If you’re hoping to become a successful theatre actor, it’s a good idea to expand your knowledge of playwrights and their celebrated plays.
Being able to see these plays performed will provide you with invaluable insight, but reading them will be just as helpful. While by no means definitive, this list of the 8 plays every actor should read is an excellent place to start.
1. Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun
A Raisin in the Sun is an excellent study of what it really means to love another and focuses on family, race, and what’s worth fighting for in the end. With stage directions that read almost like a novel of its own, A Raisin in the Sun is perfect study material for any actor.
2. Julia Cho: BFE
BFE is centred on Panny, a young girl stuck in bland suburbia with an agoraphobic mother who is addicted to plastic surgery.
It may have an unusual premise, but all the themes in BFE are highly relatable and remind the reader about the power of images and words.
3. Tony Kushner: Angels in America
Set in the 1980s during the first outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, Angels in America runs for 7 hours when performed live and has won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Awards.
Powerful and raw, the bonds of community and sexuality are expertly portrayed.
4. Yasmina Reza: God of Carnage
God of Carnage won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2009 thanks to its claustrophobic (so much so that you may have to take an Australian sports betting break) and explosive depiction of two couples who meet to discuss a fight between their two young sons.
Through intelligent dialogue, God of Carnage exposes the fact that we aren’t as evolved as we would like to believe.
5. John Logan: Red
Red is set in the 1950s and tells the story of artist Mark Rothko and the relationship with his protégé which illustrates how an artist sees their work and what it actually means to create.
The insight into the mind of a truly creative person will provide actors with a plethora of inspiration.
6. Edward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Best described as a blow-by-blow account of the unravelling of a seemingly perfect marriage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will lead you to laugh in horror as you discover that not everything is as it seems.
7. Nina Raine: Tribes
Tribes tells the story of Billy, a British man born deaf to a family who can all hear.
Instead of being taught sign language, Billy has to learn to read lips and speak to his hearing family, until his life is changed by a girl who teaches him to sign.
8. Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit
No Exit tells the story of 3 deceased people spending the rest of the afterlife locked in a room together.
While these 3 couldn’t possibly more ill-suited which leads to plenty of confrontation, Sartre’s career as an existential philosopher lends the play its power as it focuses on themes of freedom and choice.