In November last year Fanda decided to host the Let’s Read Plays challenge. I review at least one live theatre show each week at Stage Write Indy and have been doing so for 8 years. So reading more plays is always high on my list. I think that plays are meant to be seen, but reading them can give you more time to process the text and can give each play more depth.
Fanda selected categories/authors for each month from November 2012 to October 2013. I stuck with the challenge and made it through all 12 of my chosen plays (see all review links below). I read a Greek tragedy, an American classic, a Russian play, a witty piece from Wilde and a lot of Shakespeare.
Over the years I’ve focused a lot on Shakespeare’s work. I took a class solely devoted to his plays in college. I’ve seen live performances at the Globe Theatre in London and attend an outdoor Shakespeare theatre weekend every year in Wisconsin. I love him more than any other playwright I’ve read. I’ve read all of his major plays, but I wanted to use this challenge to dive into his lesser-known works. I can’t say that these plays are new favorites, they’re called problem plays for a reason, but I’m glad I read them. I think seeing the whole body of his work helps me understand his development as a writer. He uses many of the same themes and devices in these early plays that he does in his more successful plays later on.
I realized about halfway through the challenge that many of the plays I read focused on loneliness and rejection in some way. Troilus and Cressida deals with betrayal in love, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is about Brick and Maggie’s mutual loneliness, the three sisters in Chekhov’s play are all lonely in their own way. Oresteia deals with revenge and betrayal. The Iceman Cometh is about loneliness and the disillusionment of the American dream, Coriolanus is about being rejected by the people who once embraced you. I think it’s fascinating that I unintentionally had a theme throughout the challenge.
There are quite a few characters that will stay with me for a long time, but I think Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the one who comes immediately to mind. I’ve never encountered a character that ached so badly to be loved. I felt myself understanding that desire, but also hurting for her because she couldn’t make the man she loved reciprocate her feelings in the way she needed.
Here are the plays I read:
Nov '12 Shakespeare's Tragedy: Troilus and Cressida
Dec '12 Shakespeare's Comedy: Love's Labour's Lost
Jan '13 freebie: The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill
Feb '13 Shakespeare's History: Henry V
Mar '13 Greek: Oresteia by Aeschylus
Apr '13 Shakespeare's Tragedy: Coriolanus
May '13 Shakespeare's Comedy: Two Gentlemen of Verona
Jun '13 Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
Jul '13 Other author: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
Aug '13 Shakespeare's Comedy: Comedy of Errors
Sep '13 freebie: Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
Oct '13 Shakespeare's Tragedy: Cymbeline