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On Stage

On Stage: Women Playwrights


The first woman playwright to have caught the attention of those who write history is the German Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim. She lived and wrote in the 10th century; her dramas were written in Latin and revolved around female characters' conversions to Christianity. Since then, a number of women have enjoyed successful careers as playwrights, although only a few names are familiar to us today. High school and college students alike remember the often-anthologized Trifles, written by Susan Glaspell in 1916. Lillian Hellman shocked audiences with her plays The Children's Hour in 1934 and The Little Foxes in 1939; while Carson McCullers moved theatre-goers with her poignant Member of the Wedding in 1950; and Lorraine Hansberry rocked Broadway with A Raisin in the Sun in 1959.

The 1980s brought more recognition to women playwrights: Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart, and Marsha Norman's 'night Mother were just two of the plays that gave voice to women, and helped pave the way for the writers to come. Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles in 1989, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive in 1998, Margaret Edson's Wit in 1999, Lynn Nottage's Ruined in 2009, and Nottage's Sweat in 2017—this list is not complete, but every woman and her play that is on it is a Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama. Lynn Nottage is the first woman to win two Pulitzers for her work. She joins an elite company that includes Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and August Wilson.