Famous American Playwrights

Modern day movies and tele-shows may be interesting and entertaining, but the feel of sitting in a theatre and watching live characters is absolutely incredible! That is the magic that playwrights put into plays. Output of a vivid imagination and a gripping story, plays are a form of literature and are basically intended for theatrical performance. While talking about playwrights and plays, one just cannot overlook the contribution of Americans. Unless you have been living under the rock, names like T.S Eliot, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, Sarah Ruhl, Christopher Durang, August Wilson or Edward Albee cannot be unheard of. Truly outstanding in their work, American playwrights have a deep embedded insight for playwriting and a good knowledge and understanding of dramatic structure. Their play with words and sequence of the drama is so natural that at no point in their play, it seems like the characters are restricted to a particular script. Interestingly, plays by these playwrights have not just been performed in America alone but the world over. Enliven your spirit by reading about the life and works of some of the greatest American playwrights of all times. Their body of work would surely keep you entertained!

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Playwrights

 1 Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 14, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grinnell, Iowa
Danai Gurira is best known as Michonne from The Walking Dead and as Okoye from the Marvel films Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. She earned a Tony nomination for writing the Broadway play Eclipsed. She has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador and promotes arts and women empowerment.

 2 Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller
2
Birthdate: October 17, 1915
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Harlem, New York City, United States
Died: February 10, 2005

Arthur Miller was an American essayist and playwright. Miller is credited with creating popular plays, such as Death of a Salesman, which is widely regarded as one of the best American plays of the 20th century. Thanks to his illustrious career, which spanned more than 70 years, Arthur Miller is regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest dramatists.

 3 Rod Serling

Rod Serling
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Famous As: Screenwriter, TV Producer, Narrator
Birthdate: December 25, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Syracuse
Died: June 28, 1975

Rod Serling was an American playwright, screenwriter, narrator, and television producer. One of the first writers to write specifically for television, Serling is often credited with legitimizing television drama. He is also credited with creating the much-acclaimed series The Twilight Zone. For his much-publicized clashes with TV executives, Serling was often referred to as the angry young man of Hollywood.

 4 Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal
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Birthdate: October 3, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: West Point
Died: July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal was an American intellectual and writer. He served as a major inspiration to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals as he was openly bisexual and often incorporated LGBT characters in his novels, which was very unusual at the time. He was also known for his debates with William F. Buckley Jr., which inspired the 2015 documentary film Best of Enemies.

 5 Leslie Jordan

Leslie Jordan
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Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: April 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chattanooga

 6 Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams
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Famous As: American playwright
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Columbus, Mississippi, United States
Died: February 25, 1983
Pulitzer Prize-winning Tennessee Williams is regarded as one of the most significant playwrights of the 20th century, and had also written short stories, essays, and poetry. He is best remembered for his plays A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
 

 7 Tracy Letts

Tracy Letts
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Famous As: Actor, Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1965
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tracy Letts is a highly acclaimed American actor, screenwriter, and playwright. Letts has received several prestigious awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a couple of Tony Awards. Tracy Letts is credited with popularizing Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which he revived in 2012.

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 8 Henry James

Henry James
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1843
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City
Died: February 28, 1916

Henry James was an author, regarded as one of the greatest novelists ever to write in the English language. One of his novellas titled The Turn of the Screw has been the most analyzed ghost story in the history of English language literature. While his works have been adapted into films, he has been the subject of several other stories.

 9 Robby Benson

Robby Benson
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 21, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States

Robby Benson is an American actor, filmmaker, composer, singer, and teacher. He gained popularity in the late-1970s when he established himself as a teen idol, appearing in films like Ice Castles and One on One. Apart from being an entertainer, Robby Benson is also a fundraiser and activist for heart research.

 10 Eugene O'Neill

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: October 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
Died: November 27, 1953

Eugene O'Neill was an American playwright whose works earned him several prestigious awards, including four Pulitzer Prizes for Drama and the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature. His play Long Day's Journey into Night is frequently named among the 20th century's finest American plays. In the 1981 film Reds, Eugene O'Neill is played by actor Jack Nicholson.

 11 Jack Dunphy

Jack Dunphy
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 22, 1914
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 26, 1992

 12 Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Producer, Director
Birthdate: May 19, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: June 26, 2012

Nora Ephron was an American writer, filmmaker, and journalist. She is known for writing films like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally... The Nora Ephron Prize was created by the Tribeca Film Festival in her memory. Her life and work inspired the 2016 documentary film Everything Is Copy, which was directed by her son Jacob Bernstein.

 13 Ernie Hudson

Ernie Hudson
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

 14 Thomas Clayton Wolfe

Thomas Clayton Wolfe
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 3, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Asheville, North Carolina, United States
Died: September 15, 1938
Novelist Thomas Wolfe is remembered for his novels Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. He had also authored countless short stories and plays. His signature style included elements of autobiographical writing mixed with poetic and lyrical prose. His works influenced Beat Generation writers, too.

 15 Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer
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Famous As: Singer, Street artist, Composer, Pianist, Musician, Playwright, Blogger, Songwriter
Birthdate: April 30, 1976
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City

 16 Lewis Black

Lewis Black
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Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

 17 Neil Simon

Neil Simon
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Famous As: Playwright & Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York
Died: August 26, 2018

 18 Marilyn vos Savant

Marilyn vos Savant
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Famous As: Columnist
Birthdate: August 11, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

 19 David Mamet

David Mamet
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Birthdate: November 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Author, screenwriter, and playwright David Mamet is best known for his Pulitzer-winning and Tony-nominated play Glengarry Glen Ross. He has written for many Broadway and off-Broadway plays and also for films such as House of Games. He has produced and written for the show The Unit and authored several books.

 20 Yolanda King

Yolanda King
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
Died: May 15, 2007

African American activist, Yolanda King, was the first-born child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Exposed to social justice activism at a young age, she grew up to be an outspoken supporter of civil rights and LGBTQA+ rights. She was also known for her artistic endeavors. She died of heart disease at 51. 

 21 Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 30, 1951
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, USA

 22 Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee
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Famous As: Entertainer
Birthdate: January 8, 1911
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
Died: April 26, 1970

 23 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: June 11, 2014

 24 Morgan Spurlock

Morgan Spurlock
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Film director, Journalist
Birthdate: November 7, 1970
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Parkersburg

 25 Matthew Cowles

Matthew Cowles
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Famous As: Television actor, Film actor, Stage actor
Birthdate: September 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: May 22, 2014

 26 Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: November 1, 1947
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA

 27 Patrisse Cullors

Patrisse Cullors
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Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: June 20, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 28 David Baldacci

David Baldacci
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Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Lawyer, Novelist, Author
Birthdate: August 5, 1960
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, U.S.

 29 Carrie Hamilton

Carrie Hamilton
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 5, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Died: January 20, 2002

 30 Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn
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Famous As: Playwright, Political scientist, Historian of the modern age, Historian, Writer, University teacher, Pacifist, Journalist
Birthdate: August 24, 1922
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn
Died: January 27, 2010

 31 Sidney Sheldon

Sidney Sheldon
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Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Film director, Actor, Television producer, Author
Birthdate: February 11, 1917
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 30, 2007

 32 Roxann Dawson

Roxann Dawson
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 11, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California

 33 Jim Beaver

Jim Beaver
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 12, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Laramie, Wyoming, USA

 34 Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris
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Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Journalist
Birthdate: April 11, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jackson

 35 Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lockport, New York, U.S.

 36 Colman Domingo

Colman Domingo
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 28, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

 37 Mike O'Malley

Mike O'Malley
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 31, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

 38 Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry
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Famous As: Writer, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Playwright, Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 12, 1965

 39 Elaine May

Elaine May
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Famous As: Actor, Film director, Screenwriter, Stage actor, Writer, Playwright
Birthdate: April 21, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 40 Matt Letscher

Matt Letscher
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Famous As: Stage actor, Film actor, Television actor
Birthdate: June 26, 1970
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Grosse Pointe

 41 William Goldman

William Goldman
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 12, 1931
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Highland Park, Illinois, USA
Died: November 16, 2018

 42 Eric Bogosian

Eric Bogosian
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 24, 1953
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Woburn, Massachusetts, USA

 43 Tovah Feldshuh

Tovah Feldshuh
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Famous As: Television actor, Film actor, Writer, Playwright, Stage actor
Birthdate: December 27, 1952
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City

 44 Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 25, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA

 45 Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith
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Famous As: Stage actor, Film actor, Television actor, Writer, Playwright, Actor, Screenwriter
Birthdate: September 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baltimore

 46 Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo
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Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Screenwriter, Novelist, Essayist, Journalist
Birthdate: November 20, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City

 47 Jonathan Larson

Jonathan Larson
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Famous As: Composer, Writer
Birthdate: February 4, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: White Plains
Died: January 25, 1996

 48 Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard
2
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 5, 1943
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Fort Sheridan, Illinois, United States
Died: July 27, 2017
Ten-time Obie Award-winning playwright, author, director, and actor Samuel Shepard had also won a Pulitzer Prize for the play Buried Child. He was also the drummer of the rock band The Holy Modal Rounders. Fans remember him for his Academy Award-nominated performance as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.

 49 John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 21, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas, USA

 50 Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher
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Birthdate: October 21, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Died: December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher was an American actress best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Some of her other films notable film wereShampoo, Soapdish, The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally and The Women. She had issues with bipolar disorder and drug addiction and spoke publicly about it. She died after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest while on a transatlantic flight.