There are some great pieces of literature and drama I get to read and lecture on as a teacher. I’m so lucky that I got to teach my favorite drama to my sophomore class last year. However, I teach a different course this year and don’t have the same opportunity. Luckily, I get to teach my second favorite drama. It got me thinking: what are five plays that I’d recommend to people.
Here they are:
5) A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947)
There is a lot to love about this play. Its look at the dynamics between men and women is bleak. The commentary on how men’s dominance over women was pretty progressive. It presents the reality that women should be equal to men even though on the surface it doesn’t necessarily depict that. It’s a hectic story with characters that are considerably the most memorable in the American cannon.
4) Doubt by John Patrick Shanley (2004)
This is sort of a mystery, sort of an examination of human truth, but it’s wholly an enthralling plot that draws readers/audiences in in very little time. As someone who went to Catholic school for a little bit – albeit in the 1990s and not the 1960s, there are some elements that seem family. To see how horrific people could be is the true essence of Shanley’s work. Either a priest has committed a heinous act, or a nun ruined someone’s life on hearsay. It’s chilling enough
3) Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (1956)
The connections between this play and certain moments of my life are uncanny. The depiction of a family in the mid-1900s may seem dated now, but if you pay close attention, the themes carry over to today. Alcoholism, family feuds, the breakdown of communication. All of those are prevalent today. The idea of dependency is magnified in this play and may seem tame by today’s standards, but imagine what it would look like in today’s world? Same goes for lack of communication. I love this play because of the small threads it pulls at.
2) A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)
I love plays that deal with the idea of an American Dream. (Spoiler, you can probably guess my favorite drama now.) This is about more than a family’s dream to be safe and in a better place in life. It’s about the economy and about the strength of family. Some people say it’s not relatable for white people to understand this black family’s plight, but I think the themes, while specific to an African American household, actually transcend race.
1) Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (1949)
I didn’t appreciate this when I read it in Mrs. Troy’s sophomore class. Then I read it in college and it became my favorite. It really hit home after I taught it in my first year of teaching, which came after two years very similar to Biff’s aimless years. Every man and woman who at some point never knew what they wanted to do can connect to this play that is a commentary on the American Dream. It’s depressing and really highlights how we hold onto some distant ideal future that may never come. Other than the obvious themes of the Dream and reality vs. illusion, there is a solid father/son dynamic that is all too relatable for many.