The Playwright’s the Thing


Long Wharf Theatre has a quiz about its 50th anniversary in its current program book, listing 14 famous playwrights from Shakespeare to Paula Vogel who’ve each had more than one play staged at the theater. It simply gives you a name and a number and asks “How many can you name?”

I did pretty well on the quiz, and was even able to add asterisks to some of the tallies. For instance, the quiz lists Arthur Miller as having had seven of his plays done at the Long Wharf, which you could either count as five full-length plays and two-one acts, or as seven evening-length productions (the one-acts, “Elegy for a Lady” and “Some Kind of Love Story,” were produced together in Stage II as “2 by A.M.”) including his adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People. Moreover, Miller’s had two of his scripts produced twice at the theater: The Price in 1972 and 2007 and The Crucible in 1965 and 1989. The current Stage II attraction, Dael Orlandersmith, gets a “5” listing, but I count six, if you include both a commissioned piece that toured New Haven schools and a reading of “Pieces.” Orlandersmith also appeared as an actress in a public workshop of the Cornerstone Theater’s Good Person of New Haven.

The list in general is a good one because everyone on it has had at least one show produced during the 11-years-and-counting reign of the Long Wharf’s current Artistic Director, Gordon Edelstein, and at least one show before that. Of the seven Athol Fugard shows done at Long Wharf, stretching back to The Blood Knot in 1971 and a double feature of Sizwe Bansi is Dead and The Island in 1974, four were done during Edelstein’s time.

The quiz is titled “Playwrights Who’ve Had Plays Produced at LWT,” which is fair enough. But its subtitle, “The Standings,” is misleading, since there are numerous writers other than the 14 mentioned on the page who’ve had more than one play produced at the Long Wharf. The “standings” include Paula Vogel with two productions, but a large number playwrights did more than that.

Most notable omission might be George Bernard Shaw with six productions, then Peter Nichols, Tom Dulack and Simon Gray with four each (many of them premieres). Three-timers include George S. Kaufman, Bertolt Brecht, Moliere, Gorky, Philip Barry, Tom Stoppard, Craig Lucas, David Rabe. Anna Deavere Smith, Michael Henry Brown and a few others. Those with two are too many to list. Lucas, Smith and Gray are among those who’ve had shows staged in the Edelstein era.

The rarest subset might be J.M. Synge and George Kelly, each of whom had one play done there (Playboy of the Western World and The Show-Off respectively) but had it done there twice.

Here’s to more quizzes as the Long Wharf continues to mark its first half-century. Something more comprehensive would be fun, but honestly,for me, the most entertaining part of lists like this is fact-checking and reorganizing them.