Every year, American Theatre receives a flurry of season submissions from TCG member theatres, which we use to calculate our Top 10 Most-Produced Plays and our Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights lists. While not the most comprehensive imaginable measure of popularity, these numbers provide a handy snapshot of the nation’s preeminent plays and playwrights, and of what kinds of plays take precedence in today’s theatre field.
This year, we received a total of 411 season submissions from member theatres of Theatre Communications Group (you can peruse the full listings at tcg.org/profiles). From there, we gathered all of the full-length productions scheduled between Sept. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017, running for at least a week’s worth of performances. Those productions numbered 1,946. To calculate our most-produced lists, it is our policy to exclude plays by Shakespeare and two perennial holiday shows (A Christmas Carol and The Santaland Diaries).
AMERICAN THEATRE‘S TOP 10* MOST-PRODUCED PLAYS OF 2016-17
- Hand to God by Robert Askins: 13
- Constellations by Nick Payne: 10
- Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar: 10
- Million Dollar Quartet by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott: 10
- The Christians by Lucas Hnath: 8
- Peter and the Starcatcher, adapted by Rick Elice from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson: 8
- The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez: 7
- Sex With Strangers by Laura Eason: 7
- Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage: 6
- King Charles III by Mike Bartlett: 6
- A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry: 6
- Sister Act, with book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glenn Slater: 6
*actually 12 due to ties
TOP SHOWS NOT ON THE TOP 10 LIST
- A Christmas Carol by Dickens (all adaptations): 41
- The Santaland Diaries, adapted by Joe Mantello from David Sedaris: 9
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare: 6
- Twelfth Night by Shakespeare: 6
WHAT WE NOTICED
- HELLO AGAIN: Last year’s most-produced play, Disgraced, has returned. Other returnees to the Top 10 list from last year are Peter and the Starcatcher and Sex With Strangers.
- WHAT GOES AROUND: Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel was the most-produced play in 2005-06 (and was on the list in 2006-07), and reappears on our list this year. Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry returns to the Top 10 list after last appearing in 2012-13. Plus: The American theatre is hot for Matthew Lopez. His play, The Whipping Man made the Top 10 list three times before, and his newest play, The Legend of Georgia McBride, makes its Top 10 debut this year. Who wants to bet it will be back next year?
- DIVERSITY, OR NOT: American Theatre started counting the Top 20 playwrights in 2014 and so far, 2016-17 is the most diverse season yet, with 8 playwrights of color and 6 women represented—an increase from last year, which had 3 and 5, respectively. On the other hand, this year’s Top 10 Plays do not reflect gender parity, and, unlike last year, a playwright of color is not in the No. 1 spot.
- REACTIONS: We asked Robert Askins how he feels about having the most-produced play in America. He counted himself “totally shocked,” adding, “I think that the puppet play, especially the aggressive, religious, sexual puppet play, is just not a genre we have in the American theatre. So to see people embrace it—I’m into it.” That wasn’t all he said though, you can listen to the rest in the Sept. 22 episode of our Offscript podcast.
A version of this story appears in the October 2016 issue of American Theatre.