Words. Words. Words: Playwrights On Playwrighting

Thanks, Theatrical Intelligence readers, for your responses to Words. Words. Words: 10 Beloved Quotations.
Your comments on Twitter, Facebook, and here on the blog (those I love the most!) have been the catalyst for this second round.  So, I hereby launch an ongoing series of theatrical quotations from my collection.

Jean KerrJean Kerr (July 10, 1922 – January 5, 2003)

”I think if you can write a play, or produce a play, the first step toward success [is] if people don’t want to kill themselves in the lobby. Now there must be four or five other steps, but that’s the first.”


Suzan-Lori ParksSuzan-Lori Parks (Born May 10, 1963)

“People ask me when I decided to become a playwright; I tell them I decide to do it every day. Most days it’s very hard because I’m frightened — not frightened of writing a bad play, although that happens often with me. I’m frightened of encountering the wilderness of my own spirit, which is always, no matter how many plays I write, a new and uncharted place. Every day when I sit down to write, I can’t remember how it’s done.”


Wendy by Retna LtdWendy Wasserstein (October 18, 1950 – January 30, 2006)

“The trick… is to find the balance between the bright colors of humor and the serious issues of identity, self-loathing, and the possibility for intimacy and love when it seems no longer possible or, sadder yet, no longer necessary.”


 Tina HoweTina Howe (Born November 21, 1937)

“…the cruel part is that, to let the play live, you have to surrender control and let your characters go. You have to let them stumble, fall into walls and be mute, let them drift and be lost. If you hold the reins too tight, they won’t spring to life.”


Kushner-ReutersTony Kushner (Born July 16, 1956)

“I love reading; it’s a great way to avoid writing.” 


Katori-Hall-Playbill-VaultKatori Hall (Born May 10, 1981)

“I’ve had frank conversations with theaters who say, ‘We love your play, but we’ve already done a play by another black person this year,’ or ‘I don’t think the kind of people you write about are the ones our audience wants to see’…  Up and coming young black female writers are still struggling to have their voices heard and have their plays produced.”


Theresa Rebeck by Sara KrulwichTheresa Rebeck  (Born Feb 19, 1958)

“Plays written by women are not being produced.  In 2007, the one year I opened a play on Broadway*, I was the only woman playwright who did so.  That year, nationwide, 12 per cent of the new plays produced all over the country were by women. That means 88 percent of the new plays produced were written by men. (Back in 1918 before women had the right to vote, the percentage of new plays in New York, written by women, was higher.  It was higher before we had the vote.) Generally, over the last 25 years the number of plays produced that were written by women seems to have vacillated between 12 and 17 percent. This is a disastrous statistic…”

*Rebeck’s plays SEMINAR and DEAD ACCOUNTS opened on Broadway in 2011 and 2012, respectively. 


la–ca–0909–lynn–nottage          Lynn Nottage (Born 1964)           

“I feel it’s my social responsibility to shine a light on areas that don’t get seen. My personal feeling is that it’s an artist’s responsibility to be engaged with the culture. And when the culture is going through turmoil, I think an artist can’t ignore that. I don’t feel that every artist has to be politically engaged, but I can’t imagine that you can be an active participant of this culture and not in some way reflect that in the work you are creating.”


Hansberry by CorbisLorraine Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965)

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”


 Hellman Sam Falk-The NYTimesLillian Hellman (June 20, 1905 – June 30, 1984)

“If I had to give young writers advice, I’d say don’t listen to writers talk about writing.”


Selecting from my quotations collection for this post, I found myself  drawn to the playwrights above. I admire each one of them for having the courage to find the way to “say it like it is” in a personal and distinctive voice. BRAVO, PLAYWRIGHTS.

Next up: ACTORS

Hall: Playbill Vault
Hansberry: Corbis 
Hellman: Sam Falk/The New York Times
Howe: New York University
Kerr: Playbill Vault
Kushner: Reuters
Nottage: Al Seid/Los Angeles Times
Parks: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Rebeck: Sara Krulwich/The NewYork Times
Wasserstein: Retna, LTD



2 Responses to “Words. Words. Words: Playwrights On Playwrighting”

  1. Mindy says:

    I especially like Lorraine Hansberry’s quote. Most of us spend too much time running through our day trying to get things done that we forget how good it is to sit quietly and just think. Thank you, Ann, for reminding us of this and for sharing the other playwrights’ insights into what drives them. Sometimes I forget that a play doesn’t just appear on stage – I see the actors but don’t always relate them to the passion and creativity of the playwright. Your quotes remind me of the connection.

  2. Wendy Hanson says:

    I love these these! The pictures give the quotes an added boost of panache! I like what Lorraine said “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” That’s good advice for life. I’ll try to do a little of that today. Thanks so much for sharing your passion.
    Carpe Diem,

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