Ten plays every Actor needs to read
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Reading plays might sound boring to some at first, but there is nothing quite like diving into your very own interpretation and staging of a great play all in your imagination, so here my 10 favourites.
A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams
The Pulitzer Prize winning play by American playwright Tennessee Williams is one of the most famous to actors around the world. It was published in 1947, and the start Marlon Brando’s career. The play continues to have great presence in the theatre scene even today, and actors who can spend time with the original characters on paper will never regret doing so.
My favourite quote: “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains.”
The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
Written by the comedy-genius Oscar Wilde, 'The Importance of Being Earnest- A Trivial Comedy for Serious People' was first directed in 1895, London. The farcical comedy focuses on the Victorian ways in London those days. To this date, Wilde’s sense of humour feels relatable and the craftsmanship of the material is something every actor must learn about.
My favourite quote: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
by Edward Albee
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - written in 1962 by famous American playwright Edward Albee - examines the breakdown of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. George and Martha's eviscerating one-liners are simply hilarious and a prime example of horrifying codependency.
My favourite quote: “Martha: Oh, I like your anger. I think that's what I like about you most. Your anger.”
Agamemnon, written by Aeschylus – one of the three great Greek playwrights, is treated as the masterpiece of Aeschylus. In the play, the action takes place before the palace of Agamemnon in Argos at the time of his victorious return from the Trojan War. Greek theatre is taught in most drama schools for a reason, so why don't get ahead. ;)
My favourite quote: “Wisdom comes through suffering. Trouble, with its memories of pain, Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep, So men against their will Learn to practice moderation. Favours come to us from gods.”
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
by Bertolt Brecht
Another very unique and influential play; The Caucasian Chalk Circle is an amazing epic theatre play by the German modernist playwright (and acting practitioner!!!), Bertolt Brecht. It’s a wonderful example of Brecht’s epic theatre work, and the play itself is a parable about a simple peasant girl who rescues a baby and becomes a better mother than its wealthy natural parents. Highly recommended for all actors.
My favourite quote: “When the sharks the sharks devour Little fishes have their hour.”
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two
by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
The official playscript of the original West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
"It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places."
The playscript for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was originally released as a 'special rehearsal edition' alongside the opening of Jack Thorne's play in London's West End in summer 2016. Based on an original story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, the play opened to rapturous reviews from theatregoers and critics alike, while the official playscript became an immediate global bestseller.
A must-read for all Potter-heads.
My favourite quote: “Those we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch.”
The Seagull (Oberon Modern Plays)
by Anton Chekov/Anya Reiss
"A successful actress visits her brother's isolated estate far from the city, throwing the frustrated residents unfulfilled ambitions into sharp relief. As her son attempts to impress with a self-penned play, putting much more than his pride at stake, others dream of fame, love and the ability to change their past."
Chekhov's darkly comic masterpiece is reignited for the 21st century by one of the most exciting new voices in British Theatre, Anya Reiss, Winner of the Most Promising Playwright at both the Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards.
My favourite quote: "We need the theatre, couldn't, couldn't do without it. Could we?"
The Visit / The Old Lady Comes to Call
by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
"In the town of Slurry, New York, post-war recession has bitten.
Claire Zachanassian, improbably beautiful and impenetrably terrifying, returns to her hometown as the world's richest woman. The locals hope her arrival signals a change in their fortunes, but they soon realise that prosperity will only come at a terrible price
Friedrich Dürrenmatt's visionary revenge play, one of the great achievements of modern German-language theatre, has been transported to mid-twentieth-century America by the acclaimed playwright Tony Kushner."
This revelatory new adaptation of The Visit opened in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, in February 2020, directed by Jeremy Herrin, and starring Lesley Manville and Hugo Weaving.
My favourite quote: "CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I will tell you the condition. I will give you a billion, and with that billion I will buy myself justice. MAYOR: What exactly do you mean by that, Madam? CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I mean what I said. MAYOR: But justice can’t be bought! CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: Everything can be bought."
by George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion both delighted and scandalised its first audiences in 1914. I first came across this play in high school for a research project and it has never lost its charm for me. :) . A wonderfully witty reworking of the classical tale of the sculptor Pygmalion, who falls in love with his perfect female statue. However, it is also a barbed attack on the British class system and a statement of Shaw’s feminist views, and also had a massive influence on phonetics and phonetic spelling.
Fun fact: This play served as the inspiration for the famous Musical 'My Fair Lady'.
My favourite quote: “Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby”
by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare, possibly the greatest playwright of all times, captured unique characters and how they behave in various scenarios. His plays are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them, possibly more so. He influenced the world of theatre and movies like no other playwright. And his works are useful in helping you understand your colleagues and the people who rule us. With all the controversial rulers in the world at the moment, that's definitely something to think about. For Actors, I'd usually recommend the annotated Arden versions, but if you are a beginner, you might want to get an illustrated, or simpler version alongside it, in the beginning, to stay motivated.
My favourite quote: "Is there no play, To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?"
Enjoy your reading!
All the best,
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