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40. Because It’s Finally a Good Time to Be a Young Playwright.

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From left: Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale, opened November 5), Paul Thureen of the Debate Society (co-author, with Hannah Bos, of Blood Play, opened October 3), Annie Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation, 2009, and The Flick, due in 2013), Amy Herzog (The Great God Pan, in previews for a December 18 opening), Hannah Bos of the Debate Society, Itamar Moses (Completeness, 2011), Stephen Karam (Sons of the Prophet, 2011), Jackie Sibblies Drury (We Are Proud to Present a Presentation …, opened November 15). Young Jean Lee (Untitled Feminist Show, opened January 12), Robert Askins (Hand to God, 2011).  

Shocking news, pessimists: The state of playwriting here in New York City, commercial and literary heart of American theater, is strong. Very strong. And more than strong: It’s young, diverse, collaborative, constantly adapting. Ladies and gentleman of the audience, I don’t wanna raise any wigs or fritz any pacemakers here, but we might be looking at the one thing theater critics, climate scientists, and religious extremists have hitherto agreed did not exist: a future.

The standard-bearers of this polyglot movement are happy-warrior iconoclasts like the one-woman band Young Jean Lee (“She was like, I’m making a theater!” applauds The Whale’s Samuel D. Hunter) and sensitive humanists like Annie Baker, author of Circle Mirror Transformation. (“There was a whole community who were really invigorated by Annie’s voice,” says The Great God Pan’s Amy Herzog. “I don’t know if it’s cause and effect, but it seems to me her plays had a lot to do with it.”) Other avatars include Itamar Moses, Qui Nguyen, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (“I always wish I’d written his plays,” says this year’s Soho Rep sensation, Jackie Sibblies Drury, of the latter), as well as devised theater collectives (e.g. the Debate Society, whose Blood Play ignited a prairie fire of buzz in Bushwick this fall). The elder statesmen and -women here are all under 40. They’re united by a predisposition toward communal collaboration and a hankering for honesty over style.


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