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A playwright is someone who writes for the theatre.

The word is not a variant spelling of playwrite, but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder (as in a wheelwright or cartwright). Hence the prefix and the suffix combine to indicate someone who crafts plays. The homophone with write is in this case coincidental.

The term dramatist is sometimes synonymous with playwright, yet is reserved for an author of dramas as opposed to comedies or farces.

The earliest playwrights with surviving works are Ancient Greeks, from the 5th century BC. Notable in their number are Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes.

Shakespeare is considered to have written classical tragedies and comedies which lots of other work is based on. For example, Kiss Me Kate is based on The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet has been remade more times then can be counted.

Many playwrights are never known because only historical sucesses and current sucesses such as Broadway hits become known. Many more off-Broadway, off-off Broadway, student playwrights, and plays that never see the light of day, among others, are still playwrights even if they never achieve commercial or popular sucess.

Contemporarily, successful playwrights – in stark contrast to the lot of the screenwriter – are often high-status figures in their industry. This is a corollary of the more literary approach that has characterised the theatre since its roots in poetry. The form has a greater reverence for the text and is much less oriented around a director. The playwright’s vision often takes precedence.

In recent years this attitude has started to be slowly overhauled. A less rigidly formal approach to text for performance is now common, informed by practitioners like Jerzy Grotowski, Joan Littlewood and her protégé Mike Leigh.

Documentary plays are also a common feature of the theatrical landscape since the middle of the Twentieth Century when they were employed, often tendentiously, in agit-prop or general political protest. These plays demand something different of a playwright, often the editing and reproduction of the other people’s words within a narrative structure. A recent example is Stuff Happens, David Hare’s 2004 play about the Iraq War, in which many of the speeches were taken verbatim from George W. Bush, Tony Blair et al.

See also

External links

  • Playwriting 101 - A playwriting tutorial written by playwright and screenwriter Jon Dorf.
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