The Playgoer: Biggest Plays of the Decade, ctd.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Biggest Plays of the Decade, ctd.

Isaac at Parabasis has done a thorough job following up on the Terry Teachout list of Top 10 Produced Plays of the Decade--including mixing up the criteria more to create a perhaps more accurate picture of not just which plays, but playwrights are being produced.

The question arose when Teachout noticed only one "classic" play made the top 10, "Glass Menagerie." (And even that was tied for #10 with Laramie Project, so arguable it's #11.) So he was concerned that American theatre companies were abandoning our theatrical heritage. But instinctively we know that ain't so, right?

Truth is, there's more likelihood a singe title will get multiple productions in a season when it's new. (And it had a big Broadway run and/or film version, and/or the rights have just been released.) On the other hand, there'd be no reason for, say, 10 theatres to all do Three Sisters the same season--while there might indeed be 10 different productions of different Chekhov titles, in a kind of rotating "classic" slot.

So with that in mind, Isaac combed through the data and came up with this list--which he cautions is still in progress--showing number of productions nationwide.

Counting down:

  • (10) Moliere: 68
  • (9) Ibsen: 69
  • (8) Noel Coward: 74
  • (7/6) Sarah Ruhl: 80
  • (7/6) John Patrick Shanley: 80
  • (5) Shaw: 82
  • (4) Arthur Miller: 112
  • (3) Tennesse Williams: 125
  • (2) August Wilson: 146
  • (1) Shakespeare: 1,163
Isaac counts all the way to 34 (Yay, Aristophanes!) so check the full list out, too.

Many possible (perhaps pat) conclusions to draw, but just noting the obvious:

-Sarah Ruhl sure got exposure fast. That ranking is helped by having not just one clear hit (Eurydice) but getting three more well received plays out there in rapid succession (Clean House, Dead Man's Cell Phone, and Passion Play)

-Shanley--how many of those are "Doubt" and how many the two-hander "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea"?

-August Wilson, the most produced American (not just African American) playwright of the decade. Impressive. Then again, he does have ten plays to choose from, year after year, and many of them have the added attraction of being new. (Thereby filling both the infamous "black slot" and the "new play" slot.)

Anyway, I hand the rest of the analysis over to Isaac who continues to do so in many more posts. (And then some.)

1 comment:

isaac butler said...

Just to clarify: these are not ACTUALlY the most produced playwrights. I ran Terry's list of playwrights (both new and lamentedly underperformed classic playwrights) plus August Wilson and Sarah Ruhl and William Shakespeare just to see how it all shook out.

We'll be compiling some much more comprehensive data over the next month or so and then we'll actually have some idea of who the most produced playwrights are. Other than shakespeare, of course.