By Lily Cooper
Professional Writing Major, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
When it comes to theatre, it is important to go to plays and see them for yourself. That way, one is able to analyze movements and creative pieces orchestrated in different ways. It can help shape an actors craft and influence their style.
However, it is important as well to read plays outside of just acting in them. If one doesn’t read the masterful works of great playwrights, then they miss out on developing creative skills, expanding their imagination and learning the very roots of the craft.
Reading plays is also another great resource for actors in comprehending how theatre is produced and how to transform words on a paper into a great theatre performance.
Check out the top five plays that every aspiring actor should read below:
The Importance of Being Earnest
This comedy, written by Oscar Wilde, focuses on the Victorian ways in London of those days. The main characters create different personas to escape social obligations and eventually it all comes back to haunt them. With humor and notable quotes that never seem to age, this play is a must-read for any actor due to the craftsmanship of the material.
Death of a Salesman
This well-known play by Arthur Miller won a Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for drama and a Tony Award for best play. The plot surrounds the events of Willy, who returns from a business trip to find his two sons staying at the family home. The play then weaves in and out of the past and present to tell the story. This play presents actors with the opportunity to analyze the slow deterioration of the main character and consider how to best weave that arc into a performance.
This classic is about Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. His father was thought to have died in an orchard from a serpent bite, but soon it is realized that he had been murdered by his brother Claudius. His father’s ghost visits Hamlet and orders him to take revenge. The events that follow are what makes Shakespeare’s Hamlet one of the most famous literary works to ever be written. Hamlet’s multiple soliloquies provide any actor with the chance to portray an incredibly complex inner monologue.
Despite being written in 429 BC, Athenian tragedy Oedipus Rex has is a very well-known story that still remains relevant in today’s culture. The story of Oedipus Rex teaches us how we are doomed to evade what we wish to escape, as it is prophesized Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother, a prophecy he fulfils without his knowledge. It is a perfect demonstration that dramatic storytelling can capture the attention of the audience or reader, even if they are already aware of how the plot unfolds.
A Streetcar Named Desire
This play was written by Tennessee Williams and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. It follows former schoolteacher named Blanche DuBois as she leaves small-town Mississippi and moves in with her sister, Stella, and Stella’s husband in New Orleans. Blanche’s flirtatious personality causes conflict in the household.
This is the type of play that will leave anyone feeling haunted after the last scene. The challenging language and mature exploration of themes of human fragility makes for a great read and can shape an actors perspective on how you can implement complex subtext in a performance.
Tartuffe is a French neoclassical play and is unlike anything seen by most theatergoers today. A satire on religious hypocrisy, Tartuffe is about a man who worms his way into a family’s affections by claiming to be religious.
This is a great play for actors who want a taste of something different from the style of Chaucer, Shakespeare or Milton, while allowing the reader to digest the many meanings webbed into the story.
If you want to learn more about Grand Canyon University’s theatre program within the College of Fine Arts and Production, check out our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.