16 Brilliant Theatre Quotes from Playwrights

To get a glimpse of the essence of any art form, you have to listen to the masters. Here are a few of my favorite theatre quotes from playwrights. Some are funny, and others point to tragedy, just like the plays of the writers stated them. All of these famous and not-so-famous theatre quotes speak to the distinctive qualities of storytelling and the art of making plays.

“If I wanted everything to be exactly as it was in my head, exactly word for word, I should be writing novels. The play doesn’t belong to the playwright.”
– Paula Vogel, 1997, from an interview in Bomb Magazine

“The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.”
– Oscar Wilde

“This is one of the glories of man: that the inventiveness of the human mind and the human spirit, that whenever life doesn’t seem to give an answer we create one. It gives us strength.”
– Lorraine Hansberry, 1961, from an interview with WNYC

“Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theatre will make you good.”
– Terrence Mann


“All my life I have been haunted by the obsession that to desire a thing or to love a thing intensely is to place yourself in a vulnerable position, to be a possibly, if not a probable, loser of what you want most.”
– Tennessee Williams, 1959, first published in the New York Times

“More and more I regard plays as the place you go to hear some truth or ask some question that film and TV can’t or won’t give you.”
– Gina Gionfriddo, in an interview with dramaturg Walter Bilderback

“The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental. It’s so much like life.”
– Arthur Miller

“Somewhere in our DNA we know that stories are out there to help us understand what we’re doing here on this planet.”
– Theresa Rebeck, 2006, from an interview in Bomb Magazine


“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.”
– Sophocles

“The most realistic portrayal of life is gray. Look at Palestine and Israel – you can’t have a civilized discussion with anyone about it on Facebook. It’s black and white. But writing stories about a black and white perspective is boring. It’s the gray that’s interesting.”
– Stephen Adly Guirgis, 2004, from an interview with Theatre Pizzazz

“I feel like the reason I ended up becoming a playwright is because I never choose the right word.”
– Annie Baker, 2017, from Interview Magazine

“Drama lies in extreme exaggeration of the feelings, an exaggeration that dislocates flat everyday reality.”
– Eugene Ionesco


“What happens in a play is determined to a certain extent by what I thought might be interesting to have happen before I invented the characters, before they started taking over what happened, because they are three-dimensional individuals, and I cannot tell them what to do. Once I give them their identity and their nature, they start writing the play.”
– Edward Albee, 2013, from an interview in The Believer

“To be a blocked artist is to have a disease: Almost blind, often numb, you don’t stop wanting to make art.”
– Jon Robin Baitz, 2002, from the author’s note of his play Ten Unknowns

“Don’t be afraid of sincere melodrama.”
– Sarah Ruhl, from the author’s notes on tone for Melancholy Play

“I think I believe in the transcendence of art, in that perishable moment when an audience and a performer and a play work together, when laughter and technique and emotion create a conspiracy of pleasure.”
– Paul Rudnick, from the introduction to his play The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told



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