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[personal profile] kaydeefalls
Still playing catch-up, but this one was actually supposed to be posted today, so!

[personal profile] troisroyaumes prompts: plays that everyone should see once in their lifetimes

JESUS CHRIST WHERE DO I START. See, I feel like this is a very personalized question? Like, I honestly don't think there are plays that EVERYONE should see, objectively speaking, because everyone has their own personal interests and tastes that do not align with my own, and I try to recommend theater to people on an individual basis. And also, look, theater isn't like a movie. You can't just look up that Really Important Play on Netflix and give it a watch. Theater can be expensive and hard to get to if you don't already live in an area with a thriving theater community. And also? Some plays that I think People Should See include plays that I haven't had the opportunity to see myself yet, that I've only ever read. So that feel a bit hypocritical of me.

BUT. That said, here is a totally subjective and abbreviated list of Plays To See. I should note that it is heavily US/UK-centric, which is unfortunate, but I just haven't seen or read much non-Western theater yet. And bring me your recs if you have any!

-Hamlet, William Shakespeare. I'm sorry, I really am, and it's not even close to being my favorite Shakespeare play, but it is so heavily influential in all areas of Western culture that I kind of can't handle the fact that there are people out there who have never read or seen it. This is one of those cultural touchstones that you just have to know. There are like twenty million movie versions, just pick the one with an actor you like and watch it, for the love of god, there is no excuse for not knowing this play. Other Shakespeare is also important, but I still think this is the One you can't get away with not seeing. (Runners up: Romeo & Juliet, which I'm not a big fan of, Macbeth, Othello, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.)
-And once you've done that, try to track down a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, for theater's best example of what a transformative work can and should be. This is one I've read about a million times but have never managed to see a live production of, because there's not been a Broadway revival in my lifetime and my university did it the year I was abroad, and I'm not a huge fan of the movie version because it really needs to inhabit the surreal world of a bare stage to be truly effective, not the hyperrealism of the screen. But god, this play. It is so brilliant. SO brilliant. And it was heavily influenced by...
-Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett. If you want to understand the evolution of the modern non-musical theater, you need to see this play. From Beckett came pretty much everything else.
-And for the equivalent of groundbreaking musical theater -- don't laugh: Oklahoma!, Rodgers & Hammerstein. Yes, it's campy and cheesy and overdone by now, but this was the first modern American musical, and everything else followed after. Before Oklahoma!, there were Vaudeville and music halls, but people who wrote musicals basically took a bunch of songs they liked and strung a loose story between them. (Unfortunately, that's become popular again in the past decade or so -- we call them Jukebox Musicals. I am not a fan.) Rodgers and Hammerstein were the first composer & lyricist team to think, hey, maybe the songs these people sing should actually progress the plot and reveal things about the characters that we wouldn't know otherwise. I kind of lack the words to describe how revolutionary that was at the time.
-I can't talk about American theater without mentioning Tennessee Williams, and how you have to see at least one play the guy wrote. Personally, I prefer Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, because Maggie the Cat is fucking amazing -- Williams is one of the few male playwrights I actually think knows how to write sensational female characters -- but A Streetcar Named Desire or The Glass Menagerie will also do.
-Blah blah blah Arthur Miller, blah blah blah Eugene O'Neill, blah blah blah Edward Albee, blah blah blah Our Town. Same as for Williams. Again, we're talking Americana here. If you're not American, I think it's less important you see these, but if you are, hello, wake up to your own cultural history. These are our cultural icons of the mid-20th century, and they're important for a reason.
-August Wilson gets his own special item on this list, though, because he's THAT important. He charts the history of African-American life in the 20th century with his Pittsburgh Cycle -- he wrote a play set in each and every decade of the 20th century, all set in a black neighborhood in Pittsburgh, with several characters appearing in multiple plays at varying ages, and it is all thematically interconnected and GLORIOUS. Fences is probably his best known; I'm a big fan of King Hedley II, though. You have to have to have to see at least one of his plays before you die.
-And hopping back over to Europe, do yourself a favor and go see The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde. I mean, anything the guy wrote was pure gold, but this one's another step above the rest, in my opinion, and the funniest of all the drawing room comedies of that era or any other.
-(Yeah, I tend to organize by Important Playwrights rather than individual plays. Deal with it.)
-Oh, christ, yes, just fucking see a production of Medea or Antigone or Electra already. The ancient Greeks knew what they were doing, alright? Also with the kickass ladies, although more heavily tilted toward the scary end of the spectrum.
-HEY LET'S TALK ABOUT LADIES. Do your sweet self a favor and see something -- anything -- written by Suzan-Lori Parks. My favorite to read is Topdog/Underdog, but I haven't yet been lucky enough to see a stage production of it. African-American female playwrights with strong voices of their own writing badass characters FTW.
-Oh so you prefer your plays dark and disturbing with a twisted sense of humor? How about some Martin McDonagh? I got The Pillowman right here, and it will give you nightmares for fucking weeks.
-Oh, so you prefer your MUSICALS on the darker side, too? Lemme introduce you to a composer/lyricist by the name of Stephen Sondheim, and point you in the direction of Into the Woods (for fairy tales waaaay closer to Grimm than Disney, and a realistic glimpse of what comes after the happily ever afters) or Sweeney Todd (for even more murder and mayhem and shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd on top).
-And then go see The Laramie Project (Moises Kaufman) already, because this is real and people need to know about it, and also because this is part of the power of what theater can do in the real world.
-Honorary Awesome Playwright mentions that I'm not going to go further into because there are only so many plays I can recommend at once: Yasmina Reza (Art, Gods of Carnage), David Henry Huang (M. Butterfly, holy shit why can I not find a fucking production of this to see for myself, I love the script so much), Sam Shepard (True West), Frank McGuinness (Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward the Somme), Moliere (just...everything), Neil Labute (likewise), and, yes, fucking Les Miserables 'cause you oughta know what everyone else is talking about.
-AREN'T YOU PROUD OF ME FOR WAITING THIS LONG BEFORE TELLING YOU TO SEE ARCADIA? BECAUSE YOU REALLY NEED TO SEE ARCADIA, IF ONLY SO THAT I CAN HAVE MORE PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH.

Date: 2013-12-11 03:21 am (UTC)
via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)
From: [personal profile] via_ostiense
Hm hm! I'll have to keep an eye out for if any of these are put on in NY, particularly Stoppard.

Date: 2013-12-11 03:26 am (UTC)
newredshoes: radio tower on top of the world (domo-kun | broadcast)
From: [personal profile] newredshoes
\m/ Moises Kaufman, aw yiss.

Insert two-page (or longer) monologue about the history of I don't even remember what.

Date: 2013-12-11 06:37 am (UTC)
cesare: Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr in X-Men: First Class (xmfc - charles & erik strip club)
From: [personal profile] cesare
Into the Woods!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern! Everyone I knew in college played Questions.

Date: 2013-12-11 06:49 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
The medical waste collection company that operates in my area is called Sweeny Todd's! I laugh every time I see it.

Date: 2013-12-11 04:51 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes
Awesome post is awesome!

I feel pretty proud for having either watched/read most of these plays, and am quite intrigued by the ones I haven't heard of. Plus, I have not seen or read Arcadia. Must fix that as soon as I get a chance.

Date: 2013-12-18 04:21 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes
Ooh, excellent! XD

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