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Ayad Akhtar
Ayad Akhtar

The Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights of the 2015–16 Season

This year’s top playwright won a Pulitzer for his first play (and we published it).

You’ve seen (and maybe argued about) our Top 10 Most-Produced Plays list. Now let the debate begin over the most-produced names in the country; goodness knows we’ve wanted to shout these names from the rooftop in the past few weeks.

We’re proud to present our Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights list for the 2015–16 season (Shakespeare not included; see note below). It took us 2,159 productions at 386 theatres* but we managed to cull and sort (and re-sort, thanks Microsoft Excel) it all down to the list that you see below. Have fun, analyze—and be sure to leave your reactions in the comments below.

TOP 20 MOST-PRODUCED PLAYWRIGHTS IN AMERICA IN 2015–16

  • Ayad Akhtar: 21
  • Tennessee Williams: 17
  • Rick Elice: 17 (includes one cowriting credit)
  • August Wilson: 16
  • Sarah Ruhl: 15 (not including 1 classic play adaptation)
  • Arthur Miller: 15
  • John Patrick Shanley: 13
  • Lauren Gunderson: 13
  • Mark St. Germain: 10 (includes one cowriting credit)
  • Dominique Morisseau: 10
  • Eugene O’Neill: 10
  • Ken Ludwig: 9 (includes one cowriting credit)
  • Christopher Durang: 9
  • Tom Stoppard: 9 (not including 1 classic play adaptation)
  • Christopher Sergel: 9
  • Aaron Posner: 9 (not including 3 classic play adaptations)
  • Jonathan Tolins: 9 (includes one cowriting credit)
  • Laura Eason: 9
  • Steve Yockey: 9
  • Terrence McNally: 9**
Tennessee Williams

THINGS WE’VE NOTICED THIS YEAR

WHERE THERE’S WILL: Shakespeare productions are excluded from this and our Top 10 list. But Bardophiles, rejoice: Shakespeare will again be the most-produced playwright in America, with 99 productions (including adaptations) in 2015–16.

SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM: Though we don’t count composers on our Top 20 list, if we did, Stephen Sondheim would be on top: He will be the most-produced composer in America in the coming season, with 29 stagings.

SEASONS OF (PLAYWRITING) LOVE: On this year’s Top 20 list, we have some returnees from last year. Welcome back, Christopher Durang, Sarah Ruhl, John Patrick Shanley, Tom Stoppard, Arthur Miller, August Wilson, and Tennessee Williams.

PLAYWRIGHTS ON THE VERGE…: The gender breakdown on this list is 15 men, 4 women. Just 3 playwrights—Ayad Akhtar, August Wilson, and Dominique Morisseau—are non-white. Compared to last year’s Top 20 list—with 3 women to 17 men, and 4 playwrights of color—the trend lines are staying consistent, for better or worse).

*The information was culled from 386 member theatres of Theatre Communications Group, who self-reported their seasons to us, for a total of 2,159 productions between Sept. 1, 2015 and Aug. 31, 2016. All plays needed to be fully produced with at least a week’s worth of performances. You can find the complete list of 2,159 productions in the pages of American Theatre Oct. ’15 or in our online database at www.tcg.org/profiles.

**Due to a counting error which accidentally discounted the two musicals produced by Terrence McNally, he was left off of an earlier version of the Top 20 list, as well as the  list as it appears in print. We have reinstated his two musicals, which bumps his total productions this season up to 9, pushing Anne Washburn off the list (who had 8 productions). Our apologies, Terrence and Anne!

  • M_B_W

    What kind of diversity should theatre strive for?

    I’m glad to see Ayad Akhtar’s play being produced widely…it’s subject matter is important and it’s a step forward to see plays written by a non-white male playwright being so widely produced.

    But how much credit should we give ourselves for that? I would argue that the style and premise of the play is no different than what you would typically see from a white playwright.

    Let’s see…a domestic drama where a bunch of people gather for a dinner party, secrets revealed, lies exposed…etc. While it may be good, this sounds like the premise of just about any standard American drama.

    The race of the playwright is different, but the form/style is the same old same old.

    • Puma_01

      You might want to check out some of the 50 PLUS plays currently being produced in Washington, DC as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, including, specifically, Destiny of Desire, a telenova-inspired comedy that is drawing large and enthusiastic crowds to the esteemed Arena Stage right now. Destiny features a Latina playwright as well as a Latino director and cast and is both impactful and refreshingly absent of any long, philosophical, talky scenes or monologues. http://www.womensvoicestheaterfestival.org/

  • Puma_01

    I know you are dependent on how theaters report things, but children’s author/playwright Mo Willems is actually near the top of this list. For the 2015-16 season there will be at least 14 professional regional productions and a Kennedy Center National Tour of his new hit musical “Elephant and Piggie’s: We are in a Play!” Add to that at least two professional regional productions of his popular show “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” and the total is at least 17.

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