When London producers look to present the work of American playwrights they bring in the best of the best. Surprisingly, however, there are a number of American playwrights who have found success in London’s most prestigious theatrical arena who have yet to make their debuts on America’s biggest stage: Broadway.
This may be partly due to the fact that the London theatre scene comprises a more diverse selection of venue sizes. (All of these playwrights have found success Off-Broadway, and their works written on that scale can sometimes find more natural homes in smaller London venues rather than Broadway’s 1,000+ seat houses.) Regardless, the careers of these five top American playwrights are a welcome reminder of the talent and success worth investigating outside of Broadway.
With plays like The Flick, The Antipodes, and John, Annie Baker has been making quite a name for herself Off-Broadway. Given the accolades this famously-long-winded playwright has achieved, it’s a wonder Baker hasn’t been produced on Broadway yet. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for The Flick, and just this year she was named a MacArthur Fellow. The Flick played London’s National Theatre in 2016, and was nominated for Best New Play at the 2017 Olivier Awards. Her career in London shows no sign of stopping, either; John is scheduled to make its London premiere at the National in 2018.
Though his Fiction, Trust, and Lonely Planet have been produced Off-Broadway—the latter of which is currently receiving an New York revival from Off-Broadway’s Keen Company—the bulk of Steven Dietz’s work has found its home in American regional theatres, most notably Seattle’s ACT Theatre. He’s been a repeat member of Theatre Communications Group ten most-produced playwrights in America (excluding Shakespeare), but hasn’t yet been produced on Broadway. Dietz has, however, been produced in London. Last of the Boys and Lonely Planet made their U.K. premieres in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
In addition to writing for TV’s Shameless, Dominique Morisseau is an accomplished playwright whose work has been developed and produced by some of New York’s most prestigious Off-Broadway theatres, including the Public, New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theatre Company, and Lincoln Center Theater. She’s arguably best known for her three-play cycle The Detroit Projects, which is made up of Detroit ’67, Paradise Blue, and Skeleton Crew. Apart from that cycle, her Pipeline received a world premiere production at LCT this past summer. It is her play Sunset Baby, however, that brought Morisseau her London debut at the Gate Theatre in 2012.
Anne Washburn is known for her inventive Off-Broadway plays, including Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play; Antila Pneumatica; 10 Out of 12; and A Devil at Noon. She has been produced by such Off-Broadway theatres as the Cherry Lane Theatre, the Vineyard, and Soho Repertory, and regionally by American Repertory Theatre, Two River Theater Company, and Washington DC’s Studio Theater. In London, her The Internationalist was produced by the Gate Theatre in 2008, and Mr. Burns was produced by the Almeida Theatre in 2014. The Almeida will also present the premiere of her newest work, an adaptation of stories from the Twilight Zone television series, later this year.
Though Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has yet to make his Broadway debut, he’s racked up a host of impressive honors. His plays Appropriate and An Octoroon tied for the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play. In 2016, he was a Pulitzer finalist for his play Gloria and was named a MacArthur Fellow. He’s been produced Off-Broadway by the Public Theater, Signature, and Soho Rep, and regionally by Yale Repertory Theatre, and Actors Theater of Louisville. In London, Jacobs-Jenkins’ was represented this past summer with productions of Gloria at the Hempstead Theatre and An Octoroon at Orange Tree Theatre, the latter of which is transferring to the National in 2018.