7 Women Playwrights to Read, Watch, & Know

The love of good storytelling isn’t bound by age, gender, or membership in certain identity groups. It’s human nature. I find a great deal of pleasure in seeing stories on stage that not only take me away from my everyday life, but challenge me to discover something distant, or unheard of. While I certainly appreciate the fun of escaping into a fantastical world for reasons of pure entertainment, I also feel mentally nourished when I encounter a set of characters that surrounds me with an experience I would never have known otherwise. This group of women playwrights has led me into these foreign lands with their insightful dialogue, complicated characters, and distinctive choices in style.

Martyna Majok

Born in Bytom, Poland, Martyna Majok’s plays have been produced at Steppenwolf, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Kennedy Center, and many other top-shelf theatre companies. Notable works include Ironbound, Cost of Living, and queens. Awards include The Dramatists Guild Lanford Wilson Award and the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical at The Helen Hayes Awards. Kickass quote: “One thing I want to do is to show that there’s a wider range of the definition of what diversity is. I just wish that when I tick off the box that says “white,” I could explain what my situation was in the world.”

Bess Wohl

An associate artist with The Civilians, Bess Wohl is an accomplished TV & film actress, and a graduate of Harvard University. Notable works include Small Mouth Sounds, Barcelona, and American Hero. Awards include the Rona Jaffe Writing Prize and Tennessee Williams Scholarship. Bomb quote: “Having been an actor informs my writing enormously because it’s just the same challenge of entering the experience of another person.”

Hansol Jung

In addition to being a playwright, Hansol Jung has translated more than 30 English musicals into Korean. Notable works include Among the Dead, Cardboard Piano, and No More Sad Things. Awards include the Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award and Ruby Prize finalist. Rad quote: “Theater stories tend to succeed when, in spite of all the intense (and entertaining) conflict, someone learns something about being human.”

Jen Silverman

The daughter of a physicist and chemist, Jen Silverman is known for her structurally unruly feminist comedies. Notable works include The Roommate, The Moors, and Phoebe in Winter. Awards include New York Foundation for the Arts grant and the Yale Drama Series Award. Savage quote: “At the end of the day I would rather have a body of work I stand behind than a series of plays that feel like compromises. Also, my personal experience is admittedly limited, but it leads me to think that theaters and audiences are maybe way more daring than we’ve been told to believe.”

Kirsten Greenidge

Focusing on themes of race and class in America, Kirsten Greenidge is known for giving turning up the volume of voices that typically go unheard. Notable works include Milk Like Sugar, Bossa Nova, and The Luck of the Irish. Awards included the Obie Award and the Lorraine Hansberry Award. Slamming quote: “I think much more can be done to support playwrights of color and women playwrights, in Boston and in the rest of the country. And I feel this support needs to come in the form of support for production. You don’t learn your craft well by doing one night readings. You learn it by going through the process of mounting the thing. And usually that involves a lot of failures, and that is expensive and not something you put on grant applications if you want to get one awarded to you.”

Amy Herzog

Known for in-depth character portraits and a high level of storytelling skill, Amy Herzog has said many times that her writing pulls heavily from her own family history. Notable works include 4000 Miles, After the Revolution, and Belleville. Awards include the Whiting Writers Award and the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award. Groovy quote: In an interview with Adam Szymkowicz, responding to the question “If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?,” Herzog responded, “I would just make it way way cheaper, that’s all.”

Tori Keenan-Zelt

According to her bio, Tori Keenan-Zelt “writes curiosity-chasing plays that sniff out in-between spaces in big theatre to change the world. Many of them decide to be comedies.” Notable works include [nbd], Seph, and Air Space. She’s been nominated for an Emmy award and the Playwrights of New York award. Her theatrical heroes are: “Shakespeare at first and forever. But then – shit – OK: Caryl Churchill, Sarah Ruhl, Rajiv Joseph, Paula Vogel, Tina Howe, Wendy Hammond, Nate Eppler, all actors, all musicians, all puppeteers, don’t even get me started on designers.”

 

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