20th Century American Playwrights

Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee WilliamsEach week in "Culture Corner" we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we look at three of the most respected American playwrights of the 20th century: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill:

Arthur Miller died in 2005 aged 89 and continued to write until just a few months before his death (his final play, Finishing the Picture, was first produced in late 2004), but he is best remembered for his early plays, most notably Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953) both written when he was in his 30s. In this interview, recorded when he was 72, he looks back on his career and personal life.

The 1999 Tony-winning revival of Death of a Salesman will stream on Playbill beginning October 21 at 8 PM ET, and will be available through October 25. It stars Brian Dennehy under the direction of Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls. Donations to The Actors Fund are encouraged at ActorsFund.org/Salesman.

Some may dispute whether Arthur Miller was the greatest American playwright of the 20th century, but it's difficult to imagine anyone not including him in their list. Stagemilk takes its life in its hands to draw up a Top 10 with Miller in first place. In second place is Tennesse Williams (1911-1983) who is best remembered for The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), all written during his 30s and early 40s. You can rent the 1951 film of A Streetcar Named Desire starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando for $3.99 on YouTube.

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) comes in third on Stagemilk's list. He is best remembered for The Iceman Cometh (1939) and Long Day's Journey into Night (1941). Unlike Miller and Williams, he wrote these later in his career when he was in his '50s (and shortly before the end of his working life as he was unable to write for the last ten years due to health issues.) A 1987 production of Long Day's Journey Into Night directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Jack Lemmon, Bethel Leslie, Peter Gallagher and Kevin Spacey is available for free on YouTube.

If you enjoyed reading this, you may wish to explore our other Culture Corner posts and our beyond the book articles, each of which explores a historical, cultural or contextual aspect of one of the many thousands of books we have reviewed.

Image from left to right: Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennesse Williams; all photos in the public domain

I would add August Wilson to this list. I've seen his entire 20th Century play cycle and each one is magnificent.
# Posted By Sylvia | 10/19/20 10:44 AM
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