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American Women Playwrights (July 2022): Anthologies with Excellent Introductory Materials

By Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco

Anthologies with Excellent Introductory Materials

Since plays by women writers, especially those under-represented in mainstream American theater, are difficult to find, anthologies can be a boon to researchers and theater producers alike. Many such anthologies include strong introductory materials and biographies, production histories, and artistic statements written by the playwrights themselves. This is true of those mentioned in this section.

Judith Barlow’s anthologies, referenced at the beginning of this essay, are foundational for both students and theater producers—the scripts she selects are truly stageworthy and great choices for revivals. In addition to the two aforementioned collections, Barlow also published Women Writers of the Provincetown Players: A Collection of Short Works (2009), which includes a representative short play from each of the twelve women who had one-acts produced by the players, among these women Neith Boyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber. Rachel France’s A Century of Plays by American Women is a valuable compendium of short plays from 1900 through the 1970s: it features a wide variety of playwrights including Edith Ellis, Cicely Hamilton, Doris Frankel, Joan Holden (of the San Francisco Mime Troupe), and Martha Boesing. France’s intention, she writes in the frontmatter, is “to bring women authors into the critical mainstream of American drama,” which she does through a wide-ranging selection of authors whose styles run from realism to avant-garde experimentation. France provides a short biographical essay on each playwright and the full text of a representative one act. Rosette Lamont’s important collection Women on the Verge: Seven Avant Garde Plays includes an insightful introduction by Lamont and works by Drexler, Howe, Malpede, Fornes, Parks, Wong, and Schenkar.

Of particular value are the anthologies of plays by Black women (discussed early in this essay) and by women of color. Contemporary Plays by Women of Color, edited by Kathy Perkins and Roberta Uno, is a treasure trove of plays by African American, Asian American, Latina American, and Native American playwrights including Aoki, Cleage, Elvira and Hortensia Colorado, Kia Corthron, Migdalia Cruz, Louella Dixon, Evelina Fernandez, Marga Gomez, Terry Gomez, Lisa Jones, Moraga, Bina Sharif, Son, and Wong.

There are two important collections of Native American plays. The first is Keepers of the Morning Star: An Anthology of Native Women’s Theater, edited by Jaye Darby and Stephanie Fitzgerald, which is invaluable for not only for the plays but for biographical data on Native American women playwrights, including Sierra Adare, Annette Arkesketa, Margeret Bruchac, Marie Clements, Daystar/Rosalie Jones, Diane Glancy, Marcie Rendon, and Spiderwoman Theater. The other collection of Native American works is Seventh Generation: An Anthology of Native American Plays, edited by Mimi D’Aponte, which includes work by LeAnne Howe and Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl as well as Glancy and Spiderwoman Theater.

Out of the Fringe: Contemporary Latina/Latino Theatre and Performance, edited by Caridad Svich and María Teresa Marrero, is one of the few collections of Latiné work available. The editors’ excellent introductions provide context for a full exploration of the work of predominantly women writers: Coco Fusco and Nao Bustamante, Cruz, Naomi Iizuka, Moraga, Monica Palacios, and Svich herself.

Asian American playwrights are anthologized in The Politics of Life: Four Plays by Asian American Women and But Still, like Air, I’ll Rise: New Asian American Plays, both edited by Velina Hasu Houston. The first of these includes plays by Houston, Yamauchi, and Genny Lim; the second features plays by both men and women, the latter including Jeannie Barroga, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Dmae Roberts, Lucy Wang, Wong, and Houston.

Works Cited