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 Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller
8
Famous As: Playwright, Essayist
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.

 2 Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams
5
Famous As: 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
 

 3 Tracy Letts

Tracy Letts
5
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.

 4 Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda
4
Famous As: Actor, Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 16, 1980
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
The multiple award winning actor, composer, lyricist, singer and playwright, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has transformed Broadway musicals like never before by combining classic musical theatre with modern musical forms like hip-hop and salsa. His creation Hamilton, a hip-hop musical on Alexander Hamilton, is one of the biggest musicals of all time.

 5 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.

 6 Jesse Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 5, 1983
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States
Jesse Eisenberg amazed audiences with his Academy Award-nominated performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. He began his stint on TV at 16, with Get Real. He has also been part of Rodger Dodger, Adventureland, and Now You See Me. He has written three plays and a short-story collection.

 7 Eugene O'Neill

Eugene O'Neill
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: October 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Longacre Square, New York, United States
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.

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 8 Neil Simon

Neil Simon
5
Famous As: Playwright & Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York
Died: August 26, 2018

 9 Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 11, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: April 11, 2007

Science-fiction author Kurt Vonnegut is best remembered for the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, which became a New York Times bestseller. The Hugo Award-winner had also fought against the Germans in World War II and expressed his anti-war and atheist views through his works, which also include short stories, plays, and autobiographical works.  

 10 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 1, 1901
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Joplin, Missouri, United States
Died: May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes is best remembered as a prominent leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first to write jazz poetry. He also wrote plays and short stories. He was a columnist for The Chicago Defender and wrote the iconic poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

 11 David Mamet

David Mamet
5
Famous As: Playwright
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.

 12 Leslie Jordan

Leslie Jordan
5
Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: April 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chattanooga

 13 August Wilson

August Wilson
5
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: October 2, 2005
August Wilson, also known as "theater's poet of black America,” was a renowned playwright. He is best remembered for The Pittsburgh Cycle, his series of 10 plays that focused on the 20th-century African-American community. Two of his plays, Fences and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, were turned into movies.

 14 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.

 15 Mae West

Mae West
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 17, 1893
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: November 22, 1980
Mae West began her career as a child actor in vaudeville. She later appeared in films such as You Done Me Wrong and Go West, Young Man. She became famous for her signature double entendres and sexual liberty she projected on screen. She also wrote books and plays later.

 16 Ernie Hudson

Ernie Hudson
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

 17 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot
5
Famous As: Prominent English Language Poet of 20th Century
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: January 4, 1965
American-born British poet T. S. Eliot is best remembered for his poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday, and his plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for literature and became a prominent figure of Modernist poetry.  

 18 Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron
4
Famous As: Screenwriter, Producer, Director
Birthdate: May 19, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
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.

 19 Lewis Black

Lewis Black
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

 20 Robby Benson

Robby Benson
4
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.

 21 Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer
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Famous As: Novelist, Journalist and Screen Writer
Birthdate: January 31, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Long Branch, New Jersey, United States
Died: November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer was an American journalist, novelist, essayist, filmmaker, actor, and playwright. A prolific writer, Mailer had at least one best-selling book in each of the seven decades post Second World War. Overall, he had 11 best-selling books in a career spanning over 60 years. A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Mailer is regarded as an innovator of New Journalism.

 22 Yolanda King

Yolanda King
4
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. 

 23 Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 9, 1961
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States

Aaron Sorkin is an American filmmaker, playwright, and screenwriter. He won the Academy Award for writing the popular film The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin is credited with popularizing his trademark extended monologues and fast-paced dialogue in films. He is also known for using single tracking shots of long duration where multiple characters enter and exit the conversation.

 24 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: June 11, 2014

 25 Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee
4
Famous As: Entertainer
Birthdate: January 8, 1911
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
Died: April 26, 1970

Gypsy Rose Lee was an American vedette and burlesque entertainer best remembered for her striptease act. She was also an actress, playwright, and author whose memoir inspired the 1959 stage musical, Gypsy. Lee's life inspired several works of art, including a song titled Gypsy Rose Lee by The Distillers. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 26 Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner
5
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter, Writer, Music educator
Birthdate: July 16, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City

 27 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

Lorraine Hansberry was a writer and playwright best remembered for her play A Raisin in the Sun which emphasizes the plight of African-Americans living under racial segregation. At the age of 29, Lorraine Hansberry received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, becoming the youngest playwright and the first African-American dramatist to win the prestigious award.

 28 Roxann Dawson

Roxann Dawson
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 11, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California

 29 Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lockport, New York, United States

 30 Jim Beaver

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

 31 Jonathan Larson

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

 32 Carrie Hamilton

Carrie Hamilton
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 5, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Died: January 20, 2002

 33 Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman
4
Famous As: Dramatist and Screenwriter
Birthdate: June 20, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: June 30, 1984

 34 Matthew Cowles

Matthew Cowles
4
Famous As: Television actor, Film actor, Stage actor
Birthdate: September 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: May 22, 2014

 35 Colman Domingo

Colman Domingo
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 28, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

 36 Sidney Sheldon

Sidney Sheldon
4
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

 37 Patrisse Cullors

Patrisse Cullors
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: June 20, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 38 Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers
4
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: June 28, 1902
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arverne, New York, United States
Died: December 30, 1979

 39 Elaine May

Elaine May
4
Famous As: Actor, Film director, Screenwriter, Writer, Playwright
Birthdate: April 21, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

 40 Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer
4
Famous As: Singer, Street artist, Composer, Pianist, Musician, Playwright, Blogger, Songwriter
Birthdate: April 30, 1976
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City

 41 Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 17, 1897
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Died: December 7, 1975

 42 Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris
4
Famous As: Writer, Screenwriter, Novelist, Playwright, Journalist
Birthdate: April 11, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jackson

 43 William Goldman

William Goldman
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 12, 1931
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Highland Park, Illinois, USA
Died: November 16, 2018

 44 Mike O'Malley

Mike O'Malley
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 31, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

 45 Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 30, 1951
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, USA

 46 Edward Albee

Edward Albee
4
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: March 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Virginia, United States
Died: September 16, 2016

 47 Tovah Feldshuh

Tovah Feldshuh
4
Famous As: Television actor, Film actor, Writer, Playwright, Stage actor
Birthdate: December 27, 1952
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City

 48 John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 21, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas, USA

 49 Ron Palillo

Ron Palillo
4
Famous As: Actor, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: April 2, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New Haven
Died: August 14, 2012

 50 Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn
4
Famous As: Historian, playwright, philosopher, socialist thinker
Birthdate: August 24, 1922
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: January 27, 2010

Born into a Jewish working-class, immigrant family in Brooklyn, Howard Zinn was initially dragged into communism. He was part of the U.S. Army during World War II and later established himself as a historian. Of his many books, the most popular has been A People's History of the United States.