Famous Playwrights | Greatest Playwrights Of All Time 2024


We made list of famous playwrights we love in order to highlight their exceptional craft and also celebrate the art of dramatic writing.  We hope that this list will encourage actors to read more plays!  The greatest playwrights had a knack for shining light on the human spirit and also asking us to better see ourselves through their words. There is no better training for an actor than reading the work of these masters.

It hasn’t been easy assembling this list of famous playwrights we most admire.  In order to make our selection, we took into account artistry, inventiveness, uniqueness of voice, stylistic panache, and overall contribution to the stage. 

We included playwrights from many different regions and periods in history and, while everyone on this list have penned a number of wonderful works, we wanted to honor the voices who have stood the test of time and prevailed in reminding us of our shared humanity.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this list. Enjoy!

The Greatest Playwrights Of All Time

William shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Actors and non-actors alike have quoted Shakespeare, weather it was to be impressive or just by accident, chances are you have uttered a line from the world’s most famous Bard and that is something not many writers can claim.

The density of the worlds that Shakespeare created in his plays have left an impression on artists since he put quill to paper over 400 years ago. He was one of the original influencers, one of the first public advocates of women’s rights and same sex relationships. A brilliant commentator of the politics of humanity and how we try to navigate ourselves through the muck day to day.

From the dejected philosopher who wrestles with the entire human scope in Hamlet, to the murderous villain who stops at nothing to get his revenge for being overlooked in Othello, there is literally something for everyone in the complete works of Shakespeare.

Some people think only smart people do Shakespeare, or that they don’t have the creative vernacular to attempt it. That’s all hogwash. Shakespeare is a gift to humankind, and everyone will get something out of it, no matter your level, talent, ability or intellect.

So instead of saying, ‘It’s Greek to me.’ You would be better off to say, ‘“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Othello Monologues

Hamlet Monologues

Anton Chekov

Anton Chekov

Considered by other writers largely to be one of the world’s greatest, Chekov had the unique honor of having his plays produced by the Constantine Stanislavski’s Moscow Arts Theater… I mean, that’s pretty impressive company! A physician by trade, Chekov wrote some of the theater’s classic staples such as The Cherry Orchard, Three Sister, Uncle Vanya and of course, The Seagull. His ability to clearly define the inner worlds of his characters is as insightful as it is mesmerizing. One of the early pioneers of what was is referred to as ‘early modernism’, Chekov has cemented his place in theaters history with the magnificent pieces he left behind.


Paddy Chayefsky

Paddy Chayefsky has the unique bragging rite for having 3 solo writing awards for adapting and original screenplays. 3 Oscars, one man, not bad, eh? Gaining early success as a TV writer Mr Chaeyfsky made a name for himself in the theater in the late 1940’s. Originally from the Bronx, Paddy Chayefsky made his mark in the entertainment industry after the movie adaption of Marty which won him his first of 3 Oscars. The journalist David Itzkoff describes him as thus;  “Where others avoided conflict, he cultivated it and embraced it, His fury nourished him, making him intense and unpredictable, but also keeping him focused and productive.” Itzkoff describes Chayefsky as “intensely troubled, a huge egomaniac and control freak, dispirited about the world, wryly comic, and a both present and absent family man.

Famous American Playwrights

Eugene O'neill

Eugene O’Neill

Known for his prolific works, many of which explored everyday Americans living through desperate conditions, Eugene O’Neill won 4 Pulitzer Prizes (a still unmatched record for a playwright) and he, himself, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936. But the author’s life wasn’t always an unmitigated portrait of contentment––or success.

This man, metaphorically, cut himself open and bled out his plays onto the page. The deeply personal and profound masterpiece that is Long Day’s Journey Into Night is the Everest of any ambitious actor. A man of humble beginnings brought up by an alcoholic actor and a morphine addicted mother, he survived suicide and tuberculosis to become what a lot consider Americans best playwright. If you have never experienced a Eugene O’Neil play, you are just wasting time until you do.

Eugene O’neill Monologues

Eugene O’Neill Plays

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller

It’s fitting that a Harlem native that would become one of Americans greatest playwrights would also happen to be the father in-law of one of the greatest living actors of our generation, Daniel Day-Lewis.

Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View From The Bridge, All My Sons, all came from the same brilliant mind of this American writer who has cemented his place in history as one of the pioneers of the American Theater. His plays are done and done and re-done all over the world and that’s because he, like Shakespeare, had a clear connection to his own concept of humanity. From the desperate and delusional father from Death of a Salesman to the overly protective and conflicted Eddie Carbone, Arthur Miller was one of the greatest commentators on the human experience the theater has to offer.

Arthur Miller Monologues

Arthur Miller Plays

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

American playwright and screenwriter. Along with contemporaries Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. Tennessee Williams is considered among the three foremost playwrights of 20th-century. Stellllllahhh! This is probably the most famous line from theaters most beloved antihero, made famous by the iconic Marlon Brando, Stanly Kowalski, in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” While we’re at it, why not mention the other classic actors who stepped into the roles Tennessee Williams created with a pen that were etched into theater and film history forever; Paul Newman, Elizabeth Tylor, Vivien Leigh, Kirk Douglas, Anna Magnani, Burt Lancaster, Richard Burton and Natalie Wood to name several. Williams was well known for his poetic realism which casts a spell and lets you live in the subconscious of the south while the story is being told.

Clifford Odets

Clifford Odets

Playwright, screenwriter, and director Odets was widely seen as the potential successor to Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill. Odets wrote socially relevant dramas that were extremely influential during the Great Depression. In 1929 he landed a job with the prestigious Theater Guild where he was introduced to Cheryl Crawford, Harold Clurman and Lee Strasberg. Awake and Sing!, finally produced by the Group Theatre in February 1935 following the popular success of Waiting for Lefty, is generally regarded as Odets’ masterpiece.


Thornton Wilder

The only writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and non-fiction, Mr. Wilder was a pivotal figure in the American theater. His most famous play, Our Town, about life, love and death, received multiple awards and a long run on Broadway in 1938. Thornton Wilder himself played the Stage Manager on Broadway for the first couple months during it run. A colorful life which entailed being a part time teacher at the University of Chicago to being a member of the air force during World War 2 and then teaching again at Harvard, Mr. Wilder never stopped writing throughout his life experiences. Other notable works include; The Matchmaker, The Skin Of Our Teeth and The Alcestiad. He also adapted plays such as Ibsen’s, A Dolls House and Shadow of a doubt which he adapted for Alfred Hitchcock.

Edward albee

Edward Albee

From 1960 to 2015, this man was winning awards for his plays around the world. The creator of one of theaters most iconic pieces, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf, Edward Albee was, some say, Americas response to the theater of the absurd. This is deftly demonstrated in his later play, The Goat, Or Who Is Silvia, where the main protagonist justifies his relationship with a goat to his family. His plays ask deep philosophical questions with biting wit and slashing insight. He also taught playwrighting at the Huston University from 1989 through till 2003.

Famous European Playwrights

Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen

Responsible for classic plays such as, Hedda Gabler, A Dolls House and An Enemy Of The People, Henrik Ibsen was expert at displaying people conflicted both in morality and living conditions. This is seen in the stoic and ultimately suicidal Hedda Gabler to the oppressed and torn between duties to herself and her family, Nora in A Doll’s House. Henrick Ibsen was one of the fathers of modern realism and was able to capture, what was considered pretty controversial at the time, an honest glimpse into the homes and minds of society at the time.  Next to Shakespeare, he is the most produced playwright worldwide.

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw used his writing ability as a vehicle of protest and harsh social commentary. A lot of playwrights did, and still do… well, at least they should… This outspoken Dubliner who went from music and theater critic to the author of some great titles such as “Mrs. Warrens Profession”, “Widower’s Houses” and “Major Barbera” which are filled with biting observation of the convenient dichotomy of modern society. Jump in and educate yourself!

August Strindberg

August Strindberg

This Swedish playwright, poet, essayist and novelist was one of the first to bend the reality that people were accustomed to in the traditional theater. This is evident in his “A Dream Play”, where he attempts to bring the subconscious to the stage as characters are multiplied, split into two and doubled while having little regard for the normal concept of time and space. Some of his ‘less out there’ pieces like “Miss Julie” were more of a character study than plot driven, another way to break the traditional, tried and true form of theatrical storytelling at that time. Bringing the discussion of class and sex to the stage in 1880’s was quite the bold move his contemporaries and critics alike had more than a few words to say about.


Noel Coward

A flamboyant jack of all trades in the theater, Sir Noel Coward was an essential voice in the British theater in the years between world war I & II. Similar to Oscar Wilde, there was a not-so-subtle sexual charge in his early plays that evaded censorship due to his finesse and brilliant writing style. He was a master of displaying ‘unconventional’ relationships and his plays, his early ones anyway, demonstrate a biting commentary on the purse clutching society at the time. Mostly within the setting of high society, Coward can make you laugh, cry and sit back in awe of the human condition as he masterfully weaves an intricate web of socioeconomic commentary from the servant to the master of the house. If you have not experienced a Noel Coward play, you really are missing out on something special.

harold pinter

Harold Pinter

What’s the difference between a moment, a beat, a short pause, a long pause, a silence, and a long silence? These are the questions you’ll ask yourself when reading through or rehearsing a Pinter play. The noble prize winning, British writer had a career spanning over 50 years and left behind 29 plays. The Homecoming, The Birthday Party, Betrayal and The Servant, just to name a few. He was expert at creating a vibrant tension that can be felt between the lines, even when reading it on the page. A vital modern influence, Harold Pinter was always conscious of status, both in a personal and broader sense, and how malleable or hypocritical they can be.


Bertolt Brecht

Fourth wall? Nah, I’m good. Well, it wasn’t exactly put that way. It was the verfermdugseffeckt, better known as the ‘distancing’ or ‘defamiliarization’ effect that Brecht was famous for. This would result in characters directly addressing the audience, having the house lights up during performances and actors getting changed on stage. This was done in order to remind the audience that they are indeed, sitting in a theater, watching a play. Not somewhere to escape into another reality, but rather, somewhere to shine a light on the dysfunctional reality you currently reside in. He asked questions and avoided ‘happy’ or ‘conveniently’ wrapped up stories, because life just isn’t that way. Things are messy, we need a collaborative effort to help clean it up and Bertolt Brecht asked his audiences to help through his plays. Greatest hits include The Threepenny Opera, The Resistible Rise of Aruto Ui and The Caucasian Chalk Circle.


Oscar Wilde

Few biographies are as heart breaking as that of Oscar Wilde. This brilliant Irish linguist is responsible for such great sayings as, ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.’ And ‘True friends stab you in the front.’ And probably most famously, ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’ One liner aside, this writer lived through many hardships in life due to his sexual orientation and outspoken bravado. This self-proclaimed aesthete left behind some timeless classics that simultaneously made us laugh while poking fun at the absurdity of the opulent and mostly excessive Victorian society. His most famous plays would be, The Importance Of Being Ernest, Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Woman Of No Importance.


August Strindberg

This Swedish playwright, poet, essayist and novelist was one of the first to bend the reality that people were accustomed to in the traditional theater. This is evident in his A Dream Play, where he attempts to bring the subconscious to the stage as characters are multiplied, split into two and doubled while having little regard for the normal concept of time and space. Some of his ‘less out there’ pieces like Miss Julie were more of a character study than plot driven, another way to break the traditional, tried and true form of theatrical storytelling at that time. Bringing the discussion of class and sex to the stage in 1880’s was quite the bold move his contemporaries and critics alike had more than a few words to say about.


Tom Stoppard

Czech born British playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard wrote plays that put the focus on important, philosophical themes surrounding human rights, censorship and politics. Fleeing the Nazis as a child would probably make you focus on those themes too one would think. After a quite colorful upbringing, Stoppard found his first big breakthrough into the theater world with his Tony winning play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. An existential tragicomedy, like Waiting For Godot, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead break the mold with an absurd commentary on art vs reality. Other notable works include, Jumpers, Travesty, Arcadia and The Invention Of Love.


Samuel Beckett

You ever feel like you’re having an existential crisis? Read Waiting For Godot. Why? Because it’s a dictionary definition of that exact thing. Beckett’s most famous play is a brilliant example of the stupid daily struggles we all go through and fail at, laugh at, cry and rage at, yet, in the end, we all come back tomorrow until our last day on earth. The French speaking Dubliner was a master of his craft and wrote volumes of prolific plays, novels, poems, and essays. An innovator of what was called The Theater Of The Absurd, reading his plays will make you ponder on ‘what the hell are we all doing here anyway?’ and leave you with more questions then answers, which some say, is the point of art.


Eugene Ionesco

The Godfather of Absurdist Theater, Eugene Ionesco was an innovative voice in the theater. Exploring feelings of alienation and miscommunication, parodying the upper class and breaking traditional theater forms which drew mixed reviews as one would expect of people in the 1950’s. His play Rhinoceros searches topics such as mob mentality, the rise of fascism and morality. In the absurdist piece, Exit The King, Ionesco brings back the main character from Rhinoceros, Berenger, to a world where he is faced with his own mortality and forced to analyze the concept of death. Other notable plays are, The Bald Soprano, Macbett and A Stroll In The Air.

famous playwrights

Martin McDonagh

Born in London to Irish parents, Martin McDonagh is responsible for such brilliant plays like The Pillowman, a twisted murder mystery infused with graphically detailed children stories and A Behanding In Spokane in which the protagonist, literally, searches for his missing hand. He also wrote and directed the critically acclaimed film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. He has had plays on Broadway and the West End. Absurd and provocative, McDonagh’s plays are always a treat for those whose sense of humor skews to the darker side. Other notable plays include; The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, A Skull In Connemara and The Lonesome West.

John Osborn playwright

John Osborn

In 1956 a 23-year-old John Osborn wrote a play that changed English theater. It took him 17 days to write. The play was Look Back In Anger, the play that gave rise to the concept of the ‘angry young man.’ This play was polarizing to say the least. You either loved it or hated it. Arthur Miller praised it and that made Laurence Olivier ask Osborn to write him a role in his next play. Now that is an impressive start to your writing career! He went on to write more theater staple pieces such as The Entertainer, Luther and Inadmissible Evidence.

David Hare

Screenwriter, playwright, and director from the United Kingdom revered for his worn in the theater. His film career was also successful receiving two Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for writing The Hours in 2002, and The Reader in 2008. David hare a one of todays most prominent English playwrights.

famous playwrights

Jean Anouilh

Jean Anouilh was a French dramatist whose career spanned 5 decades. His most famous work is Antigone, an adaption from the Greek playwright, Sophocles. This at the time was considered an attack on Marshal Pétain’s Vichy government. His use of traditional dialogue and standard plot lines in his plays some what removed him from his more ‘adventurous’ peers at the time. He still made the audiences consider how one can maintain integrity in an amoral world.  His post-war plays dealt with similar concerns and included Roméo et JeannetteMédée (Medea), and Anouilh’s Joan of Arc story L’Alouette (The Lark), which, in its distinct optimism, rivalled the commercial success of Antigone.

Famous Contemporary Playwrights

sam Shepard

Sam Shepard

This American playwright, actor, director, producer and sometimes, drummer of a rock band, left a remarkable body of work that encapsulated the desolation of the rural American country while seamlessly intertwining real, heartbreaking, infuriating and passionate spectrum of the human condition. Notable works are Fool For Love, Curse Of The Starving Class and True West. He had a somewhat ‘Tennessee Williams’ quality in the sense that the poetic delivery of overtly masculine characters lulled the audience into a surreal world of poetic realism. He transcribed straight from the heart and developed fully rich and lived in worlds for aspiring and veteran actors alike to explore and reexplore and continually rediscover.

neil Simon

Neil Simon

This born and bred New Yorker is one of Americans best known playwrights for a very good reason; His hilariously heartbreaking work is filled with characters you know, know of or personally relate to. His autobiographical Broadway play was Come Blow Your Horn. This also just happened to be his first produced play! There was a plethora of plays that followed, many of which had long runs on Broadway. Some titles include, Chapter 2, The Odd Couple (which won him a Tony), Last Of The Red Hot Lovers and Barefoot In The Park. If you want a moving piece of theater that will have you doubled over in laughter, and on the verge of tears, pick up a Neil Simon play.

august wilson

August Wilson

Often referred to as the ‘theater’s poet of Black America’, August Wilson deals with the human condition through the eyes of the African-American experience. Race relations, identity, migration are just some of the themes touched upon in his plays. He is best known for his 10-play series known as, The Pittsburg Cycle. Denzel Washington has tasked himself with turning these theatrical works into movies as he has already done with Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Mr. Wilson gave white America a different way to view black America by showing audiences that the trials and tribulations of everyday life transcend race. Popular titles include, Fences, 7 Guitars, The Piano Lesson and Gem Of The Ocean.


Yasmina Reza

This French dramatist of Iranian decent has written many plays that have granted her Olivier, Tony and Moliere awards. And for very good reason. As she examines the seemingly deceptively low stake situation of 2 sets of parents discussing a dispute between their children in God Of Carnage. Or forces friends to reexamine their relationships through the dissecting of a blank canvas in Art. Ms. Reza expertly lays out a captivating commentary on societal norms with skill and finesse. Other notable works include; The Unexpected Man, Life X 3, A Spanish play and Conversations After A Burial.

Tracy Letts

This man is the Swiss army knife of the theater world. He can write, act and direct and he can do it well enough to win awards doing all 3. His Broadway debut was August: Osage County ran for over 600 performances. A lot of his work has been adapted to film and tv. Not one to shy away from the macabre, Mr. Letts originally had a little trouble in production his early play Killer Joe due to the excessive violence. So he produced it himself and it was very well received in Edinburgh, London and New York. Since then he has produced some classic works such as; Bug, The Man From Nebraska and The Minutes.

David Mamet

Known for his classic, rapid fire style dialogue and witty, abrasive characters, David Mamet is one of Americas best known playwrights. Several of his plays have been made into classic movies with the likes of Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Jack Nicholson. He is a founding member of The Atlantic Theater Company and he has written, adapted and directed several films, one of which got him an Oscar nomination. Not one to shy away from controversial topics, Mamet’s plays cover themes from race, sexual misconduct and the relevance of Hollywood. Notable titles include; Glen Garry Glen Ross, Speed The Plow and American Buffalo.


Maria Irene Fornes

This Cuban-American writer is the type of writer other writers read. Her originality perhaps is due to the fact that her writing career began when she was helping a writer friend, Susan Sontag, with a project she was trying to finish and Fornes sat down with her to write as well in order to demonstrate how easy it can be. Lo and behold, one of the theaters most influential, avantgarde and celebrated writers was born. The recipient of multiple Obie Awards, Ms. Fornes’ plays were characterized a lot by  the impact of economic conditions on relationships. A true feminist, the themes of her plays also centered around a woman’s rise in opposition to males. Notable works include; The Conduct Of Life, The Widow, There! You Died and Fefu And Her Friends.


Young Jean Lee

Young Jean Lee is an American playwright, filmmaker, and director of Korean descent. The New York Times hailed her as ‘the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation’ and ‘one of the best experimental playwrights in America’ by Time Out New York. A provocateur of sorts, Ms. Lee will have you asking yourself throughout her plays, ‘am I the punchline or am I allowed to laugh at this?’ She challenges you to confront the question of race, class, status and who deserves the title of ‘normal’. Play titles include; Straight White Men, Untitled Feminist Show and We’re Gonna Die.

Amy Herzog

Amy Herzog is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and won the New York Drama Critics‘ Circle Award for Best Play. With a BA from Yale Collage and a Masters in fine arts from Yale School Of Drama, Ms. Herzog has spent her time honing her craft in pretty good company. Her dialogue has been said to be simple, evocative, witty and very actable. Plays include; After the Revolution, The Wendy Play and Bellville.

John Patrick Shanley

John Patrick Shanley is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck. In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his film Doubt Starring Meryl Streep and Philipp Seymour Hoffman. He is one of the more prominent modern playwrights with well-known works such as “dreamer examines his pillow”, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Women of Manhattan and Italian American reconciliation.

John patrick Shanley Monologues

John Patrick Shanley Plays


Lorraine Hansberry

Ms. Hansberry was the first African American female author to have a play performed on Broadway. Her best-known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, put the spotlight on Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry was also the first Black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award.

Tony Kushner

Is an American playwright and screenwriter who rose to prominence following the success of his two part play Angels In America. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, consists of two lengthy plays that deal with political issues and the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s while meditating on change and loss. The plays won a Pulitzer (The first part, Millennium Approaches) and Tony. In addition to his work for the stage, Kushner cowrote screenplays like Munich (2005; cowritten with Eric Roth) and Lincoln

Annie Baker

Annie Baker is an American playwright and teacher who won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her play The Flick. The play premiered at playwrights’ horizons and was about the lives and desires of three workers at the last film-projection theatre in Massachusetts. Sub sequent the success of the flick she went on to write John (2015) and The Antipodes (2017).

Katori Hall

Olivier Award-winning and two-time Tony-nominated Memphis-native Katori Hall is the book writer and co-producer of the West End and Broadway hit, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. She’s also the executive producer and showrunner of P-VALLEY, the breakout Starz drama based on her play Pussy Valley. Katori’s latest piece, The Hot Wing King, premiered in Spring 2020 at the Signature Theatre, rounding out her three-play residency. She is, perhaps, best known for The Mountaintop. The play, which fictionalizes the last night in Martin Luther King’s life, won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2010 before opening on Broadway in October 2011 to critical acclaim.

Sarah Ruhl

Sarah Ruhl is an award-winning American playwright, author, essayist, and professor. Her plays include The Oldest Boy, Dear Elizabeth, Stage Kiss, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2010); The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2005; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2004); Passion Play (Pen American Award, Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center); Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play); Melancholy Play; Demeter in the City (nine NAACP Image Award nominations); Scenes From Court Life; How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday; Eurydice; Orlando; and Late: a cowboy song

Suzan-Lori Parks

Her play Topdog/Underdog won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002 making her the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer for drama.

Her ambition knows no boundaries as she set out to write 365 plays in 365 days. Writing anywhere and everywhere she could she accomplished this goal releasing her play 365 Plays/365 Days in 2006. The plays have gone on to be produced by more than 700 theaters around the world.

Theresa Rebeck

Rebeck holds the honor of being the most Broadway produced female playwright of our time. That’s quite an incredible accomplishment.

the recipient of the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award, the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award and a Lilly Award. Her plays include Dead Accounts, Seminar, Mauritius and Omnium Gatherum which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2004.

Martyna Majok

Growing up in new jersey after moving to the states as a polish immigrant Majok has etched a place for herself within the American playwright. In 2018 she received the coveted Pulitzer Prize for her play Cost of Living. Majok studied playwriting at the Yale School of Drama and Juilliard School.

Sarah Kane

Kane is an English screenwriter and playwright who was known for her plays that dealt with themes of redemptive love, sexual desire and pain. Kane struggled with severe depression for many years and in 1999 took her own life while in the Brunel ward of the King’s College Hospital. Kane’s published work consists of five plays, the short film Skin, and two newspaper articles for The Guardian.


Sarah Treem

This golden globe winning writer has written for such TV hits as The Affair, House of Cards and In Treatment. But her writing prowess also reaches into the theater. A resident writer for The Sundance Institute and Ojai Playwrighting Conference, Ms. Treem’s plays explore themes surrounding the transgender community, women’s status in a male focused society and the strains endured in family relationships. Notable plays include; A Feminine Ending, Mirror Mirror, Human Voices and The How And The Why.

famous playwrights

Marsha Norman

Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1983, Marsha Norman has had many successes as a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. Her first big hit on Broadway was ‘night Mother, which deals with the suicide and its aftermath. Originally from Kentucky, Marsha Norman wrote for The Actors Theater of Louisville before moving to New York to continue her bright, writing career. In her play Getting Out she addresses the idea of new beginnings and letting go of a troubled past through the eyes of Arlene who has just been released from prison and is just starting out in life again. Other plays include; The Red Shoes, The Secret Garden (musical adaption) and a short play collection named Love’s Fire.

famous playwrights

David Henry Hwang

This playwright, who also happens to be a professor at Columbia University in New York City got his first production produced by Joseph Papp at the Public Theater in 1980. The subject matter was depicting the contrasts between Asian Americans and ‘off the boat’ Asian immigrants. This theme of life in the Asian American culture is recurring throughout his work. But his best-known play is probably M. Butterfly which made him the first Asian American to win it. Other notable plays include; Trying To Find Chinatown, Yellow Face and Chinglish.

mike Bartlett

Mike Bartlett

This talented English playwright has had plays produced around the world. Starting with The Love At Last in 2002, then at The Old Vic in 2005 with Comfort, which was written and produced in 24 hours. More than 23 dozen plays written and produced, this playwright has a knack for weaving interpersonal relationships while commenting on the state of politics, climate change and challenging the status quo. His play King Charles III won Critics Circle Award and a Olivier Award for best new play.

famous playwrights

David Williamson

David Williamson is an Australian playwright from Victoria, Australia. Originally an engineer by trade, Mr. Williamson had an unlikely entry point into the world of theater. He taught mechanical engineering and psychology at Swinburne University in Melbourne. But through a few stints as an actor and skit writer while studying, Williamson eventually became a playwright who was partly responsible for the theater movement in Melbourne in the early 1970’s. His first hit, Don’s Party was a commentary on Australian politics, loyalty and family ties. Other notable plays are; The Removalists, The Club and Dead White Males.


Steven Berkoff

If this writer looks familiar to you, chances are it is not from his plays. Aside from being an incredibly eloquent and provocative playwright, Mr. Berkoff has also given us some intense movie villains. Think Rambo, Beverly Hills Cop III and the Bond villain in Octopussy. But the theatre is where this man shines and has even earned himself a genre which is referred to as ‘Berkovian Theater’. His earlier plays were adaptions of Kafka stories including The Metamorphosis and The Trial. But to get a better picture of his style Drama critic Aleks Sierz described it best by writing: “The language is usually filthy, characters talk about unmentionable subjects, take their clothes off, have sex, humiliate each other, experience unpleasant emotions, become suddenly violent. At its best, this kind of theatre is so powerful, so visceral, that it forces audiences to react: either they feel like fleeing the building or they are suddenly convinced that it is the best thing they have ever seen and want all their friends to see it too. It is the kind of theatre that inspires us to use superlatives, whether in praise or condemnation.


Peter Shaffer

This English playwright has written several award winning plays that have been later adapted into films. Titles like, Five Finger Exercise, The Royal Hunt Of The Sun and the more commonly known Equus and the Oscar winning adaption of Amadeus. He also cowrote novels with his twin brother, playwright Anthony Shaffer, under the pen name Peter Anthony. His ability to move from a farcical fantasy land to the depths of human anguish has made Peter Shaffer a writer whose work will be redone and reproduced for a long while yet.

Christopher Durang

Christopher Durang is a hilarious playwright who is known for absurd and outrageous takes on love, relationships. But he also has a more severe take on politics, religion and strenuous family ties. His wide body of work includes such popular plays as: Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You (Obie Award winner); Beyond TherapyBaby With the BathwaterA History of the American Film (Tony Award nominee for Best Book of a Musical); The Marriage of Bette and Boo (Obie Award); Laughing WildBetty’s Summer Vacation (Obie Award); Miss Witherspoon (Pulitzer Prize finalist); and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Tony Award for Best Play).

famous playwrights

Stephen Adly Guirgis

Stephen Adly Guirgis is an American playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor. He is a member and a former co-artistic director of New York City’s LAByrinth Theater Company. His plays have been produced both Off-Broadway and on Broadway as well as in the UK. His play Between Riverside and Crazy won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His more popular and explosive plays like The Mutherfucker With The Hat and Jesus Hopped The A Train hint at the roots this Egyptian-Irish New York native comes from and understands better than most. With sharp, biting dialogue and in your face moments, Mr. Adly Guirgis is a playwright most actors are thrilled to be involved in.

Stephen Adley Guirgis Plays

We hope you have enjoyed our list of famous playwrights which is not in any particular order! For more information on each you can click the playwrights name for more information on their plays and monologues from their plays.

For more playwright resources please checkout wikipedias list of playwrights below