7 Talented Contemporary Playwrights

Live theatre has been around since the days of Ancient Greece, and has changed a lot through the centuries. But one thing that has remained consistent is the need for talented writers to create scripts that capture the issues of the times, allow audiences to see things from a new perspective, and entertain people young and old. The seven playwrights listed here have created works that touch on a variety of important topics, from gender to race to sexuality. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Writers Who Have Crafted Insightful Plays

Name Notable Works
Jacqueline E. Lawton Among These Wild Things Behold, A Negress
Jen Silverman Collective Rage The Moors
Gwydion Suilebhan Abstract Nude The Butcher
D.W. Gregory Radium Girls Salvation Road
Matthew Paul Olmos I Put The Fear Of México In 'Em Three Girls Never Learnt The Way Home
Madhuri Shekar A Nice Indian Boy A Bucket of Blessings
Anne Garcia-Romero Lorca in New York Earthquake Chica

Facts about Live Theater in the U.S.

The Process Of Playwriting

8 Great Film Adaptations of Plays & Musicals

  1. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  2. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
  3. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
  4. The Sound of Music (1965)
  5. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  6. Cabaret (1972)
  7. Doubt (2008)
  8. Sweeney Todd (2007)

Top 10 States Ranked by Number of Nonprofit Theaters Per Capita

As of 2005, according to the National Endowment for the Arts

State Number of theaters per 100,000 people Population (in millions)
1. Vermont 2.2 0.6
2. Alaska 1.7 0.7
3. New York 1.3 19.3
4. Maine 1.2 1.3
5. Montana 1.2 0.9
6. Rhode Island 1.1 1.1
7. Oregon 1.1 3.6
8. Connecticut 1.0 3.5
9. New Hampshire 1.0 1.3
10. Minnesota 1.0 5.1

What is Theatre?

In Depth

A lot goes into the production of a play, from set design to lighting to the actors' performances. None of these elements would matter, however, without one important thing backing them up: a script. It's up to the writers to craft compelling dialogue, impactful scenes, and stories that resonate with a diversity of audiences. In no particular order, here are seven contemporary playwrights creating exciting new works for the stage.

For #1 we have Jacqueline E. Lawton. An advocate for access, equity, and inclusion in the American Theatre, Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. She is drawn to politics, social justice, and love stories, and frequently writes about subjects including history, memory, racism, and gender, especially as they relate to her identity as an African-American woman. Among her distinctions are numerous awards and fellowships, as well as various teaching appointments.

Lawton's plays include "Among These Wild Things," which explores the impact of American imperialism on postcolonial Nigeria. Equally politically-charged are "Behold, A Negress," an examination of intersectional feminism during the French Revolution, and "Blackbirds," a Me Too-era tale of women fighting back against abuse. Other plays provocatively reimagine classic texts, such as "Blood-bound and Tongue-tied," which adapts "Oedipus Rex" in an African-American context, and "The Devil's Sweet Water," a post-9/11 take on the story of Dr. Faustus.

Arriving at #2 is Jen Silverman, a New York-based writer who was raised across the US, Europe, and Asia. Her works are often subversive and darkly comic, taking on themes of feminism, queerness, and desire. In "Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties," five different women named Betty collide at the intersection of sex, anger, and the theatre. "The Moors" is a wry comedy about love, visibility, and desperation, while "The Roommate" centers on the tangled lives of two 50-something women.

Silverman has had her plays published or produced globally in countries including the UK, Germany, and Australia. She is a member of New Dramatists, an affiliated artist with the Playwrights' Center, and has developed work with the New York Theatre Workshop and the Royal Court in London, among other places. In addition to her theatrical work, Silverman is the author of the short story collection "The Island Dwellers," and also writes for film and television.

For #3 we come to Gwydion Suilebhan. This writer and arts advocate is a founding member of The Welders, an award-winning Washington, DC-based playwrights collective. Earlier in his career, Suilebhan mostly wrote poetry and nonfiction, and also worked in publishing, teaching, and journalism. Today, he is the author of several plays that have been commissioned, developed, and produced by institutions including Center Stage, the Gulfshore Playhouse, and Theater J, among others.

Today, he is the author of several plays that have been commissioned, developed, and produced by institutions including Center Stage, the Gulfshore Playhouse, and Theater J, among others.

Theatrical works by Suilebhan include "Abstract Nude," which follows the path of a mysterious, erotic painting that upends the lives of everyone who encounters it. "The Butcher," meanwhile, is based on a bizarre true story of a customer who sliced off his own hand in a Virginia meat market. There's also the Helen Hayes Award-nominated "Transmission," an immersive, participatory experience that involves the audience sitting in 1930s armchairs around period radios.

Landing at #4 is D.W. Gregory. Located in Washington, DC, Gregory creates plays that analyze and critique American politics and culture with a comedic twist. Her most produced work is "Radium Girls," which is based on the infamous case of industrial poisoning in 1926 New Jersey. Other plays include "Salvation Road," an interrogation of faith and fanaticism, and "Dirty Pictures," a bawdy comedy about four lives that are transformed by the discovery of 21 nude photographs.

Gregory is the author of over a dozen plays for young actors, and has worked as an artist in residence at theatre programs and public and private schools across the country. Some of her youth theatre works are "Miracle in Mudville," about time-traveling little leaguers, and "Penny Candy," a romantic teenage romp set in 1950s Appalachia. Gregory's work has received the support of such esteemed organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and The New Harmony Project.

Gregory is the author of over a dozen plays for young actors, and has worked as an artist in residence at theatre programs and public and private schools across the country.

Next, for #5 we get Matthew Paul Olmos, a bicoastal playwright living in New York City and his hometown of Los Angeles. Among his many honors, he was awarded the Sundance Institute Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship for his play "i put the fear of mexico in 'em," about an American couple on holiday in Tijuana. Along similar racial lines is his popular "so go the ghosts of mexico" series, a three-part cycle that illuminates the drug wars going on across the US border.

Other productions by Olmos include "three girls never learnt the way home," which takes on America's unbalanced education system, and "the living life of the daughter mira," about the events that transpire following a teen mom's premature delivery. Olmos also writes for television and film, and was a Sundance Institute Screenwriters' Lab finalist for his feature script "Francesco's." Additionally, he regularly contributes essays to The Brooklyn Rail.

Showing up at #6 is Madhuri Shekar, who was born in California and raised in India. Included among her works is the award-winning one-act play "A Bucket of Blessings," an adaptation of the bestselling children's book designed for very young kids. Productions for teens and adults include "In Love and Warcraft," which focuses on a video game-loving college senior, and "Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St. Catherine's," about a Catholic drama club struggling to stage the Sophocles play.

Additional works by Shekar are informed by her heritage. In "A Nice Indian Boy," the main character confounds his parents when he reveals that he'd like to wed another boy in a traditional Indian marriage. "House of Joy," meanwhile, is a 17th-century romance adventure that tells the story of an elite female bodyguard in the Emperor's Imperial Harem. Shekar has also branched out into the world of audio theater, creating "Evil Eye" as a commission for Amazon's Audible.

Finally, for #7 we have Anne Garcia-Romero. A founding member of the Latinx Theatre Commons, this playwright and scholar has degrees from the Yale School of Drama and the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of such plays as "Lorca in New York," which explores the legacy of the acclaimed Spanish poet and dramatist, and "Earthquake Chica," a Los Angeles-set comedy about a frustrated secretary and her romance with a shy accountant.

Garcia-Romero's plays frequently examine themes of race, gender, and class. These issues come to the fore in "Staging the Daffy Dame," about a Latinx theatre professor putting on a politically-fraught production of a classic Spanish comedy. Other works include "Paloma," which centers on a Muslim-Christian interfaith relationship, and "Provenance," about two sisters negotiating over a valuable painting made by their late great-grandfather. Besides playwriting, Garcia-Romero teaches, and does translations for Spanish-language productions.