Many playwrights are about to make a Broadway bow—err, get a shoutout on a Broadway stage in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, which opens at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Thursday night. Set at an opening-night party, McNally’s play, which premiered Off-Broadway in 1986, explores what happens as a playwright (Matthew Broderick), producer (Megan Mullally), leading lady (Stockard Channing), director (Rupert Grint), TV star (Nathan Lane) and coat-check boy (Micah Stock) wait for the reviews.
McNally has updated the play so that references to Joan Rivers and Shirley MacLaine become references to Kelly Ripa and Rosie O’Donnell. And, as Broderick’s Peter Austin reads his New York Times review, he finds his name placed among “that small handful of promising young American dramatists.” Who would those dramatists be, you ask?
1. Lynn Nottage: The Pulitzer Prize winner for Ruined, which premiered at the Goodman Theatre and played at Manhattan Theatre Club, received a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2006. She teaches at Columbia University, and her other plays include Intimate Apparel and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.
2. Gina Gionfriddo: Gionfriddo’s latest play Rapture, Blister, Burn premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2012 and has been playing at theatres across the country since then. She’s also received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and an Obie Award.
3. Sarah Ruhl: One of the few on this list with a Broadway credit of her own, Ruhl’s In the Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play) debuted at the Lyceum Theatre in 2009 after its premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Her latest play, The Oldest Boy, is currently playing Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater through Dec. 28.
4. Tarrell Alvin McCraney: The MacArthur grantee is also an ensemble member of the famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago and a resident at New Dramatists. His adaptation of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra premiered at The Public in 2014, and his play Choir Boy, which premiered at Manhattan Theater Club, is playing around the country.
5. Adam Bock: Also a former resident at New Dramatists, Bock’s most recent plays include A Small Fire, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons, and The Receptionist, which premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club.
6. Adam Rapp: Rapp was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Red Light Winter in 2006 and is known for exploring topics relating to longing and the lower class.
7. Itamar Moses: Moses has been especially musical lately. He’s busy downtown working on The Fortress of Solitude, a tuner based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel for which Moses wrote the book (it played at Dallas Theater Center earlier this year and is currently at the Public Theater).
8. Lisa Kron: Kron will get a Broadway bow of her own this season when her musical Fun Home, for which she wrote the book and lyrics, opens at Circle in the Square in spring 2015. The musical was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and she also received a Tony nomination for her performance in her play Well, which debuted on Broadway in 2006.
9. Theresa Rebeck: Rebeck ties with John Logan for the most Broadway (writing) credits of everyone on this list. (Tracy Letts has the most if you include acting as well.) Her plays Seminar, Mauritius and Dead Accounts have all taken turns on the Great White Way, and her latest play, Poor Behavior, was produced by Primary Stages in 2014.
10. Annie Baker: The reigning Pulitzer Prize winner for The Flick, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2013, workshopped her latest effort, The Last of the Little Hours, about the lives of Benedictine monks, at the Sundance Institute’s 2014 Theater Lab this summer.
11. Lucy Thurber: Thurber is an alumnus of New Dramatists, and her Hilltown Plays cycle, which includes her five works Scarcity, Where We’re Born, Killers and Other Family, Ashville and Stay, comprised Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater’s Theater: Village festival in 2013.
12. Young Jean Lee: Look out for Lee’s latest effort Straight White Men at New York City’s Public Theater, where it starts performances on November 7. American Theatre also has an extended interview with Lee in our November issue.
13. John Logan: Logan wrote the book for the Sting tuner The Last Ship, which opens on Broadway at the end of October, and he’s also made previous appearances there with Red, which won him the Tony Award for Best Play, and I’ll Eat You Last, starring Bette Midler as famed agent Sue Mengers. Logan also boasts three Oscar nominations for his screenplays for Hugo, The Aviator and Gladiator.
14. Amy Herzog: Herzog’s plays are populating the regional circuit, with her play 4000 Miles, which was a Pulitzer finalist, appearing on American Theatre’s Top 10 Most Produced Plays list in 2014 and 2013. Her other works, which have been produced around the country, include After the Revolution, The Great God Pan and Belleville.
15. Tracy Letts: “Promising American dramatist” might be under-selling this Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright, best known for his opus August: Osage County. Letts certainly falls among the category of some of the greatest playwrights of all time.
16. Christopher Shinn: Shinn’s latest play, Teddy Ferrara, premiered at the Goodman Theatre in 2013, and of late, Shinn has been an active and important voice about writing for and about disability after he underwent a below-the-knee amputation as treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma.
17. Julia Cho: Cho won the Susan Smith Blackburn prize for her play The Language Archive, which premiered at South Coast Repertory in 2009. She is an alumnus of New Dramatists.
18. Robert Askins: Askins broke out in 2013 with his hit play Hand to God, which he developed with Ensemble Studio Theater. The show premiered there in 2012, then moved to MCC Theater in 2013. Askins’ next play, Permission, will premiere at MCC in April 2015.
19. Will Eno: Eno made his Broadway debut last season with The Realistic Joneses, which had its premiere at Yale Repertory Theater. His play Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his other work includes Middletown and the Open House, which played at Signature Theatre in New York in 2014.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Adam Bock’s The Receptionist premiered at Portland Center Stage. The play premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club.