Plays about Plays

Hi All:

I’m trying to compile a reading list of 20th and 21st Century Plays about Plays, and I would really appreciate your input.

The metaplays (no musicals or adaptations) on the list may be about any of the following:

  • A real or fictional playwright.
  • An actor or acting.
  • A director, a producer, a stage manager, a costume/set/sound designer.
  • A front of house role, such as box office, usher, etc.
  • A theatregoer.
  • A theatre audience.
  • A theatre critic.
  • A theatre movement or subgenre.
  • Drama/Theatre as a metaphor for depicting life, for telling a story not otherwise directly about drama or theatre.
  • A play within a play.

Here are some to start it off:

Tim Crouch, The Author; an oak tree; ENGLAND

Maria Irene Fornes, Summer in Gossenssass

Moises Kaufman, Gross Indecency

Tom Kilroy, Tea and Sex and Shakespeare; The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde

Michael Mac Liammoir, The Importance of Being Oscar

Theresa Rebeck, The Understudy

9 Responses to “Plays about Plays”
  1. I saw a few this past year, both new and revivals.
    – David Ives’ new “Venus in Fur” takes place during an audition for a play.
    – Liz Duffy Adams’ “Or,” is about writer Aphra Behn trying to write a play in the middle of farcical entanglements.
    – Maurine Dallas Watkins’ “So Help Me God” is a really funny backstage comedy from 1929.
    – Lennox Robinson’s “Is Life Worth Living” (1933) looks at what happens when a theater troupe starts doing gloomy scandinavian classics in a small Irish resort.
    – Daniel MacIvor’s “His Greatness” is about the triangle between an aging playwright (read: Tennessee Williams), his assistant and a hustler.
    Also Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off,” Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author.”

  2. nstodard says:

    Fantastic! Thanks, Elisabeth! I saw “Or,”–don’t know how I could forget that one :-/

  3. Jamie says:

    Oh geez, I could do this forever. I feel like half the plays I’ve seen have been metatheatrical. Anyway. Here’s a few:

    Timothy Findley’s “Elizabeth Rex”

    Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound”

    Anne Marie MacDonald’s “Goodnight

    Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)”

    Sabina Berman’s “Moliere”


    Stephen Massicotte’s “The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook” is about an actor as a child, a large part of which involves a performance of Charlie Brown

    Michael Healey’s “The Drawer Boy” is based loosely on the creation of “The Farm Show,” and though this story is a little different, it has a lot of theatre creation stuff in it.

  4. Aaron says:

    Anne Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation,” Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” Michael Laurence’s “Krapp, 39,” and then most of Young Jean Lee and Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s work, which are meta-conventional.

  5. Aaron says:

    Totally meant *Annie* Baker. ::sigh::

  6. Theotoks says:

    I’m currently reading “Equivocation” by Bill Cain, about the origins of “Macbeth.” (21st)

    “A Life in the Theatre” by David Mamet
    “Deathtrap” by Ira Levin
    “Small Tragedy” by Craig Lucas
    “The Actor’s Nightmare” by Christopher Durang
    “The Island” by Athol Fugard
    “Act a Lady” by Jordan Harrison (21st)
    “Rough Crossing” by Tom Stoppard
    “Room Service” by John Murray and Allen Boretz

  7. I have to bring your attention to one of the funniest plays I have ever seen.
    Our Leading Lady
    by Charles Busch
    This is a farcical look at Laura Keene, the actress/producer who has the distinction of staring in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot. I guess Woody Allen was correct when he said “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”

  8. Mark Schultz says:

    –David Hirson’s “La Bette” is lovely–tangentially about Moliere via a sort of alternate reality version of him: Elomire.
    –Bob Farquhar’s “Bad Jazz” is a hilarious skewering/homage to the in yer face movement. Highly recommended.
    –Peter Barnes’ “Red Noses” about a performance troupe in the time of the Black Plague is funny, too.
    –Peter Schaffer’s “Amadeus”
    –John Osborne’s “The Entertainer” is magnificent.
    –Not a play, but it’s worth a look-see: Jan Svankmejer’s version of Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus” called “Faust” is a really gorgeous and fascinating film.

    Of course, there’s also Hamlet.

    What a fun list to put together!


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  1. […] 17, 2010 · Leave a Comment In a post few weeks back, readers helped me compile a list of contemporary plays that can be considered metadramatic or […]

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