I see a lot of plays. I read a lot of play and I read about a lot of plays. I know how challenging it is to find the great ones that will fit into your season and wow your audience. The following list is a group of new-ish plays by women that I’ve seen, read, or read about, that more people across the country should be seeing and talking about. Please consider adding these to your reading lists — and then getting them onstage!
The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe
Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girls indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors. A portrait of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for nine American girls who just want to score some goals.
I saw a staged reading of this show at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in 2015 and then I saw a full production at the Goodman in 2017. It’s simply amazing. I know it’s a big cast of young women, but the show is profound. And what a great way to collaborate with local colleges, and college soccer teams for that matter. Pulitzer finalist.
Airness by Chelsea Marcantel
When Nina enters her first air guitar competition, she thinks winning will be easy. But as she befriends a group of charismatic nerds all committed to becoming the next champion, she discovers that there’s more to this art form than playing pretend; it’s about finding yourself in your favorite songs, and performing with raw joy. Will Nina be able to let go and set herself free onstage? Following her mission to shred or be shredded, Airness is an exuberant reminder that everything we need to rock is already inside us. A comedy about competition, completion, and finding the airness inside yourself. Oh, and Nancy Wilson.
I met Chelsea Marcantel at a Dramatist’s Guild new play workshop in Chicago a few years ago. She then went on to get her MFA in playwriting at Juilliard and her play Airness was the hit of the Humana Festival last year. Your audience won’t know what’s hit them.
The Quiet Ones, by Mary Hamilton
4w, 1m, 1 transgender woman
Katherine’s old-school methods as a kindergarten teacher have come under new scrutiny. She struggles to handle a disturbing event between two of her students; her only son is getting married and she can’t decide on a pair of shoes; and she is still working to recover from the breakup of her family 17 years ago after her husband transitioned genders. As Katherine attempts to navigate a new culture using all the old rules, the fragility of her world-view becomes painfully clear. The Quiet Ones explores what is lost or gained as we evolve as people and as a society.
I saw a developmental reading of this play at the O’Neill Theater Center in 2017 and was quite simply amazed. Such deft writing, such a powerful story, such a great opportunity to work with a transgender artist in your community.
The Roommate, by Jen Silverman
Sharon, in her mid-fifties, is recently divorced and needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn, also in her mid-fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets, they encourage her own deep-seated desire to transform her life completely. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life – and what happens when the wheels come off.
By Jen Silverman standards, this is a very tame play. But it’s still a great Odd Couple turned on its head play, with two fantastic roles for women over 40. A beautiful story about the change we are capable of and what we can become.
Cry it Out, by Molly Smith Metzler
Jessie is a corporate lawyer in a Manhattan firm. Lina is a community-college dropout and born-and-bred Long Islander. They don’t seem to have anything in common, but marooned at home with infants, they strike up a fast friendship. In the yard between their houses—as far as their baby monitors will reach—they bond over sleep deprivation, unreliable childcare, and “having it all.” A candid comedy about who gets to make which hard choices in the tinderbox of parenthood and class in the United States.
This was up for the Steinberg New Play Award last year and by all rights should be burning up the regional theater circuit. Again, strong roles for women, lots of important contemporary issues bound up in some backyard conversations, and the never-ending debate about how women balance their lives, their careers, their families and their guilt.
One House Over, by Catherine Treischmann
When Rafael and Camila Hernandez move in downstairs to help Joanne with her elderly and cantankerous curmudgeon of a father, Joanne breathes a little easier. She needs their help, and they need jobs. But she can’t anticipate the complications that arise when “the help” starts to feel like family...and act like it. A brilliant new comedy about boundaries, power, privilege and anxiety in a single backyard.
I saw the world premiere of this play in 2017 at the Milwaukee Rep. It’s the really smart, complicated, emotionally gripping story about the real lives of immigrants that you’ve been looking for. Great roles for women and people of color.
Please consider these fabulous plays carefully. And please keep gender-parity of playwrights in mind as you choose the stories you will tell the world.