Plays to read this summer
These plays have been sitting on my book library for three years now and now one has picked them up to read, so now I’m offering them online. These plays are varied, they are about women, race, sexuality and some are just pure fun. But I wanted to offer you the chance to read them while we aren’t in school. If anything, read a Suzan-Lori Parks play this summer, but they are all good.
Click the Title of the play to read the full PDF play
Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks
Swearing and adult themes
Suzan-Lori Parks continues her examination of black people in history and stage through the life of the so-called “Hottentot Venus,” an African woman displayed semi-nude throughout Europe due to her extraordinary physiognomy; in particular, her enormous buttocks. She was befriended, bought and bedded by a doctor who advanced his scientific career through his anatomical measurements of her after her premature death.
Watch the play here:
Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks (Spring Production)
The Pan-African Theatre Ensemble
Artistic Director: D. Amy-Rose Forbes-Erickson
Filmed by KSU Independent Films (Karlee Szyperski)
Topdog Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks
Swearing and adult themes
A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity, Topdog/Underdog tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names, given to them as a joke, foretell a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by their past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future.
Watch the play here: (It’s in 8 parts)
William Paterson University theatre department presented Suzan-Lori Parks’ play “Topdog/Underdog,” a darkly comic tale of brotherly love and family identity that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. Professor Elizabeth Stroppel directed the play starring Derek “Dialysus” Simmons as “Booth” and Thomas Aiellos as “Lincoln”. Derek “Dialysus” Simmons is managed by World Entertainment Agency.
The Who & the What by: Ayad Akhtar
Brilliant Pakistani-American writer Zarina is focused on finishing her novel about women and Islam when she meets Eli, a young convert who bridges the gulf between her modern life and her traditional heritage. But when her conservative father and sister discover her controversial manuscript, they are all forced to confront the beliefs that define them. A passionate and searing look at a family divided by faith, bonded by love and searching for truth in contemporary America.
The Play that Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company
Before the play starts the audience see the backstage staff doing last-minute adjustments to the set, including trying to mend a broken mantelpiece and find a dog that has run off.
The fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society (Cornley University in the American version), fresh from such hits as The Lion and The Wardrobe, Cat, and James and the Peach (or James, Where’s your Peach?), has received a substantial bequest and is putting on a performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor – a 1920s murder mystery play, similar to The Mousetrap, which has the right number of parts for the members. The script was written by the fictitious Susie H.K. Brideswell. During the performance, a play within a play, a plethora of disasters befall the cast, including doors sticking, props falling from the walls, and floors collapsing.
Our Lady of Kibeho by Katori Hall
In 1981, a village girl in Rwanda claims to see the Virgin Mary. She is denounced by her superiors and ostracized by her schoolmates—until impossible happenings begin to appear to all. Skepticism gives way to fear, causing upheaval in the school community and beyond. Based on real events, OUR LADY OF KIBEHO is an exploration of faith, doubt, and the power and consequences of both.
Miss Holmes by Christopher Walsh
When an anonymous note sends a newlywed wife looking for help, Miss Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Dorothy Watson work together to uncover the secrets surrounding a corrupt police inspector whose wives have a habit of turning up dead. But this Holmes and Watson face far greater challenges than bringing the cunning criminal to justice. Miss Holmes possesses one of the greatest deductive minds of her generation, but she chafes at the restraints imposed upon her by society and family. Dr. Watson struggles to make a difference at the only hospital in London that will hire female doctors. In a time and place where gender roles are rigidly defined, these unconventional women dare to challenge societal norms by providing an unusual, but necessary, service. Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this theatrical fan fiction shines a new light on favorite characters from the canon, re-examining the Victorian world of Holmes and Watson by exploring the added obstacles faced by these two iconic characters if they were women.
Harry & the Thief BY SIGRID GILMER
Swearing and adult themes
Mimi’s cousin Jeremy has a PhD in physics, a brand new time machine and a plan. He’s sending Mimi, a professional thief, back to 1863 to change history by providing Harriet Tubman with modern day guns. Lots and lots of guns.
Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker for Pavement Group
As a choreopoem, the piece is a series of 20 separate poems choreographed to music that weaves interconnected stories of love, empowerment, struggle and loss into a complex representation of sisterhood. The cast consists of seven nameless African-American women only identified by the colors they are assigned. They are the lady in red, lady in orange, lady in yellow, lady in green, lady in blue, lady in brown, and lady in purple. Subjects from rape, abandonment, abortion and domestic violence are tackled. Shange originally wrote the monologues as separate poems in 1974. Her writing style is idiosyncratic and she often uses vernacular language, unique structure, and unorthodox punctuation to emphasize syncopation. Shange wanted to write for colored girls… in a way that mimicked how real women speak so she could draw her readers’ focus to the experience of reading and listening.
The powerful tales of seven diverse African-American women are woven together in the this 1982 performance of Ntozake Shange’s Obie Award-winning landmark play. A breakthrough portrayal of black women’s experiences in America, the story combines music, poetry and dance to celebrate their unique culture while painting a poignant portrait of their terrible struggles.
Cast by appearance: Ntozake Shange, Alfre Woodard, Lynn Whitfield, Trazana Beverly, Laurie Carlos, Crystal Lilly, Carol L. Maillard, Sarita Allen, Gregory T. Daniel, Jack Landron, Brent Jennings, Roger Hill, Charles Weldon, Charles Johnson and William Warren.
Directed by Oz Scott
Written by, Ntozake Shange
Theme song sung by, Patti Labelle
With direction from Shanti Gonzales, these six very unique women ( Keren Roberts, Nelly Zarfi, Inès Vieux Francoeur, Jamila Joseph, Benita Bailey & Lorna Kidjo) who represent the global African diaspora, bring life and love to Shange’s words/work.
Far Away by Caryl Churchill
Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is a play that looks at conflict and its unsettling effect on our lives, and on our humanity. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 24 November 2000.
The play is in three short parts. In the first, a young girl called Joan can’t sleep; she tells her aunt Harper that she has seen her uncle hitting people with an iron bar. In the second part, several years later, Joan has become a hat maker; she has a developing friendship with another hat maker, Todd. Towards the end of this section there is a procession of prisoners wearing hats, on their way to their execution. In the final section, several years later again, Joan and Todd are taking refuge at Harper’s house, and the whole world – including birds, animals and insects – now appears to be at war.
based on a real incident that took place in Nigeria during British colonial rule: the horseman of a Yoruba King was prevented from committing ritual suicide by the colonial authorities. In addition to the British intervention, Soyinka calls the horseman’s own conviction toward suicide into question, posing a problem that throws off the community’s balance.
Crooked by Catherine Trieschmann
Fourteen-year-old Laney arrives in Oxford, Mississippi with a twisted back, a mother in crisis, and a burning desire to be a writer. When she befriends Maribel Purdy, a fervent believer in the power of Jesus Christ to save her from the humiliations of high school, Laney embarks on a hilarious spiritual and sexual journey that challenges her mother’s secular worldview and threatens to tear their fragile relationship apart.
Separated from his mother, a young refugee called Anon journeys through the United States, encountering a wide variety of people — some kind, some dangerous and cruel — as he searches for his family. From a sinister one-eyed butcher to beguiling barflies to a sweatshop, Anon must navigate through a chaotic, ever-changing landscape in this entrancing adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey.
The UWM Theatre Department production of Anon(ymous) 2017
I personally have some problems with this production but it’s the only full version I can find that isn’t an all-white cast.