz, Music, Playwrights & Plays, Dance, Blues

Mother and girl art class

Tipsheet: Going Public
Here are the best and safest ways to share your student's work with the world!
Education, Young Artists, Visual Arts, Poetry, Playwrights & Plays, Literature

word art

Grades 6-8 Lesson: A Way With Words or Say What?
Many words and phrases that we use every day were coined by Shakespeare. He is credited with inventing over 2,000 words and expressive phrases.
Shakespeare, Literature, Language, Playwrights & Plays

Fencers

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Fancy Fencing
Stage-fighting, and especially sword-fighting, is important to the plot of many Shakespearean plays. In theatre, fights are based on precise choreography.
Choreographers, Europe, Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Stunts & Special Effects

Romeo and Juliet

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Performance Essay
By investigating Shakespeare through both an analytical and theatrical lens, students achieve a much deeper understanding of his work.
Theater, Shakespeare, Playwrights & Plays, Literature

Scene from 'The Glass Menagerie'

Grades 9-12 Lesson: The Memory Play in American Drama
This lesson explores structural and technical devices of the "memory" play by focusing on a Tennessee Williams' masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie
Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Literature

Scene from Eugene O'Neill's 'The Hairy Ape'

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Uncivil Civilization in The Hairy Ape
Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape presents a disheartening assessment of the impact of living in the industrialized society of the early 20th century.
Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Literature

Eugene O'Neill

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Eugene O'Neill on Page and Stage
Continue the exploration of "Puritanism" as an influence on the development of modern American drama by focusing on elements of narrative, theme and characterization.
Playwrights & Plays, Literature, Theater

Firefighter at Ground Zero

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Art from Tragedy: Remembering 9/11
Students will interview their peers about their memories of September 11th, 2001, and use those memories to craft a one-act play for performance
America, Theater, Tragedy, Playwrights & Plays, Movies & Movie Stars, Literature, History

Performance of Shakespeare's

Grades 9-12 Lesson: A Question of Style
Students will explore the nature of comedy by informally staging the opening scenes in Shakespeare's As You Like It
Theater, Young Artists, Literature, Playwrights & Plays

Scene from

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Exploring A Streetcar Named Desire
Students study setting, plot, and character development in Tennessee Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire and discuss its impact on American theater.
Playwrights & Plays, Education, Theater, Literature

Lee Blessing

Video: Lee Blessing: The Power of Theater
In this Power of Theater podcast, part of the Kennedy Center Education Department's American College Theater Festival's summer intensive for playwrights, playwright Lee Blessing discusses the difference between writing for the theater and writing for television and film.
Theater, Backstage, Playwrights & Plays, Jobs in the Arts

Marcia Norman

Video: Marcia Norman: The Power of Theater
"When you're in a piece of wonderful theater your whole body responds to what's on the stage." In this Power of Theater podcast, part of the Kennedy Center Education Department's American College Theater Festival's summer intensive for playwrights, playwright Marcia Norman discusses the different forms and forums for storytelling, and what is thrilling about working for the stage.
Theater, Backstage, Playwrights & Plays

Richard Thomas

Video: Richard Thomas & Randle Mell: The Power of Theater
In this podcast, part of the Power of Theater series, actors Richard Thomas (The Waltons) and Randle Mell (24) discuss performing in the stage version of Twelve Angry Men and how the play illustrates the power of one voice in a system designed to reward the collective majority.
Theater, Backstage, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

Kathleen Turner

Video: Kathleen Turner: The Power of Theater
In this Power of Theater podcast, actress Kathleen Turner discusses the importance of theater as a means of creating a shared experience among strangers and her need to touch the lives of her audience.
Theater, Backstage, Broadway, Jobs in the Arts, Playwrights & Plays

Alan Stanford

Video: Alan Stanford: The Power of Theater
Alan Stanford & the Cast of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot talk about experiencing the magic of theater by coming to the theater with an “open heart.”
Theater, Backstage, Controversial, Europe, Playwrights & Plays

August Wilson

Video: August Wilson: The Power of Theater
August Wilson's work accurately portrays the black experience in America-addressing themes of struggle (violence, economic injustices, unemployment, poverty and neglect, racism, civil rights, unlawful imprisonment, the legacy of slavery) as well as themes of triumph (the strength of family ties and loyalties, the uniqueness of black culture and the fight to preserve and value it).
Theater, Backstage, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

Theater seats

Video Series: The Power of Theater
What does theater "do"? Does it matter in a contemporary, screen-driven society? Drawn from the Kennedy Center Education Department archives, this series examines the way theater impacts modern society and culture.
Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Backstage, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

Elephant and Piggie

Video Series: Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play
Explore the creative process behind the writing, music, and design of the musical Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! This video series features clips from the performance and takes you behind the scenes to hear from author/illustrator/lyricist Mo Willems and others on the creative team.
Backstage, Musicals, Literature, Animals, Playwrights & Plays

Locomotion

Multimedia Series: Locomotion
A foster child uses poetry to cope with his troubled past
Playwrights & Plays, Literature, Poetry, Theater

Jackie and Caroline reading

Slideshow: Discovering American Scrapbook
Bringing poetry to life through performance
America, Poetry, Presidents, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Musical theater kids

Audio: Write Your Own Musical
Heather Nathans, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Maryland, is joined by Joe Stein and Sheldon Harnick (writers of Fiddler on the Roof) and Stephen Schwartz (who wrote Pippin, Godspell, and Wicked) to talk about how a musical gets written.
America, Art Venues, Backstage, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Young Artists

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Here Ye…
Talk like William Shakespeare. (Hint: a good place to start is by using “thou” in place of “you.”) What dost thou think? ‘Tis easy! Your turn.
Shakespeare, Literature, Poetry, Television, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Eugene Ionesco
"A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind."
Europe, Innovators & Pioneers, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: William Shakespeare
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
Europe, Literature, Poetry, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it immensely. All art is useless."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: William Shakespeare
"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."
Europe, Literature, Poetry, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Samuel Beckett
"Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order."
Dance, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

arts quote

Arts Quotes: José Bergamín
"If you really believe music is dangerous, you should let it go in one ear and out the other."
Controversial, Poetry, Literature, Playwrights & Plays, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Sir Francis Bacon
"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery."
Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Literature, Theater

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Lillian Hellman
"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped."
America, Literature, Playwrights & Plays, Controversial

Arthur Miller

Arts Days: October 17, 1915: A Man of Morals
Arthur Miller's dramatic works probe at various aspects of human nature—all of them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Crucible, for example, examines what prompts otherwise good, moral people to make false accusations about others, while Incident at Vichy considers why the Nazis were able to perpetrate the mass slaughter of Jews.

In Death of a Salesman, Miller tells the story of an aging businessman attempting to right the failures of his past, and explores the concept of the "American Dream." This 1984 Kennedy Center Honoree became something of a political lightning rod, too: In 1957 Miller was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee during Congress’ bid to find Communist sympathizers in the ranks of U.S. writers, actors, and others. Miller refused, was convicted of contempt, and became a hero of the political Left.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Controversial, Literature

Eugene O’Neill

Arts Days: October 16, 1888: The Playwright Cometh
Among the greatest of American playwrights, Eugene O’Neill had theater bred right into him. His father was a touring actor, so O’Neill and his family accompanied him everywhere. It made for a transient life, but one that fed the young writer’s creativity.

His plays are detailed, realistic portrayals of the complex and difficult relationships among everyday people. O’Neill was also an innovator: He introduced the concept of realism to American audiences, explored simultaneous action on stage, and employed “the aside,” a dramatic technique that allows characters to reveal their true thoughts directly to the audience.

Through his work, he hoped to challenge theatergoers to reflect on their own families, relationships, and conflicts. Among his classic plays are Mourning Becomes Electra, The Iceman Cometh, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Broadway, Theater, Playwrights & Plays, Innovators & Pioneers

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Arts Days: October 13, 1962: Couples’ Therapy
It’s said that playwright Edward Albee, a 1996 Kennedy Center Honoree, had his own experiences at Connecticut’s Trinity College in mind when he wrote this play about George and Martha, a university professor and his wife. The audience watches as this dysfunctional, middle-aged couple drink heavily, insult one another and their guests, and savagely expose each other’s layers of emotional fragility.

The play’s adult language, themes of infidelity and alcohol abuse, and conflicts between illusion and reality, caused quite a stir after the play opened on this day in 1962. Only a few years later, the controversial drama was adapted into a feature film as a star vehicle for Hollywood’s iconic couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Today it is viewed as an important milestone in the development of modernist drama.
Theater, Broadway, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

West Side Story

Arts Days: September 26, 1957: Tonight, Tonight
Behind the hit musical about the rival white “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks” is an updated, urban retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The inspiration and innovation was provided by a boatload of talent; Stephen Sondheim wrote the sophisticated lyrics, Leonard Bernstein the historic music.

Jerome Robbins directed and choreographed the revolutionary dance sequences like the Shark Girls’ exuberant “America” and the Jets’ “Cool.” Audiences saw how violent gang warfare shattered the dreams of star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. The musical drew big crowds, shocking them all with the death of two young men at the end of Act One and of Tony at the close of the play. As stunned viewers exited the theater, few doubted the universality of Shakespeare’s love story.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Choreographers, Composers, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Popular Culture

Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Jessica Tandy in A Streetcard Named Desire

Arts Days: December 03, 1947: Passion Play
The great American playwright and 1979 Kennedy Center Honoree Tennessee Williams took home the Pulitzer Prize for this Southern Gothic play. Elia Kazan directed the young newcomer Marlon Brando and the veteran Jessica Tandy in the iconic roles of Stanley Kowalski and his sister-in-law Blanche DuBois, whose violence-laced attraction to one another drives much of the action.

Blanche, a frail, helpless relic of the Old South, has come to New Orleans to seek refuge in her sister’s home, only to face psychological and sexual clashes with Stanley. As the play unfolds, the audience witnesses Blanche’s slow descent into insanity. After completing the show's run on Broadway, both Tandy and Brando enjoyed illustrious acting careers; Kazan not only went on to direct the 1951 movie version of Streetcar, but was also named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1983.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Controversial

William Shakespeare

Arts Days: November 01, 1604 and 1611: A Double Bill of Will
Was this William Shakespeare’s lucky day or just a coincidence that two of his best known plays premiered on the first day of the 11th month, seven years apart? Each play was first presented to King James I at the Palace of Whitehall, the decades-old main residence of the kings and queens of England.

It was customary for any new works to first be seen by the monarch and his court before any presentation to the general public. It is likely that for many years after these two debuts, both plays were indeed performed for the general public at playhouses like The Rose and The Globe. The demand for such entertainment was so great that chances are the ink was barely dry on the page when the first productions were mounted.
Shakespeare, Playwrights & Plays, Tragedy, Europe, Theater

George Bernard Shaw

Arts Days: July 26, 1856: Voice of the People
Hmmm… could the fact that George Bernard Shaw started out as a newspaper arts critic have something to do with his interest in expressing his political and philosophical opinions freely?

In his 60 some plays, Shaw always found a way to criticize social mores by poking holes in the conventions of 19th century life. Pygmalion, upon which the smash Broadway musical My Fair Lady would later be based, examines class differences, while Major Barbara considers whether it is right to use money earned from the sales of weapons for charitable purposes.

Some of these satirical themes generated controversy among early theatergoers, but Shaw didn’t care. “My way of joking is to tell the truth,” he once said. Shaw’s “joking” earned him both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay for My Fair Lady.
Literature, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Playbill

Arts Days: July 06, 1934: Get With the Program
Go to any theater on Broadway, in Miami, or even St. Louis, and you’ll probably be handed a copy of Playbill. Part program description of the play you are about to see, part theater magazine, Playbill was first called the Strauss Magazine Theater Program, after its creator Frank Vance Strauss.

In 1884, Strauss started a company that created programs tailored to shows. It featured restaurant ads, feature articles on famous directors, and other related material. These days you can subscribe to the magazine, as well as have one customized for any given show. It lists the actors, the parts they play and their work in other shows, as well as the sequence of events that will take place on the stage.
Backstage, Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Neil Simon

Arts Days: July 04, 1927: Simon Says, “Laugh”
Playwright Neil Simon is perhaps the person most responsible for celebrating the comic craziness of New York City with his entertaining stories of human trials, tribulations, and, of course, neuroses. In plays such as Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues, and more, Simon invented characters you simply can’t forget—whether they’re caught in hilarious situations or heartbreaking ones.

His valentine to New York aside, Simon is also the writer who has done the most to capture on the page and on the stage what it’s like to be a 20th century Jewish American, like himself. A nominee for 17 Tony Awards® and the recipient of three, Simon was also a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995.

Oh, and one more thing. In 1966, Simon is the only playwright to have four productions on Broadway running simultaneously.
Theater, Playwrights & Plays, Broadway, Comedy

Arthur Laurents

Arts Days: July 14, 1918: From Brooklyn to Broadway
Arthur Laurents, the playwright and lyricist who wrote the book for West Side Story, one of the world’s most beloved musicals, had another source in mind when he conceived of the tragic tale of Maria and Tony. He was thinking of Shakespeare and his play, Romeo and Juliet, and this pair of lovers whose family conflicts stand in the way of their feelings for one another.

Though the theme wasn’t new, Laurents set his characters’ love affair in an urban setting, with rival gangs standing in for the families Shakespeare had put at odds. Laurents worked closely with composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim to create the Broadway version of West Side Story.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Musicals, Theater, Shakespeare

Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Stephen Sondheim

Arts Days: March 22, 1930 and 1948: Two of a Kind
If you displayed the pages of music written by these two legendary Broadway composers who share a birthday, it would stretch around the block many times over—sort of like the crowds standing in line at their shows. Sondheim’s brought us Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, and Sunday in the Park with George, among others. He also wrote the breakthrough lyrics for West Side Story, which premiered in 1957 and marked his big break.

For his part, Lloyd Webber has no less musical theater credentials. In Cats and Phantom of the Opera, his songs “Memory” and “The Music of the Night,”  plus “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, showcase Webber’s standard composing style, which melds together elements of rock, jazz, pop, and classical music.
Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Composers, Theater

Tennessee Williams

Arts Days: March 26, 1911: For Dreamers Only
Stanley Kowalski, Amanda Wingfield, Big Daddy, and Blanche Dubois are only a few of the memorable stage characters created by Tennessee Williams, one of America’s greatest playwrights. Born Thomas Lanier Williams, his brutish, traveling salesman father and traditional, Southern belle of a mother provided all the necessary emotional turmoil Williams needed to fuel his plays. No wonder Williams chose to write about people who are emotionally crippled by hypocrisy and illusion, lies and denial.

It was while waiting tables in New York in 1944 that Williams got his lucky break. The Glass Menagerie, his play about the complex relationships within the dysfunctional Wingfield household, opened to rave reviews. Williams followed with A Streetcar Named Desire, his highly-charged encounter between a woman haunted by her past and her crude, confrontational, working-class brother-in-law.
Playwrights & Plays, Controversial, Theater

Our Town

Arts Days: February 04, 1938: Our Town Hits the Big City
So you’re sitting in a darkened theater watching actors play their parts on stage, talking to one another, while paying absolutely no attention to the spectators. Suddenly, one of them turns and speaks directly to you, the audience. A bit startling, isn’t it?

This technique is called “breaking the fourth wall,” and it was used to great effect by the Stage Manager character in Our Town, a play Thornton Wilder wrote that explored life in a small New England town. The Stage Manager comments to the audience on the words and actions of other characters like Emily Webb and George Gibbs.

When rave reviews poured in, Wilder was delighted that his play, which turned many theatrical conventions on their heads, was a success. His bittersweet message that the beauty of even the mundane details of life is all too fleeting has been heard all the way to the balcony and beyond.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Death of a Salesman

Arts Days: February 10, 1949: The Death of a Dream
When the curtain rose at the Morasco Theater this night, Broadway audiences were introduced to Willy Loman, a middle-aged traveling salesman, on the verge of a breakdown.

All too aware that he is at the end of his career, Loman takes stock of the work he’s done, the money he’s made, the relationships he’s formed—and finds that much of it leaves him feeling defeated and disappointed. With actor Lee J. Cobb starring as Loman, and Elia Kazan directing the play, viewers sadly watched as Willy is forced to recognize himself as a failure.

In its review, The New York Times noted that Miller “has looked with compassion into the hearts of some ordinary Americans and quietly transferred their hope and anguish to the theater.” Today, Miller’s play is studied in schools across the country.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Controversial, Theater, Tragedy

Romeo and Juliet

Arts Days: January 29, 1595: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet was and remains one of the English playwright's most popular works. The story of the young, "star-cross'd" lovers from feuding families premiered on this day in 1595 at The Theatre, performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men.

That’s right, the acting company was made up entirely of men, so roles like Juliet, the nurse, and Juliet's mother were given to actors who could muster high, feminine voices. Women were not permitted to take the stage in England until the beginning of the 17th century.
Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Tragedy, Theater

Molière

Arts Days: January 15, 1622: The Prince of French Farce
French playwright and actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his stage name Molière, is considered one of the greatest masters of Western comedy.

He studied acting and writing at the Collège de Clermont, a prestigious school in the heart of Paris. After graduating, he worked as an actor and playwright, dedicated to exploring new comedic ideas.

Molière wrote farces that exposed the hypocrisies and follies of French society. His fresh comedic style caught attention and praise from the French aristocracy, including King Louis XIV, who dubbed Molière's acting troupe "Troupe du Roi" (The King’s Troupe) and commissioned him to be the official author of court entertainments.
Comedy, Innovators & Pioneers, Playwrights & Plays, Europe

Arthur Miller

Arts Days: June 21, 1956: Just Said “No”
Sitting in the hot seat before the U.S. Congress’ House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), playwright Arthur Miller was pressed to reveal his alleged ties to Communists. Or at least to name people Miller considered sympathetic to Communism and the Soviet Union.

Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, ostensibly about the 17th century Salem witch trials, raised eyebrows among senators like Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was also suspicious of where Miller’s sympathies lay, knowing that the playwright had attended several meetings of the Communist party in the 1940s. McCarthy and others were on high alert for Communists thought to have infiltrated the government, the arts, and other institutions in the U.S.

Miller, one of numerous writers, actors, and others suspected of having Communist ties, refused to identify anyone and was ultimately convicted of holding Congress in contempt.
Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, History, Theater

Globe Theatre

Arts Days: June 29, 1613: Global Warming
Before it went up in smoke, most of Shakespeare’s plays debuted at The Globe located just outside London’s city limits. The building, erected in 1599 by Shakespeare’s theater company, is probably the best known theater of the Elizabethan era.

With room for about 3,000 people, the Globe had a stage at one end and a couple of areas for viewing the plays: covered balconies with seats for the wealthy, and bare ground for those who didn’t have much money but were willing to stand up for the duration of the show (the standing folks were called “groundlings”).

The Globe had its own motto: “The whole world is a playhouse,” which might sound a little bit familiar. That’s probably because Shakespeare adapted this motto for As You Like It when he wrote the lines, “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players.”
Art Venues, Shakespeare, Theater, Playwrights & Plays

Anne Frank

Arts Days: June 12, 1942: History in Her Own Words
Anne Frank’s diary, kept while her family was in hiding from the Nazis during World War II, is one of the most heartbreaking narratives to emerge from the Holocaust. Her journal is by turns funny, sad, and hopeful.

She received the diary on this day, her 13th birthday, and immediately began recording her innermost thoughts, as well as the astonishing story of her family’s hidden apartment in a building in Amsterdam. Through the unbearable tension of nearly two years, when the hidden occupants had to stay utterly quiet so the workers below would not grow suspicious, Anne Frank’s diary was a rare source of comfort for her.

She and her family were discovered in August 1944; all but her father perished in Nazi concentration camps.
History, Literature, Europe, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Lorraine Hansbury

Arts Days: May 19, 1930: Young, Gifted, and Black
With her powerful drama A Raisin in the Sun, playwright Lorraine Hansberry broke multiple barriers.

When it opened in New York City in 1959, the play was the first to be written and directed by an African American, Lloyd Richards. And when her work was voted Best American Play by the New York Drama Critics’s Circle, the 29-year-old Hansberry became the youngest recipient of that prestigious award. Raisin was partly inspired by racial incidents suffered by Hansberry’s family when they moved into a segregated neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago in 1937.

Hansberry went on to write other works for stage, screen, and television. Though she died at only 34, Hansberry’s influence echoes with generations of young writers dedicated to uncovering racism and other injustices with their words.
Innovators & Pioneers, Playwrights & Plays, Literature, Controversial

Thornton Wilder

Arts Days: April 17, 1897: An American Wordsmith
His works are read and his plays performed around the world, but when Thornton Wilder started writing stories as a kid, he never dreamt he’d be an icon of American literature one day. While his seminal three-act play Our Town is arguably his best-loved work, with its timeless depiction of life and loss in the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, other plays including The Skin of Our Teeth and the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey are also literary classics (all three works netted Wilder Pulitzer Prizes for Literature).

He also revisited and tinkered with old works from time to time. For example, he reworked his play The Merchant of Yonkers into The Matchmaker, which in 1964 hit the Broadway stage as Hello Dolly!, running for 2,844 performances.
Playwrights & Plays, America, Literature, Theater

William Shakespeare

Arts Days: April 23, 1564: All the World’s His Stage
The most famous playwright the world has ever seen, William Shakespeare created unforgettable characters and stories in language so rich that the words move “trippingly on the tongue” (at least that’s how Hamlet put it).

His tragedies, such as King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth; comedies like Twelfth Night and As You Like It; and history plays, such as Henry V, thrive centuries later in part because they are filled with characters who make the same kinds of choices and face the same kinds of problems people everywhere do: broken hearts, office politics, family stuff.

Shakespeare’s 37 plays and 154 sonnets, basically a love poem, are really fun to read aloud. That’s because Shakespeare worked puns, jokes, and insults right into the text. Strangely, little is known about Shakespeare’s life.
Shakespeare, Playwrights & Plays, Innovators & Pioneers, Theater

Samuel Beckett

Arts Days: April 13, 1906: Post-Modern Poster Boy
Irish playwright and poet Samuel Beckett is considered the first Post-modernist writer. He explored some pretty bleak subjects in works like Waiting for Godot and Krapp’s Last Tape including loneliness, hopelessness, and isolation. His work attracted considerable attention in his day—and even still—for often tossing all conventions of character development and plot, even punctuation, straight out the window.

Some of his works attempted to capture the inner thoughts and feelings of his characters second by second. Beckett combined words and ideas in such innovative ways that he earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. But because Beckett was such a private person, the fame that accompanied this honor was a double-edged sword.
Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Europe, Theater

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