Modern Plays by Modern Women – Filling Your Bookshelf

Well-rounded artists are well-read people. In the age of the internet, we are never at a loss for new content. This can make the question, “what to read next?” difficult to answer. That said, a great way to start the search for new material is to follow upcoming playwrights. Find a handful of authors that write in a connective way and read their whole collection. You can look for names to get started in a few places: check out what plays are currently performing on Broadway. NYC has more to offer than SpongeBob and Hamilton. In the midst of the commercial musicals, straight plays also happen in New York – look up those authors and see what else they’ve published. Another good way to connect with an unfamiliar writer is to check out the Pulitzer Prize for Drama nominees and finalists. If these authors caught the attention of the Pulitzer Awards, there’s a good chance the rest of their work is high quality, too.

Below, you’ll find a starting place for your new library. We’ve compiled a list of prominent female authors on the rise in the last ten years. These women have had their work produced on important stages across the country (and world) and they collected impressive accolades along the way.

Sarah DeLappe

DeLappe became a popular name swiftly as the success of her play, The Wolves, skyrocketed. Told through the voices of an adolescent soccer team, The Wolves covers subject matter ranging from tampons to global crises. The play was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2017. Though the group of teen athletes gave Sarah DeLappe a name in the literary scene, she is a newer face with a smaller repertoire behind her. We can only look forward to what she produces next.

Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage’s writing gives insight to marginalized voices not commonly seen onstage. Her play Sweat won the Pulitzer in 2017 for Drama and recently graced Goodman Theater’s stage in 2019. The story takes place over the course of eight years in Pennsylvania, examining relationships, financial pressure, and the political climate’s effects on the working class. If you fall in love with Nottage’s authorship, her collection also includes Intimate Apparel, Ruined, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, and others.

Claire Barron

Another Pulitzer Prize finalist, Claire Barron was recognized just this year for Dance Nation. Soon to take the stage at Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theatre, Dance Nation follows another group of young women in their pursuit of a national dance championship. The New York Times credits Barron’s writing with inducing memories of the “passionate ambivalence of early adolescence with such being-there sharpness and poignancy that you’re not sure whether to cringe, cry or roar with happiness.” (Brantley, NYT).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other published female authors to note: Anna Ziegler (Photograph 51 – Nicole Kidman originated the role of Rosalind; The Last Match – soon to hit Chicago’s Writers Theatre; A Delicate Ship; and others), Heidi Schrek (What the Constitution Means to Me – Pulitzer finalist 2019; Grand Concourse), Annie Baker (The Flick – Pulitzer winner 2014), and Sarah Ruhl (The Clean House; In the Next Room or the vibrator play – Pulitzer finalist 2010).

As you expand your library, take time to specifically include authors with widely variant backgrounds. Include women and people of color in your readings. You’ll stay current with the newest works in the theatre community and strengthen your understanding of the modern stage.