Special Reports

8 Female Playwrights Whose Work Should Be on Broadway in 2019

…and the plays we want to see.

During the spring 2019 season, there will be no new plays written by women presented on Broadway. This fact is not only disappointing, but startling given the number of female writers and the 50/50 by 2020 parity goal. With that in mind, we've set out to rectify this situation. Here are eight writers whose work we want to see on Broadway before the year is out. Tick tock.

1. Annie Baker
Play That Should Transfer: The Flick

How many celebrated plays do you need to write before Broadway is willing to take notice? That's what I wonder every season that goes by when an Annie Baker work opens off-Broadway, gets rapturous reviews, and then plays out its run as quietly as its dialogue. Baker got a Pulitzer for The Flick (which played a commercial run off-Broadway after debuting at Playwrights Horizons), Obies for John and Circle Mirror Transformation, and even a MacArthur "Genius" Grant for her body of work. What's more, all of these plays have been seen on London's West End (with The Antipodes headed to the National in October). The time is nigh for Baker's brand of challenging, thoughtful, breathtakingly smart writing to hit the Great White Way, especially in an era where there is an oversaturation of commercialization on Broadway.

Jocelyn Bioh
Jocelyn Bioh
(© David Gordon)

2. Jocelyn Bioh
Play That Should Transfer: School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play

If you're a frequent theatergoer, you've probably seen Jocelyn Bioh onstage. She's been in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Broadway, as well as countless off- and off-off-Broadway productions. But it was her dark comedy School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play, that really put her on the map, earning Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards. School Girls was so successful upon its first off-Broadway run in late 2017 that MCC Theater even brought it back for a victory lap last fall (with a stop in LA in between). Broadway is the logical next step, and an important one. School Girls would introduce an audience to a story that's not frequently told, with compelling characters that are as funny as they are heartbreaking.

3. Bekah Brunstetter
Play That Should Transfer: The Cake

Bekah Brunstetter's writing has jumped out at us since her play Oohrah! premiered in 2009 at Atlantic Stage 2. Quirky but warm, Brunstetter excels at giving voices to otherwise voiceless characters — in Oohrah!, it was a large military family; in Miss Lilly Gets Boned, it was an elephant. While she's gained a foothold in the world of television in recent years, with shows like Switched at Birth and This Is Us, Brunstetter is coming back to the stage this winter with the New York premiere of The Cake, a new comedy-drama about a Christian baker whose faith is put to the test when she's asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding. There are no truly idiosyncratic writers on tap this season, so if Manhattan Theatre Club wanted to transfer its production to Broadway, there would be no complaints.

Sarah DeLappe
Sarah DeLappe
(© Tricia Baron)

4. Sarah DeLappe
Play That Should Transfer: The Wolves

Sarah DeLappe caused an off-Broadway sensation in 2016 with the Playwrights Realm premiere of her play The Wolves. A coming-of-age story about the members of an all-girls high school soccer team, the play received such acclaim that it earned not one but two return engagements, the first with the support of high-powered producers Scott Rudin and Eli Bush, and the other via Lincoln Center Theater. DeLappe was named a Pulitzer finalist in 2017, and we're sure a Tony nomination (if not a win) would follow suit were it to transfer. DeLappe is one to root for.

5. María Irene Fornés
Play That Should Transfer: Any one of them

When the avant-garde playwright María Irene Fornés died last October, she left behind a long list of plays that changed the landscape of the burgeoning off-Broadway movement. Broadway, however, was never kind. Only one of her plays, The Office, ever attempted to open uptown, and that closed after 10 previews in 1966. I'd love to see someone take a risk and produce a Fornés drama on Broadway soon, if only so more people could be introduced to the work of a true legend. With the upcoming Encores! Off-Center revival of Promenade this summer, let's hope there's renewed interest in giving Fornés her due.

Martyna Majok
Martyna Majok
(© Allison Stock)

6. Martyna Majok
Play That Should Transfer: Cost of Living

Martyna Majok's plays look at citizens on the fringes of society. In her beautiful Pulitzer Prize-winning Cost of Living, the central characters are two people with disabilities and their respective caretakers. In Queens, she explores the lives of various immigrants cycling in and out of an illegal basement apartment. Majok writes with humanity, compassion, and honesty, three virtues the world could really use a lot of today.

7. Heidi Schreck
Play That Should Transfer: What the Constitution Means to Me

Writer-performer Heidi Schreck made a downtown splash this fall with the New York Theatre Workshop production of What the Constitution Means to Me, a viscerally emotional look at the founding document of the United States and the way it affects female bodies. The play, which featured a nightly debate about the validity of the Constitution between Schreck and a New York City public school student, was so acclaimed that New York Theatre Workshop transferred it to the Greenwich House Theater for an extended run that ended on December 30. It deserves to be seen by an even wider audience.

8. Karen Zacarías
Play That Should Transfer: Native Gardens

During the 2018-19 season, Mexican-American dramatist Karen Zacarías will be one of the most-produced playwrights in the country. During the 2018-19 season, her culture-clash comedy Native Gardens will receive at least 12 different productions. In general, her works draw major talent and have been seen at regional theaters from Arena Stage to Pasadena Playhouse. But there's one city where her writing has never yet been produced. It's time for Broadway to strike while the iron is hot, but at this point, we'll just take a major New York City theater in general.