Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The five playwrights in The Library of America

Mike Boehm, at the Los Angeles Times’s Culture Monster blog, notes the forthcoming Library of America boxed set of The Collected Plays of Tennessee Williams and performs a quick calculus on the representation of playwrights in the series:
Out of more than 80 authors in the Library of America series (not counting anthologies), the only other playwrights are Eugene O’Neill, with three volumes totaling 3,203 pages, the Broadway plays of George S. Kaufman and his various collaborators (911 pages), Arthur Miller through 1961 (774 pages) and Thornton Wilder through 1943 (888 pages).
We are able to report that we're currently at work on the second volume of Arthur Miller’s plays, but Boehm asks:
Are there other American playwrights who ought to be honored with a volume in this series?
We do hope (and plan) to include more playwrights, but which dramatists do you think would make great additions to the series?

15 comments:

  1. My first choice would be August Wilson.

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  2. I loved the Kaufman volume and hope to see more like it. I'm sure that Sam Shepard and Woody Allen will get the LOA treatment, and I'd also love to see an anthology of screenplays.

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  3. The late, great Pulitzer and Tony award winner, Jason Miller of "That Championship Season" fame, would be a good selection. Most of his plays have been out of print for a long time, as I discovered last week when I attempted without success to find a used Samuel French version of "Nobody Hears a Broken Drum" through the online used books consortium, Alibris.

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  4. Edward Albee and David Mamet

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  5. All of these are great ideas. (On Twitter, August Wilson is in the lead.)

    And I didn't know (until I just googled him) that Jason Miller the playwright is the same Jason Miller from The Exorcist, for which he received an Oscar nomination.

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  6. Indeed, Miller the actor and the playwright are one and the same. He received an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actor for his portrait of the tortured Father Damian Karras the same year as his Pulitzer for writing "Championship Season". He is a part of that long lineage of dissipated, Jesuit-suffused Irish-American writers who peak early and brilliantly and then fade to black too soon. His last play, "Barrymore's Ghost", is in many ways, far better than "Championship".

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  7. It's great to hear about the Miller and Williams editions. The suggestions above are great, and certainly LOA should consider Albee, Mamet, August Wilson, and Shepard. And how about Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, and Lorraine Hansberry (apart from A Raisin in the Sun, her other plays are neglected, and her drama might be combined with her journalism/other writings)? In addition, LOA should look at more recent writers like Maria Irene Fornes, Neil Simon, Horton Foote, John Guare, and Tony Kushner.

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  8. I agree with the others and would certainly want to emphasize Neil Simon, Horton Foote, Hansberry, Hellman, and Odets. But I'd also add Wendy Wasserstein, Chris Durang, Lanford Wilson, and terence mcnally

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  9. How about Paddy Chayefsky, A.R. Gurney, William Inge, and Lanford Wilson.

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  10. More fantastic suggestions! In fact, the only things that has kept us from proceeding with several of these are licensing restrictions and rights negotiations.

    Incidentally, Tony Kushner was recently appointed to our Board of Directors.

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  11. The problem with Hellman is that the authorship of her own plays has always been in dispute, the largest chunk of evidence being that she never penned another play after the death of Hammett, who was widely acknowledged as a rewrite "consultant" on her plays. As Mary McCarthy said, "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." Hellman sued over McCarthy's comment for $2.25 million but the suit was still pending at the time of Hellman's death.

    In any event, reading her memoirs,"Pentimento" and "An Unfinished Woman" -- works that she did write on her own without Hammett's assistance, since he was long in the ground -- do not reveal the same talent on display in, say, "The Children's Hour."

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  12. Incidentally, congrats on adding Mr. Kushner to the board of directors, a fine writer indeed.

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  13. Calamity, Caryl Churchill is a noted British playwright. The Library of America is for -- ahem -- American writers.

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