Book Review – Contemporary American Playwrights (a Methuen Drama Guide)

contemporary American PlaywrightsISBN 978-1-4081-3479-5
Text: Christopher Innes, Martin Middeke, Matthew C. Roundane, Peter Paul Schnierer

Published by Bloomsbury December 2013

479 pages
The in depth introduction is 15 pages long and explains the structure of the book and how the book surveys 25 American playwrights with emphasis on plays of those who appeared in the 1970s or later, with Arthur Miller’s and Edward Albee’s post-1970 work the only exception. With this recent time being a starting point, there is a scholarly reassessment made, of how American dramatists have progressed in significance since and how their work had been received, not just as rhetoric for a Nation, but symbolically speaking. A team of scholars have, as contributors, explored reasons why contemporary plays have become important, artistically, in the US. Social trends have been overviewed and wider contrasts and comparisons have been made. A bibliography of published plays and a select list of critical works are included

This book provides an authoritative interpretation of over 5 (or more) plays by 25 major Contemporary American Playwrights (over 140 plays are detailed). Each chapter looks at the life and social backgrounds of each dramatist and what is regarded to be their important plays

The 25 American Playwrights featured in the book are listed below with the authors’ names in brackets:
Maria Irene Fornes (Scott T Cummings),
Richard Greenberg (Jochen Achilles, Ina Bergmann),
John Guare (Ken Urban)
David Henry Hwang (Russell VandenBroucke),
Adrienne Kennedy (Klaus Benesch),
Tony Kushner (James Fisher),
Neil Labute (Christopher Innes),
David Mamet (Toby Zinman),
Donald Margulies (Kerstin Schmidt),
Terence McNally (Peter Paul Schnierer),
Marsha Norman (Annalisa Brugnoli),
Suzan Lori Parks (Ilka Saal),
Sarah Ruhl (Deborah Geis),
John Patrick Shanley (Annette J Saddik),
Wallace Shawn (Martin Middeke),
Sam Shepherd (Katherine Weiss),
Christopher Shinn (Stephen Bottoms),
Luis Valdez (Jorge Huerta),
Paula Vogel (Joanna Mansbridge),
Naomi Wallace (Pia Wiegmink),
Wendy Wasserstein (Frazer Lively),
August Wilson (Sandra G Shannon),
William S. Yellow Robe, Jr (Birgit Dawes)
and Miller and Albee as already mentioned written by Susan C W Abbotson and Thomas P Adler respectively

Using Neil Labute as an example the format throughout is like this – Labute’s chapter opens with a short biography, talks of his influences, his first play, and his stage work including his work as a director, and how he went on to write film script and to direct film. Tells of his strong international reach, particularly London and how he is viewed on both sides of the Atlantic. Four of his plays are discussed in regard to style, dramaturgical concerns and contextual relevance plus the critical reception is analysed. There are one or two examples from the script and the chapter finishes with a Summary, the primary and secondary sources are listed as are the Notes

…to reiterate the structure of the chapters – they are in four parts. First an introduction which is a biographical sketch of each playwright, followed by a chronological ordered analysis of major work, a Summary of the playwrights contribution to contemporary American theatre and a bibliography of primary texts
Plain text (some italic) with Quotes
List of Contributors
Index (11 pages)


a comprehensive Drama study guide

academic award Bloomsbury


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