This year, in a rarity, you may notice that we have two plays tied for the number one slot on our top 10 most-produced play list: A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens. (For a list of this season’s Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights, go here.)
Why those two plays? I can venture a few guesses. Both have made our Top 10 lists before and it is probably a variety of factors. Both plays had well-received runs on Broadway (a Broadway run is usually a good guarantee of a future life for a play). One, A Doll’s House, is a riff on a classic play by Ibsen, which makes it particularly popular for classical theatre companies looking to zhoosh up their season. The other, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a more surprising choice since it’s a large-cast play with numerous set changes that features a hero on the autism spectrum. But it is a play that both parents and their kids can enjoy (its based on the young adult book of the same name), and in the American theatre, anything that is family friendly is almost guaranteed to sell well.
Do you have any theories as to why these two plays are on the top of this list? Let us know. Below is our annual list of the most-produced plays of the new season across the U.S.
The Top 10* Most-Produced Plays of the 2019-20 Season
- A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath: 12 (TIE)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens, based on the book by Mark Haddon: 12 (TIE)
- Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe: 10
- Bright Star with music by Steve Martin (also book) and Edie Brickell (also lyrics) 9 (TIE)
- Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau: 9 (TIE)
- Tiny Beautiful Things adapted by Nia Vardalos from the book by Cheryl Strayed: 8 (TIE)
- Admissions by Joshua Harmon: 8 (TIE)
- Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee: 8 (TIE)
- The Children by Lucy Kirkwood: 8 (TIE)
- The Great Leap by Lauren Yee: 8 (TIE)
- Murder on the Orient Express adapted by Ken Ludwig from the book by Agatha Christie: 8 (TIE)
- School Girls or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh: 8 (TIE)
- The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse: 8 (TIE)
- The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe: 8 (TIE)
*Actually 14 because of ties.
Each year we collect season programming information from Theatre Communications Group’s member theatres; from those listings, which totaled 2,229 entries at 385 theatres playing Sept 1, 2019, to Aug. 31, 2020, we set aside all Shakespeare productions and Christmas Carols. We also removed any productions with fewer than two weeks of performances.
Split decision! It seems the American theatre can’t decide if it loves Lucas Hnath or Simon Stephens more: Both have made Top 10 lists before, and this year they’re tied for the top spot. The last time U.S. theatres made such a split decision was in 2011-12, when Red by John Logan tied with God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza.
A Christmas Carol continues to be a holiday favorite, with 39 productions.
It’s rare to write a play so popular it’s on the Top 10 list for two years in a row. But Hnath did just that; this is the second year in a row that A Doll’s House, Part 2 has made it to the top (even if he shares this year with Stephens). The last time a play was that popular for two years running was Doubt by John Patrick Shanley, which was the most popular play in 2007 and 2008; before that, Yasmina Reza’s Art topped in both 2000 and 2001.
It’s also rare that the top spot is a tie. It’s only happened 3 times before: God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza and Red by John Logan tied in 2012; Doubt by John Patrick Shanley and The Santaland Diaries by Joe Mantello, adapted from David Sedaris, in 2008; and in 2001, when Art by Yasmina Reza tied with Dinner With Friends by Donald Margulies.
Lauren Yee makes her debut not only on our Top 20 but on our Top 10 list with not one but two titles. Getting multiple most-produced plays is a rarity. The last (and only other) time that happened was in the 1999-2000 season, when Martin McDonagh had two on the list. Says Yee: “The fact that Cambodian Rock Band and The Great Leap are two of the most produced plays in the country this season demonstrates the hunger audiences have for thrilling new narratives that cast actors of color as unlikely heroes in their own stories. It also speaks to the incredible depth and breadth of the Asian American community. They are rock stars, they are sports legends, and they will break your heart and dazzle you with virtuosic performances. It’s an incredible honor.”
With The Thanksgiving Play, Larissa Fasthorse becomes the first Native American playwright to make our Top 10 list.
Both photos above are from productions at Actors Theatre of Louisville. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was directed by Meredith McDonough, with scenic design by Kristen Robinson, lighting design by Paul Toben, costume design by Kathleen Geldard, sound design by Christian Frederickson, media design by Philip Allgeier, and movement direction by Sam Pinkleton. The access and inclusion consultant was Talleri McRae, production stage manager was Paul “Pablo” Mills Holmes, assistant stage manager was Jessica Kay Potter, and Jenni Page-White was the dramaturg. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” was directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh, with scenic design by Reid Thompson, lighting design by Cecilia R. Durbin, costume design by Valérie Thérèse Bart, sound design by Kate Marvin, projection design by Philip Allgeier, stage management by Katie Shade, and dramaturgy by Jessica Reese.