Ten of my Favorite Plays by Contemporary American Women of Color

Ten of my Favorite Plays by Contemporary American Women of Color

by Talya Kingston, Associate Artistic Director

I realize that reading plays is a somewhat niche activity.  It takes work to read a play because the playwright wrote it as a blueprint for creative collaboration.  But if, like me, you have an overactive imagination it can be joyful and illuminating to get to know the characters of a play on your own terms and fill out their world

I wrote this list in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep thinking about the anti-black violence on our streets. I picked up one script and then another and another… and they pulled me into their worlds. Anna Deveare Smith says in her introduction to Fires In The Mirror “The spirit of acting is the travel from self to the other.” These plays gave me a bridge into other lived experiences in this country. 

So in case you don’t read enough black/Indigenous/POC authors and like to read plays, here are ten(ish) of my favorites.  What would you add?

[Note: I have only picked published works for this list so you should be able to access them from your local library or bookstore.  If you click on the playwright’s name you’ll be taken to their website or more information about them].

  1. A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)

“I come from five generations of people who was slaves and sharecroppers – but ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor. We ain’t never been that – dead inside.”

  1. for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange (1975)

“Through my tears I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely”

  1. Fires in the Mirror (1993) and Twilight, Los Angeles (1992) by Anna Deveare Smith

“You don’t know what you’re giving if you don’t know what you have and you don’t know what you’re taking if you don’t know what’s yours and what’s somebody else’s”

  1. Venus (1995) and Topdog/Underdog (1999) by Suzan-Lori Parks

“The past has a shape which we place behind us – our posteriors, our posterity – and we move onward from it.”

  1. Strike-Slip by Naomi Iizuka (2007)

“You know, my whole life, I’ve lived maybe a half an hour from the ocean and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been.  How does a person live that close to the ocean and never go?”

  1. Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes (2012)

“Don’t take it lightly when I say a sober day for you is a sober day for me.  I know you can do this but I know you can’t do it alone. So stop being a highly functional isolator and start being a highly dysfunctional person. The only way out it is through it.”

  1. Intimate Apparel (2003) and Sweat (2015) by Lynn Nottage

“I’m not voting. ’cause whatever lever I pull, it’ll lead to disappointment.

  1. Pipeline (2017) and Detroit ‘67 (2018) by Dominique Morisseau 

“It’s a gamble… All the time.  You send your young man out into the world every day… But you don’t know… you have no idea if they’re safe.  You have no idea if one day someone will try to expire them because they are too young.  Or too black.  Or too threatening.  Or too loud.  Or too uninformed.  Or too angry.  Or too quiet.  Or too everyday.  Or too cool.  Or too uncomposed.  Or too mysterious.  Or just too TOO… It leaves a tremble in your heart on a daily.”

  1. Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury (2019)

“But being Black isn’t just about singing and dancing and… hair.  That’s a part of it, but that’s not all of it.  This history of oppression and inequality, it is in everything.”

  1. The Thanksgiving Play and What Would Crazy Horse Do? By Larissa FastHorse (2019)

We need to get our creative juices flowing and figure out what our options are to celebrate Native Americans without them.”