Throughout history, people have been inspired by playwrights and the works of fiction they create for our enjoyment. With a long and storied past, theater and the playwrights who facilitate the plays have been a sounding board for major issues, including personal identity and cultural identity. With the history of the theater in mind, from ancient times to Shakespeare and beyond, it’s important that we take the time to recognize a few of the playwrights who have offered their diverse skills and stories to audiences around the world. Today, playwrights continue to influence popular theater and cinema, filling theater seating as they use their skills to start conversations about important issues within our societies.
Best known for his literary works, including No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, and The Road, McCarthy is also an accomplished playwright and screenwriter. Several of his novels have been made into feature films and received numerous accolades, such as the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Hailed as one of modern literature’s most notable writers, McCarthy is responsible for several screenplays and a couple of plays.
McCarthy’s first play, The Stonemason, was published in 1995. The play is five acts long and follows a single family over the course of a three-year period. The story is told through monologues by character Ben Telfair, with two acts filled by backstory involving Ben’s decision to forgo college and continue in the family’s stonemason business. The play is rarely produced.
In 2006, he published his second play, The Sunset Limited, a play he’d written and adapted for an HBO movie. The TV movie aired in February of 2011 and was executive produced and directed by Tommy Lee Jones. Jones also started in the film alongside Samuel L. Jackson. The play addresses concepts including human suffering, suicide, and the existence of a higher power, all played out by the characters White and Black. The work was not well received by critics; however, McCarthy’s unique writing style and use of language drew praise.
- Interview with Cormac McCarthy: McCarthy grants interviews very infrequently, but that didn’t stop Oprah Winfrey from getting an audience, as shown in this video.
- The Life of Cormac McCarthy: The Wall Street Journal also had the opportunity to interview McCarthy. Read this article to find out more about “Hollywood’s Favorite Cowboy” and his personal life.
- Discovery Cormac McCarthy: Learn a bit more about McCarthy and some of his works via Harper Collins, his publisher.
- The Sunset Limited: Read McCarthy’s play here.
Arthur Miller published his first play, No Villain, in 1936 and continued his works well into his 80s, with his last (Finishing the Picture) being published in 2004. He is well respected for his many works, several of which are taught in schools and English classes across the country, including Death of a Salesman and The Crucible.
Having contributed heavily to the early days of modern play writing, Miller not only wrote plays for the theater but for the radio as well. Throughout his career, Miller received critical acclaim and many prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Kennedy Center Honors. His works continue to influence and inspire modern playwrights.
- Arthur Miller: None Without Sin: Learn about the life and works of this acclaimed playwright here.
- Biographical Insight into Arthur Miller: Working in entertainment for nearly six decades, Arthur Miller had a long and successful career, garnering him recognition throughout the industry.
- Arthur Miller in His Own Words: See what Miller had to say for himself on his work and personal life in these interview excerpts compiled by The Telegraph.
- A Collection of Arthur Miller’s Works: Arthur Miller has many wonderful works. This is a collective list of those works and their types.
- Arthur Miller: The Man: To gain a deeper appreciation of Arthur Miller’s works, learn a bit more about him as a person with this brief bio.
Caryl Lesley Churchill
Caryl Lesley Churchill, a 2010 inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame, is a respected playwright within the English language and theater worlds. Having written her first play, Owners, in 1972, she is known for her poignant themes and fearlessness in addressing delicate subject matters and bringing light to important issues through stage productions. One such play was Churchill’s The Striker (1994). The play involves the concepts of gender, revenge, death, and distorted language used to illustrate the challenges we face as a global population trying to understand and love.
In her later career, Churchill has been commissioned to work within different areas of the theater, including opera. Her ability to convey emotion and the human condition in a striking manner continue to captivate and inspire with each performance.
- Caryl Lesley Churchill: Women’s Rights Activist and Playwright: Churchill has made a lasting mark on the world of theater and women’s rights. Learn more about this amazing woman here.
- The Literature Resource Center on Caryl Churchill: The Literature Resource Center provides an inventory of Churchill’s works in one easy list. There is also a bit of biographical information provided.
- ‘Her Work Haunts Me’: Gain some insight into Caryl Churchill and her works by reading impressions of those who have worked with her.
- Profile: Caryl Churchill: Learn more about this celebrated but elusive playwright and her body of work.
- Is Caryl Churchill Britain’s Greatest Living Playwright? The Independent considers this question here.
Tyler Perry is one of the most versatile and popular playwrights of modern theater and film. Having begun his career in 1998 with his play I Know I’ve Been Changed, Perry has enjoyed critical acclaim for his comedic and emotional portrayals of the family dynamic and African-American culture within modern America.
One of his most acclaimed undertakings is his Madea series. The series consists of several plays and films following the main character, Madea, through comedic stereotypes and true-to-life situations that explore the identities of African-American women and men in an accessible way, allowing the audience to connect with the character and gain perspectives different than their own.
For his work, Perry has been nominated for many and won several coveted awards, including two BET Comedy Awards and the award for Best Supporting Actor presented by the African-American Film Critics Association. Due to his recent and growing popularity, theater seating for any one of Perry’s plays may be hard to come by.
- Madea’s Family History: This is a critical analysis of the plays and films by Tyler Perry. His unique style demands unique insight.
- Bruised and Misunderstood: An excerpt provides some insight into the African-American and feminist acts featured in many of Tyler Perry’s works.
- The Brands of Cinematic Blackness of Will Smith and Tyler Perry: This is a detailed document that dives into the images of blackness that have been introduced into mainstream media by popular African-American figures Will Smith and Tyler Perry.
- Tyler Perry: Get to know a bit more about Tyler Perry on his studio’s website.
- Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail: Normalizing Hegemony and Stereotypes of ‘Black Crime’: An academic paper explores the commercial success of Perry’s 2009 film and its themes.