Musicals are grand, and we love them, but theaters are also home to another fantastic form of storytelling, drama. We thought it would be interesting to learn about some of the important dramatic theater productions that have graced theater stages over the years. Here are six dramas you should definitely know.
1. The Little Foxes
Written by Lillian Hellman this play is believed to be a “classic of 20th-century drama.” They say the writer possibly took the characters from her family. Originally opening on Broadway on February 15, 1939, this show ran for more than 400 performances at the National Theatre, which is now known as the Nederlander Theatre. It starred Tallulah Bankhead, Patricia Collinge, Frank Conroy, and Lee Baker.
Since then it has had many revivals over the years including a film made for television and an opera in 1949. The latest revival, scheduled for previews on March 29th of this year, will feature Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon in the lead roles. Daniel J. Sullivan is directing this latest version of this classic drama at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Our next drama piece is a part of a bigger work, “Pittsburgh Cycle,” written by August Wilson, an American playwright who was born in that city. First written in 1979 and opening at the Allegheny Repertory Theatre in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s, this drama opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in December of 2016. Unfortunately, this production ended its run in March.
Popular in regional theater circles, Jitney is staged regularly throughout the circuit including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in 2008, Ford’s Theater in that same city in 2007, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2002, and the Studio Theatre in 2001. Also in 2002, the Curran Theatre in San Francisco put on their own production and in 2001, the staging at the National Theatre Lyttelton Theatre won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play of the Year.
This play penned by the renowned author Anton Chekhov has gone by many names including A Play Without a Title and Fatherlessness. The work has no true title, but is commonly referred to as Platonov, the name of its main character. It was written in 1878 for the most famous actress in Russia at the time, Maria Yermolova. She rejected the role and the play was cast aside and not officially published until nearly a half a century later in 1923.
The play that was eventually published directly from the texts of Chekhov, but is rarely performed on the stage. Fellow playwright Michael Frayn adapted the original version and renamed it Wild Honey, which has been performed on many stages. The Maly Theatre of St. Petersburg, which is the very theater Chekhov had in mind for the work, staged a version directly from the Chekhov’s scripts.
It was presented at their yearly Weimar festival in the summer of 1997. More recently a version called The Present moved to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre from Australia. The Sydney Theatre Company officially opened their Broadway production on January 8, 2017, and it is set to close on March 19th. This production was the first time in Broadway history that a cast was made up of entirely Australian artists.
4. Six Degrees of Separation
John Guare wrote our next drama, which won the 1991 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Best Play and the 1993 Laurence Olivier Award for the same honor. The idea behind the play is that all the world’s inhabitants are linked to one another by no more than six people they know, which are the “six degrees of separation.” The premiere was held at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center, an Off-Broadway location, on May 16, 1990.
The first production starred the fabulous Stockard Channing, who received an Obie Award that year for her take on the role. She also won an Academy Award for her role in the movie version. It wasn’t long before Broadway wanted a piece of this pie and Six Degrees of Separation moved to the Vivian Beaumont Theater on November 8, 1990, and performed for nearly 500 shows. It officially closed two years later, on January 5th.
Like the others on our list, this play has been revived many times, most recently, a restaging opened in April of this year at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre for a limited time. This newest revival received two Tony nominations.
5. A Doll’s House
This three-act play is a drama written by Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright who was a major contributor to the arts in the 19th century. The ideologies behind the tale are fiercely debated. Some believe it is a feminist tale of a woman who leaves her family to find herself and what she wants. It is said the playwright intended to illustrate that women are dominated by men in society and cannot be themselves under male laws. Others believe it is a tale to inspire women and men to find their true calling in life.
Still, Ibsen was a strong believer in women’s rights, so we’ll just leave it there for you to decide. It has also stirred up a debate over the institution of marriage and if traditions are as important as we make them out to be. A Doll’s House first premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen on December 21, 1879, and the cast played in front of a sold-out theater every night of its run. Betty Hennings starred as Nora and Emil Poulsen as Torvald.
There have been many revivals since then including one in 1880 in Munich, 1889 in Australia, and in France in 1894. Most recently, at the Space Arts Centre in London, an adaptation of this Ibsen play was performed in 2015.
6. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
This 1962 play is as iconic as it gets. Written by Edward Albee this tale follows middle-aged couple Martha and George and the demise of their marriage. The title is a take on the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”, which the characters sing during the performance. Of course, the Virginia Woolf in the title refers to the revered English writer.
After opening, this drama won the Tony Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award in 1963. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf has been restaged many times over the years and it was made into a film in 1966 starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis, and George Segal.
Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, Melinda Dillon, and George Grizzard Originally starred in the Broadway production. It closed the next year in May after playing nearly 700 performances. In 1976, a Broadway revival was given starring Colleen Dewhurst and Ben Gazzara, and in 2017, at the Harold Pinter Theatre, Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill took on the lead roles in London.
In 1963, this play was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama but it was taken away by the award’s advisory board due to its provocative storyline. That year there was no winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It has been referenced in many other works including on the Murder by Death album Like the Exorcist, but More Breakdancing with a song “I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe” and on Saturday Night Live last year with a skit that involved hamsters acting like the individuals in the play.