Winter Play Reading

For lots of us, this season is a good time for curling up with a good book. And for actors and theatre artists of all stripes, it’s a great time for exploring new plays and masterpieces of dramatic literature. Here are four classics — some that are well-known, and some that may be new to you — that are worth the read. You may find audition material, creative inspiration, or remember what drew you to theatre in the first place. I’ve included links to e-texts where available. Happy and deep reading!

GHOST SONATA: Strindberg’s phantasmagoric convocation of ghosts, vampires, and mummies remains one of the most innovative plays of all time, and feels like a prototype for the weird world of David Lynch. You may also enjoy checking out THE GHOST SONATA page on the Ingmar Bergman site.

A DREAM PLAY: Another by Strindberg! This truly moving flesh-and-sprit fantasia follows the strange, yet strangely coherent, logic of a dream. Strindberg loved the dreamworld, where things split, dissolve, blend and double; where anything is possible, and everything takes on a special immediacy and intensity. The play is about the young daughter of the god Indra, who comes down to earth to discover what it means to be human and what it feels like to suffer and to love. Free e-text here.

SUNSET: Before the great Isaac Babel was shot by Stalin’s men, he wrote this teeming tragedy about tradition and waning power, a kind of ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ meets ‘The Godfather’. It’s about a leading family of the Jewish mafia in eastern Europe, and especially its iron-willed patriarch, who refuses to hand over the reigns of power to his three sons and face the sunset. This sadly neglected masterpiece, not seen in New York for nearly 50 years, is a knockout.

THE PRETENDERS: For me, Ibsen is second only to Shakespeare. And, in historic scope, breadth and magnitude THE PRETENDERS is Ibsen’s most Shakespearean play. Many Ibsen lovers consider this sweeping historical tragedy, at once stirring and profound, his very greatest play. And it’s never, that’s right, never, been produced in NYC. This is one to look forward to! Free e-text here.

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