TWO LISTS OF
THE "TEN MOST SIGNIFICANT
PLAYS OF THE CENTURY."
What plays should you know? That's always hard to answer. But the following two lists of "most significant plays of the Twentieth Century" can serve you as a guide of "modern plays I really must read." If you don't know these plays, they are highly recommended. All are available from Amazon and links are provided.
The First List.
The January, 1999, issue of American Theatre reports the results of the Drama League's poll of its 1,200 members of their choices of the "ten most significant plays of the century." You'll notice that Miller, Williams, and O'Neill each appear twice.
1. Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller.
2. A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams.
3. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee.
4. Angels in America, by Tony Kushner.
5. Long Day's Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'Neill.
6. The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams.
7. The Crucible , by Arthur Miller.
8. The Iceman Cometh, by Eugene O'Neill.
9. Our Town , by Thornton Wilder.
10. Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett.
The Second List.
Not to be outdone in polling, the National Theatre of Great Britain asked British playwrights, actors, directors, journalists, and other theater professionals to nominate ten English-language plays of the 20th century that they considered significant. Apparently these aren't ranked in any order. It is interesting to see some overlaps with the American list--and interesting, too, to note plays that aren't on the American list. Miller again is listed twice.
Waiting for Godot , by Samuel Beckett.
Death of a Salesman , by Arthur Miller.
Look Back in Anger , by John Osborne.
Long Day's Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'Neill.
The Crucible , by Arthur Miller.
Private Lives , by Noel Coward.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard.
Angels in America , by Tony Kushner.
The Caretaker , by Harold Pinter.
2. A Chorus Line
3. West Side Story
4. My Fair Lady
5. Show Boat
6. Guys and Dolls
9. Fiddler on the Roof
10. Porgy and Bess
1 Waiting for Godot Samuel Beckett
2 Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller
3 A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams
4 Look Back in Anger John Osborne
5 Long Day's Journey Into Night Eugene 0'Neill
6 The Crucible Arthur Miller
7= Private Lives Noel Coward
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead Tom Stoppard
9= Angels in America Tony Kushner
The Caretaker Harold Pinter
11 Saved Edward Bond
12 The Homecoming Harold Pinter
13= Pygmalion George Bernard Shaw
Racing Demon David Hare
15 Juno and the Paycock Sean O'Casey
16= Heartbreak House George Bernard Shaw
Top Girls Caryl Churchill
18= Playboy of the Western World JM Synge
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee
20 The Deep Blue Sea Terence Rattigan
21 The Birthday Party Harold Pinter
22= Arcadia Tom Stoppard
An Inspector Calls JB Priestley
Loot Joe Orton
The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams
The Norman Conquests Alan Ayckbourn
Translations Brian Friel
28= Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Tennessee Williams
The Entertainer John Osborne
The Voysey Inheritance Harley Granville Barker
31 The Plough and the Stars Sean O'Casey
32= Glengarry Glen Ross David Mamet
No Man's Land Harold Pinter
34= Journey's End RC Sherriff
Saint Joan George Bernard Shaw
36= Absurd Person Singular Alan Ayckbourn
The Browning Version Terence Rattigan
Our Country's Good Timberlake Wertenbaker
Road Jim Cartwright
40= Endgame Samuel Beckett
The Iceman Cometh Eugene O'Neill
A View from the Bridge Arthur Miller
The Vortex Noel Coward
The Weir Conor McPherson
45= Nicholas Nickleby David Edgar
Peter Pan JM Barrie
Roots Arnold Wesker
Serjeant Musgrave's Dance John Arden
What the Butler Saw Joe Orton
50= Betrayal Harold Pinter
Blithe Spirit Noel Coward
Cloud Nine Caryl Churchill
Comedians Trevor Griffiths
Dancing at Lughnasa Brian Friel
The Front Page Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
Master Harold... and the Boys Athol Fugard
Pravda Howard Brenton and David Hare
A Taste of Honey Shelagh Delaney
59= Closer Patrick Marber
Entertaining Mr Sloane Joe Orton
Jumpers Tom Stoppard
Oh What a Lovely War Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop
The Madness of George III Alan Bennett
Murder In the Cathedral TS Eliot
The Pink Room (Absolute Hell) Rodney Ackland
Plenty David Hare
Sizwe Bansi is Dead Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona
68= All My Sons Arthur Miller
Equus Peter Shaffer
Insignificance Terry Johnson
Man and Superman George Bernard Shaw
Oleanna David Mamet
Royal Hunt of the Sun Peter Shaffer
Skylight David Hare
Waste Harley Granville Barker
The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd DH Lawrence
77= Bedroom Farce Alan Ayckbourn
The Faith Healer Brian Friel
Family Reunion TS Eliot
Forty Years On Alan Bennett
Noises Off Michael Frayn
Serious Money Caryl Churchill
Time and the Conways JB Priestley
When We Are Married JB Priestley
85= Amadeus Peter Shaffer
The Children's Hour Lillian Hellman
Copenhagen Michael Frayn
The Daughter-in-Law DH Lawrence
Dead Funny Terry Johnson
Design for Living Noel Coward
Good CP Taylor
Home David Storey
The Lady's Not for Burning Christopher Fry
Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme Frank McGuinness
Old Times Harold Pinter
The Philanthropist Christopher Hampton
Plunder Ben Travers
Run For Your Wife Ray Cooney