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The Great American Plays

Friday, January 23, 2004

To play off Ted Pappas' discussion of "essential" American plays, the Post-Gazette asked some other Pitts-burghers to select, as Pappas chose not to do, a list of 10 top American plays. We left it to them to decide whether they would choose "best" plays or favorites or just 10 that are memorable. We did not specify whether they should include musicals -- some did, some didn't.

Everyone found it hard being limited to 10, and several noted that they would probably come up with a different list on a different day. Some numbered them in order, some didn't, in which case we've given the list alphabetically. None included "The Subject Was Roses," but perhaps the Public's production will change that. Those who attend the Public's Monday evening session on "Debating The Essentials" are invited to bring their own lists to add to the debate.

Authors are included for less familiar titles.

TOM ATKINS, actor.
1. -- "Long Day's Journey into Night"
2. -- "A Streetcar Named Desire"
3. -- "The Iceman Cometh"
4. -- "Death of a Salesman"
5. -- "You Can't Take It with You"
6. -- "The Time of Your Life"
7. -- "Fences"
8. -- "The Glass Menagerie"
9. - "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
10. -- "The Brick and the Rose" (John Lewis Carlino)
11. -- "Our Town"

MLADEN KISELOV, Bulgarian trained director, professor at CMU.
"Angels in America," Part One
"Buried Child"
"Cloud Tectonics" (Jose Rivera)
"The Crucible"
"The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds"
"The Gin Game"
"Long Day's Journey into Night"
"Raisin in the Sun"
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

KARLA BOOS, founder and artistic director, Quantum Theatre.
"Angels in America"
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
"Desire Under the Elms"
"The Iceman Cometh"
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"Buried Child"
"Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
"Of Mice and Men"
"Carousel"
"When the World Was Green" (Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard)

TED HOOVER, playwright, actor, drama critic of City Paper.
"Here they are, in no particular order, although 'Menagerie' is number one."

"The Glass Menagerie"
"Angels in America"
"The Crucible"
"A Delicate Balance"
"The Heidi Chronicles"
"The Little Foxes"
"Mourning Becomes Electra"
"Our Town"
"A Walk in the Woods"
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

TRACY BRIGDEN, artistic director, City Theatre
"OK, I've agonized over this list enough.... I narrowed it down to living playwrights."
"Angels in America"
"The Baltimore Waltz"
"Buried Child"
"Death of a Salesman"
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
"House of Blue Leaves"
"Seven Guitars"
"Sunday in The Park with George"
"Topdog / Underdog"
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Martin Giles, actor, playwright, former artistic director New Group Theater.
"The 10 greatest American plays are all by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill, with possibly 'Death of a Salesman' sneaking in. [But] if I had to choose ..."
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
"Night of the Iguana"
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
"The Iceman Cometh"
"A Moon for the Misbegotten"
"A View from the Bridge" (long version)
"Paradise Lost" (Clifford Odets)
"The Dark at the Top of the Stairs"
"Idiot's Delight" (Robert Sherwood)
"Curse of the Starving Class"

Mark Southers, playwright, artistic director of Penn Theatre and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre.
1. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
2. "A Raisin in the Sun"
3. "A Soldier's Play" (Charles Fuller)
4. "Fences"
5. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
6. "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" (Lonnie Elder III)
7. "Good Black Don't Crack" (Rob Penny)
8. "Zoo Story"
9. "Little Shop of Horrors"
10. "The Odd Couple"

Joan Apt, co-founder Pittsburgh Public Theater.
For her 10 most memorable, she specified particular productions.
"Fences" (Public Theater, 1989)
"How Green Was My Valley" (Pittsburgh Playhouse)
"Long Day's Journey into Night" (original New York)
"My Fair Lady" (original Broadway)
"One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" (Public Theater, 1975)
"Our Town" (Wheaton College, 1947)
"Porgy and Bess" (old Nixon)
"Tiny Alice" (Pittsburgh Playhouse)
"West Side Story" (original Broadway)
Also: anything with Lunt and Fontanne or the young Julie Harris.

Susan Smith, scholar of American theater at Pitt, former Pittsburgh Press drama critic.
"Because 'best' is too vague, here are some favorites."
"Angels in America"
"Death of a Salesman"
"The Crucible"
"The Mother of Us All" (Gertrude Stein)
"The Iceman Cometh"
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
"Machinal" (Sophie Treadwell)
"Indians" (Arthur Kopit)
"Our Town"
"M. Butterfly" (Henry David Hwang)

Andrew Paul, founder and artistic director Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre.
As an artistic director will do, Paul proposed a theme: "The American Dream (or Nightmare)."
1. "Death of a Salesman"
2. "A Streetcar Named Desire"
3. "Long Day's Journey into Night"
4. "Angels in America"
5. "Carousel"
6. "Fences"
7. "You Can't Take it with You"
8. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
9. "Awake and Sing"
10. "A Raisin in the Sun"

Janet Sarbaugh, director of arts and culture programs, Heinz Endowments.
"When I did a kind of stream-of-consciousness exercise and just examined what immediately came to mind, it created a theme. Many of the American plays that meant most to me were direct windows into the African American experience."
"Angels in America"
"The Colored Museum" (George Wolfe)
"For Colored Girls"
"Counting the Ways" (Edward Albee)
"The Curse of the Starving Class"
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
"The Heidi Chronicles"
"Jitney"
"Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
"A Raisin in the Sun"
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Christopher Rawson, Post-Gazette drama critic.
"I allowed myself only one play per playwright, but I did try to stick to 'best,' not a more personal criterion. I'm sorry there is only one musical: my next three would be 'Kiss Me Kate,' 'A Little Night Music' and 'Cabaret,' but I exclude them as based on European originals."
"American Buffalo"
"Angels in America"
"The Crucible"
"A Delicate Balance"
"Guys and Dolls"
"The Iceman Cometh"
"Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
"Our Town"
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
"You Can't Take It with You"

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