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Twentieth-Century Drama: Home

Key Areas Covered

  • African American drama
  • Additional American ethnic theatre traditions
  • Off-Broadway and regional alternative theatre from the US
  • Seminal 'Off-Off-Broadway' productions
  • Popular successes from Broadway and the West End
  • Women playwrights 
  • The complete works of Bernard Shaw
  • Irish Theatre
  • The '1956 revolution' at London's Royal Court Theatre
  • The Royal Court's first era of avant-garde prominence
  • Political plays 
  • Historical dramas
  • Alternative and community theatre from Britain and Ireland
  • Global and postcolonial theatre in English
  • Innovative re-readings of the classics

Collage made up of 8 images representing Twentieth-Century Drama

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Twentieth-Century Drama contains the essential collection of published plays from throughout the English-speaking world, covering the history of modern drama from the 1890s to the present day. The collection's contents range from canonical authors such as George Bernard Shaw, Langston Hughes, Sean O'Casey, Noël Coward, Eugene O'Neill, Harold Pinter, Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard and Thornton Wilder, to off-Broadway experimentation and South African township theatre.

No other electronic collection offers such diversity: Twentieth-Century Drama is a truly global collection, containing an extensive collection of play texts by over 300 principal authors from North America and Canada, Britain and Ireland, India, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean. The collection's breadth of content and powerful search options allow users to open up connections between classic plays such as Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan (1923), Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1938), August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow (1987), Harold Pinter's The Homecoming (1965) or Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) and less well-known texts drawn from the full range of modern theatrical traditions. Areas such as postcolonial writing, women's theatre, and community theatre are given full representation, and Naturalist, Expressionist and absurdist works appear alongside popular comedies, melodramas, farces and thrillers. Full details of the works in the collection are given in the bibliography. 

Subject & Monologue Indexing

Subject indexing: all plays are indexed by subject, using Library of Congress subject headings to provide a consistent taxonomic standard. From the Advanced Search screen, use the Subject search field to restrict searches to plays with specified topical subjects or settings. Subject indexing covers: 

  • Geographical locations: including London, Paris, Vienna, New York City, the Appalachian Mountains, Hawaii, Sicily, Australia, New Delhi, Yorkshire and Nigeria
  • Historical settings: such as the 19th Century, World War I, World War II, the American Civil War, the Easter Rising or the Vietnam War
  • Historical figures: find plays that feature the Brontë sisters, Lord Byron, Rosa Luxemburg, Sigmund Freud, George Washington, Hermann Goering, Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, Sitting Bull, William Shakespeare, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Jack the Ripper, Alexander the Great or Aleister Crowley
  • Topical subjects: from Disability, Education, Sexual Politics, Marriage, Strikes, and the African-American Experience to Baseball, Newspapers, Turkish Baths and Strip-Tease

Monologue Indexing: the Find Monologues search screen allows users to search for long speeches (for use as audition pieces, or for close study), by gender of speaker, playwright, date and other limiters. Monologues have been selected purely by length, with no editorial intervention, to allow users to make their own choice from the full range of texts. 

Selection Criteria

Authors and plays have been selected by an academic advisory board, largely according to their current profile in both teaching and research at universities, colleges and schools. For major authors, we have aimed to include each writer's complete dramatic works; for less prominent authors, a representative sample has been selected; in some cases, a single play by a given author has been included owing to its particular significance. While the emphasis has been on selecting authors who feature prominently in both the academic canon and the current theatrical repertoire, we have also aimed to include plays that have suffered neglect owing to lack of availability in print, and to others by authors of historical importance.

Selection has largely been limited to works originally written in English; the exceptions to this are: 

  • Translations of non-English-language works have been included where these form part of a playwright's main oeuvre: examples include W.B. Yeats's Sophocles' King Oedipus (1928) and John Osborne's translation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1989). 
  • For multilingual countries that fall within the scope of the collection we have included works written in indigenous languages that have also been performed and published in English: for example, the works of Indian writers Maha'sveta Debi, Girish Karnad, Vijay Tendulkar and others, and Lady Augusta Gregory's translation of Douglas Hyde's Gaelic drama Casadh an tSúgáin (The Twisting of the Rope, 1902). 
  • The original French language version of Oscar Wilde's Salomé has been included alongside Lord Alfred Douglas's translation. 

Generally, a single edition of each play has been included; for exceptional cases, we have select variant versions of the same play on the advice of our editorial board (an example is the plays of Paul Green). We have limited the source texts to published play texts in book form. Authoritative collected editions of an author's dramatic works have been selected where available; where no such edition exists, we have selected either the first reliable edition of each play, or, as in the case of Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts, a later edition incorporating revisions by the author (in this case, the 1927 limited edition that contained Hardy's final revisions).

The text of Errol Hill's Man Better Man is based on the published text, but incorporates corrections made by the author and links to musical scores of the songs from the play; both were kindly provided by the author's widow, Grace Hope Hill. In the case of Harley Granville Barker, the 1909 texts of Waste and The Voysey Inheritance have been preferred to the later texts used in collected editions, owing to their historical interest. 

Each text is reproduced in full, including any accompanying text by the author, plus relevant supplementary matter such as dramatis personae and any illustrations that are integral to the text. Other front and back matter may have been omitted. In all cases, the edition used is stated in full in the bibliographic details, along with details of what has been included or omitted from the printed volume.