Who Is the Greatest Living Playwright?

We ask theater writers to name their pick

Jordan Harrison
Stephen Sondheim. For his formal innovation, rigor, ranginess, and overall artistic bravery.

Austin Pendleton
I guess I'd say Tony Kushner. Because his reach is vast, his passionate curiosity about the world we live in now (and how earlier times have affected the world we live in now) is positively contagious in his plays, his language does about anything I can imagine theatrical language doing, his vision is capable of the tragic, and he is a whole lot of fun.

Steve Cosson
I think “greatest” is only appropriate for such things that have decisive winners: greatest heavyweight champion, etc. The living writer I appreciate the most is Caryl Churchill for her mastery of language, her ever-curious imagination, and her passion for real-world politics.

David Greenspan
Because of my admiration for the accomplishments of my playwriting colleagues and the work I have thus far received from them, I would have to say that the playwright who affords me my next acting opportunity is without question the world's greatest living playwright. It must be understood, however, that that designation will be transferred successively to the playwrights who offer me subsequent engagements.

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16 comments
Anthony Palange Jr.
Anthony Palange Jr.

Anthony Palange Jr. has written over twenty plays although he is not well known outside of Denver, Colorado - his upcoming autobiography, BORN TO BE A SISSY and re-publication of his last two published books, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON and JUPITER THE THUNDERER should awaken interest in his plays. His publisher is considering publishing four of his most recent works.

Joni
Joni

I agree. Wallace Shawn. Also Brilliant.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Phyllis Nagy. Brilliant.

2036
2036

The answer is Lisa D’Amour.

2035
2035

The answer is Sibyl Kempson.

The Editor
The Editor

Julia Cho's correct response has now been added.

Dan Buck
Dan Buck

Julia Cho and Rinne Goff said exactly the same words about Kushner. Amazing! :)

Xavier S
Xavier S

What an interesting question. It's even more interesting that most playwrights (the ones of color too) deem white playwrights as the go-to for greatness. It's even more interesting that not ONE black playwright was asked this question. I guess one should be grateful that someone AT LEAST mentioned Soyinke, Fornes and Parks. American theater and its practitioners continue to underwhelm with their blatant (or subconscious) dismissal of full and healthy inclusiveness. OCCUPY AMERICAN THEATER. Its good-intentioned infrastructure needs a good-intentioned dismantling.

Lawrence Harbison
Lawrence Harbison

Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill are overrated. The best Brits are David Hare and Alan Ayckbourn. The Best Americans: Terrence McNally, Sam Shepard and A.R. Gurney.

Juilus Galacki
Juilus Galacki

Has no one remembered that Sam Shepard is still alive and still writing interesting work??? (Which doesn't mean I don't Caryl Churchill, Mac Wellman, Len Jenkin, John Guare et al.)

kamikazecook
kamikazecook

So glad to see Mac Wellman get so many votes! I'd have to give a tie to Churchill and Stoppard for their range and their ability to make their artists and audiences smarter every time (while enjoying the learning). The rest of my top ten would include Wellman, Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks (for The America Play alone, even if she had written nothing else), Kushner (again, for Angels alone) and my current favorites, whose writings will, once they are older, be among the greatest—Adam Bock and Sarah Ruhl.

Lisa Goldberg
Lisa Goldberg

Two of your playwrights have the exact same answer

 
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