Shakespeare's Tribe

Performing Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Performance

America’s Most Produced Playwright, 2017-18 edition: Yep, Still Shakespeare

September 24, 2017 § Leave a Comment

Once again, American Theatre magazine lists of most produced plays and playwrights are out.

Every season, Theatre Communications Group (TCG) – the organization of America’s not-for-profit theatres – puts out a list of the 10 most produced plays, and top 20 playwrights by its nearly 500 members.  Although it covers only a segment of the American theatre scene, (because it does not include for-profit, academic, or amateur theatres) its annual lists are a quick way to get the pulse of what plays and playwrights are currently hot. That is a very useful list for performers thinking about where to put their time and energy familiarizing themselves with scripts, with names to watch, and with sources for audition material.

Who tops the list this year? The most produced playwright in America next year will be:

With a total of 108 productions scheduled, our winner, William Shakespeare!

Only, as always, you have to read the footnotes to know that. Shakespeare so dominates this list year-after-year that American Theatre’s editors do not officially count him. (You can read my previous annual rants on this topic, here, here and here.)

To note this fact is not to take anything away from this year’s “winner,” San Francisco-based playwright Lauren Gunderson. For the third year in a row she has been in the top ten list without having a major New York production, and relying on an extensive body of work rather than a single standout title. (It is also worth noting that several of her comedies, like Exit – Pursued by a Bear, The Taming and The Book of Will, have Shakespeare connections.)

BUT…for those who are counting there will 108 productions in America’s professional theaters of Shakespeare’s plays, vs. 27 by Gunderson. Shakespeare, in fact, has more productions scheduled than the top five “official” finishers combined.

As I try to remind my students regularly, if they are trying to decide where to put their time and energy, they would do well to place their emphasis on Shakespeare.

Oh, and one more thing. Next year’s most produced individual play? No, it is not by Shakespeare – but it is about him: Shakespeare in Love is set to receive 15 productions.

Orlando James (Will Shakespeare) in Shakespeare In Love at the Noel Coward Theatre in the original London production


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