As the end of the year draws nearer and people are scrambling to finish their 2017 Goodreads challenges, I thought I’d offer my biggest tip for boosting my reading count when I’m behind: reading plays. I love theatre, and while the experience of seeing shows live can be incomparable, not everyone has the resources and opportunities to do it regularly. I find that reading play scripts is actually a pretty underrated way to engage with the material – it can be just as stimulating to watch these scenes unfold in your head just like you’re reading a novel. And, a huge bonus – they’re short! I usually read play scripts in one sitting. So if you’re behind in your reading challenge and you need some ideas, look no further!
If you’re interesting in the classics and Greek tragedies, I’d recommend: Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, which is one of my all-time favorites – even if you think you know this story, the tension and heightened tragedy in Sophocles’ play will catch you off guard – or Antigone by Sophocles, The Bacchae by Euripides, Medea by Euripides, or The Oresteia by Aeschylus. Full list of Greek theatre that I’ve read can be found here. I’m particularly fond of the translations by Anne Carson (especially if you’re looking for something a bit more modern and experimental) and Robert Fagles, but there are plenty of phenomenal translators out there.
If you’re interested in early modern to modern classics, I’d recommend: King Lear, Macbeth, and/or Hamlet by Shakespeare – I’m not a huge Shakespeare aficionado, but these are some of my favorites that I’ve read. Fast forward a couple of centuries – A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen is a fascinating proto-feminist reflection on a woman’s role in society and in her own home. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is an absolute riot about mistaken identities in British high society. Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose is a fascinating meditation on the U.S. judicial system. Vieux Carré and The Eccentricities of a Nightingale are brilliant plays by Tennessee Williams that bring the Deep South to life. A View from the Bridge and The Crucible by Arthur Miller deal with themes of identity and power – one takes place in 20th century Brooklyn and the other around the Salem Witch Trials. Translations by Brian Friel is an extremely underrated Irish play about language, classics, and English colonization.
If you’re interested in contemporary plays, I’d recommend: Anything by Martin McDonagh (playwright/director responsible for the films In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) if you like really twisted black humor, namely, The Pillowman, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and The Cripple of Inishmaan. For a reflection on gender and sexuality, try: Angels in America by Tony Kushner, Venus in Fur by David Ives, or Body Awareness by Annie Baker. For a thrilling one-man show about the Trojan war, try An Iliad by Lisa Peterson & Denis O’Hare. For a riveting romance-drama with a significant age gap between the protagonists, try Skylight by David Hare.
Or, if you don’t trust my opinions, try some of these that I haven’t read yet but which have come highly recommended to me: Peter and Alice or Red by John Logan, Posh by Laura Wade (which was the basis of the film adaptation The Riot Club), Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht, Faith Healer by Brian Friel, Faust: First Part by Goethe, In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who cowrote the screenplay for Moonlight), The Last Wife by Kate Hennig, Anatomy of a Suicide by Alice Birch, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, Sweat by Lynn Nottage, The Flick by Annie Baker, Indecent by Paula Vogel, Equus by Peter Scaffer, Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.
Good luck with your reading challenges, friends! Also – what’s everyone’s favorite play? Comment and let me know!