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Greatest American Dramatist?

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message 1: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Do any of you have opinions on who would take the mantle of Greatest American Dramatist? Why do you feel s/he deserves the title?


message 2: by Feliks (last edited Feb 04, 2017 01:03PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Eugene O'Neill. There is no doubt or hesitation in my mind on this question. It's just my opinion of course, but it seems to me (off the top of my head) that he has the widest folio of works; and he has covered the broadest scope of American life.

He has tackled the most daring subjects; addressed the most variety of topics; and he has done the most audacious experiments in writing for the American stage. He wrote one-act plays; dozens of three-act plays, and also gave us giant, Orestian, 9-act sagas. A powerhouse of a playwright.

Tennessee Williams runs a *very* close second to O'Neill; he is neck-and-neck with O'Neill in many ways. But O'Neil is untouchable.

Again, this is strictly my opinion on the matter. Not trying to eliminate other perspectives.


message 3: by Jason (new)

Jason (amancalledj) | 1 comments I'd go with Arthur Miller just because of my love of The Crucible, but I can definitely see the merits of O'Neill and Williams.


message 4: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) I applaud a choice like that. I encountered that play in HS but found it so off-putting (setting, characters, historical theme) that I never took to it the way I did others of his. Even 'Salesman' was repellent to me at that time, because of the vivid, too-powerful sadness. I think Miller was the last writer I wanted any contact with back then, for the type of personality I had (daydreaming, hopeful, artistic).

As an adult, I certainly rank him as one of the top three US playwrights; but even so my favorite works from 'im are things like 'All my Sons' or 'View From the Bridge'.

What do you particularly relish about 'Crucible'?


message 5: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
My choice is also O'Neill. When I was younger, I was passionate about Tennessee Williams and thought him the best. While I am still a great admirer of Williams' work, his gifts as a dramatist weakened and waned as he aged, squandered by drugs and alcohol.

O'Neill's talents grew as he aged, and he became so exacting in his work and the characters he drew were brilliantly etched. Thank God for Jose Quintero and his rescuing O'Neill's work from oblivion. While I think Miller, Williams, Albee, and Kushner all to be brilliant, it is O'Neill who towers above them.


message 6: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Strange trend indeed; (Williams vs O'Neill) because (as I recall, perhaps wrongly?) O'Neill took a backseat to few, when it came to heavy drinking. Did he taper off as he matured?


message 7: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Feliks wrote: "Strange trend indeed; Did he taper off as he matured?" Eugene was a periodical alcoholic. Eugene proceeded with his routine of sobering up enough to compose his plays, then going on research-intensive benders at various Greenwich Village bars. Such a pattern could have, and should have, gone on permanently. But the drinking career of this thriving boozer hit a nasty snag at age 37, when he saw a psychiatrist who told him that he drank “to bury oedipal problems.” So freaked out by the shrink’s analysis, poor Eugene promptly gave up booze…forever.


message 8: by Cid (new)

Cid Andrenelli | 4 comments Choosing just one is too hard for me so I'll go with my top three plus my favourite play: Eugene O'Neill. Anna Christie, Tennessee Williams, The milk train doesn't stop here anymore and John Steinbeck. Of mice and men. All three absolutely amazing and timeless works of literature that are so powerful and meaningful that they're still on stage and relevant today.


message 9: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Bravo.

They're a lot more relevant than 99.99% of the garbage published today, that's for sure.

Recent releases don't even deserve the name 'garbage'. Not even competent enough to make it to that level.

The best today's authors can do is BDSM, vampires, and dystopias?

Puh-lease


message 10: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Cid wrote: "Choosing just one is too hard for me so I'll go with my top three plus my favourite play: Eugene O'Neill. Anna Christie, Tennessee Williams, The milk train doesn't stop here anymore"
Milk Train is a very interesting choice (it's also very underrated as well) for your choice as William's favorite play. What makes it one of your favorites over titles like Glass Menagerie or Streetcar?


message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 16, 2017 03:36PM) (new)

I've always had a difficult relationship with these "the best blank" sort of questions. I think there's a negative tone hidden deep inside all of them that lends a dismissive sense to the underlying question. For as soon as you bring up the subject of "the best", you're unconsciously assume a dismissive attitude towards those who you don't consider to be the best. And this automatically paints a dark shade over many great artists/writers/dramatists/...You start listing all the great dramatists in your head or on a piece of paper, you go through them one by one, and immediately you find yourself looking down on some of the great pieces ever written in English. If you consider Tennessee Williams to be the best, you kind of dismiss Eugene O'Neal, Edward Albee or Arthur Miller, all greats in their own rights, you start passing (perhaps a bit unfair) judgments on anybody but "the best", and since all of these evaluations are inherently subjective, this kind of ranking might not be the best way to approach such subjects.
But this is just me, for whatever it's worth.


message 12: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) That's true enough, yep...and I've also noticed that lists, and rankings, and listings, and 'top tens' and 'best of' absolutely thrive on the net. There's whole websites devoted to that kind of thing.


message 13: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Ali wrote: "I've always had a difficult relationship with these "the best blank" sort of questions. I think there's a negative tone hidden deep inside all of them that lends a dismissive sense to the underlying question." Thank you for sharing your opinion Ali. The intention behind this question was not to dismiss anyone's talent. No one here was trying to paint a dark shade over other writers. All the writers you listed are brilliant writers in there own right.


message 14: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Cid wrote: "I love the character of Mrs Goforth, a harridan that bosses her servants about in bad Italian while she dictates her life stories of failed marriages over an intercom. With the arrival of the poet-gigolo the pace picks up. She's mad, bad and larger than life. I've seen the film version with Elizabeth Taylor but never seen this on stage. However I was disappointed because when reading it, I found it very very funny but the film was just dramatic." I've seen Boom as well. It's an awful movie, but so fun to watch. Tennessee Williams said it was the best adaptation of any of his works. I disagree. Williams always wanted it remounted in his lifetime with Ruth Gordon playing Mrs. Goforth. I think she would have been wonderful in it. It is unfortunate that a newspaper strike did the first Broadway production in.


message 15: by Cid (last edited Feb 16, 2017 11:21PM) (new)

Cid Andrenelli | 4 comments Ali wrote: "I've always had a difficult relationship with these "the best blank" sort of questions. I think there's a negative tone hidden deep inside all of them that lends a dismissive sense to the underlyin..."

As you say by choosing 'the best ten' you miss out some really brilliant writers unless your list is the top one hundred, but it's fun to do and a chance to put forward and share writers and plays with each other. Though none of us are professional critics it's nice to have the opportunity to choose our own favourite writers/plays even though our opinions are subjective. Perhaps the next one could be your top 3 emerging playwrights or your top 3 least liked plays and why.... I don't think we should take these lists seriously it's just a bit of fun.


message 16: by Cid (new)

Cid Andrenelli | 4 comments Kenny wrote: "Cid wrote: "Choosing just one is too hard for me so I'll go with my top three plus my favourite play: Eugene O'Neill. Anna Christie, Tennessee Williams, The milk train doesn't stop here anymore"
Mi..."

I love the character of Mrs Goforth, a harridan that bosses her servants about in bad Italian while she dictates her life stories of failed marriages over an intercom. With the arrival of the poet-gigolo the pace picks up. She's mad, bad and larger than life. I've seen the film version with Elizabeth Taylor but never seen this on stage. However I was disappointed because when reading it, I found it very very funny but the film was just dramatic.


message 17: by Terence (new)

Terence Manleigh (terencemanleigh) Miller, Williams, O’Neill, but let’s not forget Edward Albee. Astonishing.


message 18: by Nat (new)

Nat K (natnoir) Yes to all of the above! Especially Tennessee Williams. Don't forget David Mamet.


message 19: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Nat wrote: "Yes to all of the above! Especially Tennessee Williams. Don't forget David Mamet."

Mamet? Never.


message 20: by Paul (new)

Paul | 11 comments Mamet has written three excellent plays ("Glengarry Glen Ross," "American Buffalo," "Sexual Perversity in Chicago"). His claim to be the greatest American playwright, however, is pretty much negated by the steaming pile of dung known as "Oleanna."

I'd like to nominate Tony Kushner.


message 21: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "Mamet has written three excellent plays ("Glengarry Glen Ross," "American Buffalo," "Sexual Perversity in Chicago"). His claim to be the greatest American playwright, however, is pretty much negated by the steaming pile of dung known as "Oleanna."

I'd like to nominate Tony Kushner."


Kushner is amazing -- while I enjoy his latter work, I do think it is hit or miss. My favorite of his post "ANGELS" work is CAROLINE OR CHANGE

Mamet lost any right to being on this list once he wrote that shitty text book where he denied the actor and director have any right in creating and being inspired while working on a production. Telling an actor to just read lines by rote and memorize them is bullshit.


message 22: by Paul (new)

Paul | 11 comments Has anyone mentioned Sam Shepard yet?


message 23: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Summers (bryansummers) | 2 comments Kenny wrote: "Paul wrote: "Mamet has written three excellent plays ("Glengarry Glen Ross," "American Buffalo," "Sexual Perversity in Chicago"). His claim to be the greatest American playwright, however, is prett..."

I loved True and False. I picked it up at my college bookstore and read it in the aisle and felt like I was floating. The advice was so different then everything I'd read. And it did more to cure me from artifice than anything. (I wasn't acting then but I was teaching and the principles helped me become a much better teacher. More spontaneous. More funny. Less pleading for my students admiration.) "Add nothing, deny nothing" I think is one of the quotes. I've read the book over and over again.

I'm not sure how the principles in the book works for actors, but I love the acting style in David Mamet's movies. I might be in the minority on that because I've got friend's who complain. Especially about Rebecca Pidgeon but I think she's great.


message 24: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "I loved True and False."

He lost me when he claimed Stanislavsky was an amateur. If this were true, then that would every theatre professional an amateur, including mamet. The majority of the people he works with are trained in the Stanislavsky system, but to what degree they use it I don't know. What I do know is that learning a part by rote is not the way to bring a character to life. But, I am glad that you have found this book to be helpful in your life.


message 25: by Paul (new)

Paul | 11 comments In fairness, many of us who work in theater are amateurs, in the sense that we aren't getting paid.


message 26: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "In fairness, many of us who work in theater are amateurs, in the sense that we aren't getting paid."

Do you consider Stanislavsky who was the paid head of MAT to be an amateur?


message 27: by Paul (new)

Paul | 11 comments Um . . . no, I'm just saying that there are plenty of very talented people in contemporary theater who aren't making a dime.


message 28: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Deal | 14 comments August Wilson should be in the conversation. Fences, the Piano Lesson, and the rest of the century plays are an incredible collection.


message 29: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "Um . . . no, I'm just saying that there are plenty of very talented people in contemporary theater who aren't making a dime."

Yes, but Mamet specifically referred to Stanislavski as an amateur, this implies that the amazing talent at the MAT and those who followed in their footsteps were amateurs as well.


message 30: by Kenny McCool (new)

Kenny McCool | 168 comments Mod
Shawn wrote: "August Wilson should be in the conversation. Fences, the Piano Lesson, and the rest of the century plays are an incredible collection."

Agreed. They are all consistently good.


message 31: by Paul (new)

Paul | 11 comments Kenny wrote: "Paul wrote: "Um . . . no, I'm just saying that there are plenty of very talented people in contemporary theater who aren't making a dime."

Yes, but Mamet specifically referred to Stanislavski as a..."


Mamet likes to provoke people, which is why I prefer to judge him solely on the basis of his plays.


message 32: by Terence (new)

Terence Manleigh (terencemanleigh) Paul wrote: "Mamet likes to provoke people, which is why I prefer to judge him solely on the basis of his plays. "

I agree. His persona is very easy to dislike, and I really can't stand his theories about acting, and he's a terrible director, turning his actors into automatrons, but he's a great playwright. I disagree with you so much about Oleanna - I've seldom been in an audience so electrified as when I saw that play, and I'll never forget it as long as I live. But, The Cryptogram! Oh, boy, was that bad. But again, he directed it so maybe it was a good script in disguise.


message 33: by Paul (new)

Paul | 11 comments Well, I certainly had a strong reaction to "Oleanna," and I guess it bordered on electric. Perhaps we can just agree that affects the audience.


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