Sunday Reading: American Playwrights
Great playwriting often helps inform our views on American character and identity. The work of accomplished writers such as August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Ntozake Shange, and others has sparked crucial national conversations around issues of race, sexuality, and class. This week, we’ve gathered a selection of pieces on the cultural impact of some notable American playwrights. In “Color Vision,” Hilton Als chronicles the career of the innovative Ntozake Shange, whose groundbreaking work “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” is currently in revival at the Public Theatre. In “All About the Hamiltons,” Rebecca Mead speaks with Lin-Manuel Miranda about “Hamilton,” his inventive hip-hop musical based on the Founding Fathers. John Lahr profiles Arthur Miller and explores how he came to write “Death of a Salesman”; Lahr also examines the eminent works and life of the playwright August Wilson, who has received two Pulitzer Prizes for drama. In “Passion Plays,” Larissa MacFarquhar visits Edward Albee as he oversees the latest revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Finally, in “King’s Speech,” Michael Schulman talks to Katori Hall about the inspiration behind “The Mountaintop,” her play about Martin Luther King, Jr., in the final hours before his assassination. Taken together, these pieces offer a powerful reminder of the role that these dramatic conversations play in our lives.
Ntozake Shange’s outspoken art.
“All About the Hamiltons”
A new musical brings the Founding Fathers back to life—with a lot of hip-hop.
“Arthur Miller and the Making of Willy Loman”
“Death of a Salesman” was the first play to dramatize the punishing—and particularly American—interplay of panic and achievement. How did Miller do it?
Katori Hall spins theatre from a moment in history.
The making of Edward Albee.
“Been Here and Gone”
How August Wilson brought a century of black American culture to the stage.
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