BWW Blog: Adam Brandner - Six Plays that Every Theatre Major Needs to Read
There are hundreds of plays that every theatre major should read. Plays from various genres that will shape who you are as an actor, designer, writer, director, etc...
I will limit my list down to the top six plays that shaped me as an artist the most.
1. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
This Greek tragedy has it all. It has got fortune telling, great kings, murder, and even a little incest. You know, the usual. In the beginning of the play, Oedipus meets a man in the street that almost runs him over with a chariot. They fight, and Oedipus eventually kills the man. Further down the road, Oedipus meets a Sphinx that has been plaguing the city of Thebes and challenging any newcomers with riddles and puzzles. Oedipus, having solved his riddle, becomes King of Thebes and marries an older girl named Jocasta. Later on, Oedipus finds out from a local prophet that he is destined to murder his father and marry his mother. If that wasn't creepy enough, we come to find out that this was not the first time he had heard that exact prophecy. By the end of the play we find out if Oedipus in fact lives as the prophecy foretold. Read this Greek drama to find out what happens.
2. Hedda Gabbler by Henrik Ibsen
I don't want to say too much about this play because it is just so much fun to read. Hedda Gabbler is a powerful female protagonist that any actress would be lucky to play. Hedda marries a man that she doesn't really love because she thinks her years of fun are behind her. As the plot thickens, Hedda's husband, George Tesman, finds himself up against his academic rival Eilert Lovborg. Lovborg is a recovering alcoholic writer determined to put his skills to use. He has written his masterpiece which puts Tesman on edge because he now has serious competition for the university professorship. We come to find out, however, that Lovborg isn't interested in the professorship but only his love Mrs. Elvsted. Lovborg considers her his greatest masterpiece. Hedda is jealous over Elvsted's influence on Lovborg and decides that she will come between them. In the following scenes, the plot moves quickly and doesn't disappoint. Read this play!
3. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
I love everything about this play. As a matter of fact, I've never come across a work by Tennessee Williams that I haven't loved. 'Streetcar' tells the tale of Blanche DuBois, a fading beauty suffering from alcoholism and delusional tendencies. Blanche moves to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella Kowalski and Stella's husband Stanley. While there, she is forced to confront her wild delusions and is unable to hide behind her fantasies anymore as Stanley aggressively forces her hand. When seeing the truth behind it all, Blanche takes a turn. Read this play to find out how she fares in the heat of New Orleans.
4. M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang
This play was inspired by Giacomo Puccini's Madame Butterfly. In act one, we meet Rene Gallimard who is apart of the French Embassy in China. Gallimard falls in love with a beautiful opera diva named Song Liling. Act one weaves in and out of different decades and introduces us to their relationship. Act two starts with Song's move to France with Gallimard. They are together for 20 years before it is found out that Song is not who she says she is. I don't want to give away too much but just rest assured this play will stick with you after you finish reading it.
5. The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
This disturbing play is about a writer named Katurian who is famous for his short stories that chronicle violent acts against children. The play opens with Katurian, in a totalitarian dictatorship, being questioned by two police officers, Ariel and Tupolski. Apparently, several murders have taken place that mirror the violent acts in his stories. Later, we meet Katurian's brother Michael who plays a critical role in this story. This play is filled with vivid imagery and quick paced, completely entertaining scenes. It will keep you guessing all the way until the last page. I haven't had the opportunity to see this play staged, but the read was entertaining enough for me to put it on this list.
6. Marisol by Jose Rivera