So which plays rise to the top over time?
The Denver Post asked a long list of theater
professionals nationwide to give an opinion. Their
cumulative take: U.S. writers have produced only
two plays in nearly 50 years that belong beside the
very best, Tony Kushner's "Angels in America" and
August Wilson's "Fences.“
Our informal survey asked 177
playwrights, directors, actors, professors, agents, p
roducers, students, bloggers, critics and
theatergoers to rank the 10 most important
American plays ever written.
The top 10 largely reflect a world of booze and
brawls, of the disintegrating American family and
the gross inequity of the American dream.
And the average age of those plays is 52
Young people vs. their elders…
Thompson said he'd love to know what the young
people of the theater world said for this survey.
Surprisingly, they fell almost completely in line with
their elders. No matter how the survey was broken
down, whether by gender or age, the results yielded
the exact same top 10 plays, with only slight
differences in ordering.
The most significant difference: Women, and all
voters under 30, ranked "Angels" No. 1, with
1. “Death of a Salesman”
"Death of a Salesman"
By: Arthur Miller
Survey points: 861
The story: The elusive American dream drives washed-up
Willy Loman into a tree.
Did you know? When the film was released in 1951, the
wary Columbia studio that released it also shot a short
companion film titled "Life of a Salesman," praising sales as a
profession and condemning Willy Loman. It ran with the
Quote: "Attention must be paid."
Most recently: At Thunder River, Carbondale, 2007
2. “Angels in America”
"Angels in America"
By: Tony Kushner
Survey points: 800
The story: A two-part, seven-hour political call to arms
for the age of AIDS in the form of two intersecting
couples, a fallen angel . . . and an antichrist.
Did you know? An off-Broadway revival is set for
Quote: "Greetings, Prophet! The great work begins!!"
Next: Vintage Theatre, Oct. 1- Nov. 7
3. “A Streetcar Named Desire”
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
By: Tennessee Williams
Survey points: 774
The story: An exiled neurotic is on a desperate
prowl for someplace to call her own.
Did you know? The American Film Institute ranks
"I have always depended on the kindness of
strangers" as the 75th best line in film history.
Most recently: Vintage Theatre, 2008
4. “Long Day’s Journey into Night”
"Long Day's Journey Into Night"
By: Eugene O'Neill
Survey points: 650
The story: An autobiographical account of the author's sickly
youth with a drug-addicted mother, a boozy ex-actor for a
father an emotionally unstable, jealous brother. The American
family at its worst.
Quote: "We are such things as rubbish is made of, so let's
drink up and forget it."
Did you know? O'Neill dedicated the play to his wife on
their 12th wedding anniversary.
Next: It's now playing through March 13 at Paragon Theatre
5. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"
By: Edward Albee
Survey points: 608
The story: Professional drunks George and Martha savagely
toy with each other and a visiting young couple, as if just
another Saturday night drinking game.
Did you know? Its 1963 Pulitzer Prize was yanked by
Columbia University because of its profane elements.
Quote: "Dashed hopes, and good intentions. Good, better,
best, bested. How do you like that for a declension, young
Next: April 29-May 16 by Star Bar Players, Colorado Springs
6. “Our Town”
By: Thornton Wilder
Survey points: 591
The story: A 1930s stage manager narrates the tale of an
average town in the early days of the 20th century.
Did you know? Wilder dedicated the play to Alexander
Woollcott, the critic and inspiration for Sheridan
Whiteside, the main character in "The Man Who Came to
Quote: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it . . .
every, every minute?"
Next: Colorado Shakespeare Festival, summer 2010
7. “The Glass Menagerie”
"The Glass Menagerie"
By: Tennessee Williams
Survey points: 336
The story: A family of displaced and self-absorbed misfits
representing the Southern social order, collapses like so much glass
in Depression-era St. Louis.
Did you know? Laura has long been assumed to be based on
Williams' frail, mentally ill sister, Rose, but many scholars now
believe he was writing about himself.
Quote: "How beautiful it is, and how easily it can be broken."
Next: Feb. 25-March 13 at Thunder River, Carbondale
8. “A raisin in the Sun”
"A Raisin in the Sun"
By: Lorraine Hansberry
Survey points: 314
The story: A forthcoming insurance payment could mean
financial salvation or personal ruin for a poor black family.
Did you know? In the play's initial review, The New York
Times called it "A Negro 'Cherry Orchard.' "
Quote: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up,
like a raisin in the sun?"
Next: By Inspire Creative, at Parker Mainstreet Center on
March 12-20, featuring Cris Davenport and Gwen Harris.
9. “The Crucible”
By: Arthur Miller
Survey points: 300
The story: The Salem witch trials as an allegory for the
McCarthy anti-communism blacklisting campaign.
Did you know? The real John Proctor was 60 at the time of
his trial; his accuser, Abigail, just 11. But they never met
before Proctor's hearing, the affair between them being
Quote: "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have
another in my life!"
Most recently: Arvada Center, 2009
By: August Wilson
Survey points: 230
The story: Set in 1957, a former Negro League baseball star
has been reduced to a garbage man. As his world inevitably
crumbles, his bitterness touches everyone he loves.
Did you know? James Earl Jones originated the stage role
of Troy Maxson.
Quote: "Life don't owe you nothing. You owe it to yourself."
Most recently: Denver Center Theatre Company, 1990