And The American Playwright is …

A commenter on the last post asked if Neil Simon is “THE American playwright” – and if his prolific and successful career isn’t enough to earn that title, then whose is?

Simon has certainly been one of the most, if not the most, popular and well-known playwrights in America – between Broadway revivals, summer rep theaters, regional professional and amateur companies, and high schools all around the world, there have been few if any moments in the last fifty years when there’s not a Neil Simon play happening on stage somewhere.

And his plays are a lot of fun – with a few notable exceptions (the Pulitzer and Tony winning drama Lost in Yonkers comes to mind), he writes plays that are simply fun for actors to play with and for audiences to watch. If we’re looking for someone to carry the “America’s playwright” title, that’s not a bad quality to have.

Who else should be considered? I suggested Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee earlier, but since I left a comment there I added to the list in my mind Lillian Hellman and Sam Shepard, who capture two very different senses of what it is to be American.

Add your suggestions – and your reasons – in the comments below.

3 Responses

  1. I guess it depends on if you mean a playwright born in America, a playwright writing with a distinctly American style, or a playwright consistently writing about quintessential American experiences. Taking all three of the above into account, I think would vote for Arthur Miller.

  2. I think all 3 are worth considering. The most important in my mind is your last requirement – writing about the “American experience.”

    Miller definitely digs into the lives of Americans and explores the myth and the reality of being American (Death of a Salesman is probably the most obvious in terms of exploring the consequences of the American Dream, but I’d also throw in The Crucible, All My Sons, A View from the Bridge … )

    Does anyone have examples of non-American playwrights writing quintessentially American plays?

  3. I feel like writing about the “American experience” is certainly an important part of being the considered “The American” playwright. However, can there be one American playwright. I feel like the playwrights listed about do not encompass all of American culture. What about writers such as August Wilson? Though Wilson doesn’t speak about my American Experience it is certainly part of an American Experience.

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