Best Female Playwrights
Ladies, it’s time we dedicated a whole article to how incredibly talented and driven you are! Here is a list of some of the BEST female playwrights of all time (in no particular order)! If you’re looking for great empowering scenes and monologues for women, for a new play to put on stage or just a couple new plays to read – you’ve come to the right place. All these women are wonderfully talented and unique, and you’ll likely enjoy any and all of the notable works mentioned.
“All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” – Virginia Woolf
List of Incredible Female Playwrights
Kae Tempest (England) (formerly Kate Tempest)
Notable works: Brand New Ancients, Wasted, Glasshouse, Hopelessly Devoted.
Nakkiah Lui (Australia)
Notable works: Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owners of Death, Kill the Messenger, Black is the New White, How to Rule the World.
Selected Awards: First recipient of the Dreaming Award, Inaugural recipient of the Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright Award, Malcolm Robertson Prize 2014, Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting (Black is the New White).
Alice Birch (England)
Notable works: We Want You To Watch, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again, Anatomy of a Suicide, Lady Macbeth (film).
Selected Awards: George Devine Award for Most Promising New Playwright (Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.), Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (Anatomy of a Suicide).
Annie Baker (America)
Notable Works: The Flick, The Aliens, John, Body Awareness, Circle Mirror Transformation.
Selected Awards: 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (The Flick)
Lucy Kirkwood (England)
Notable works: The Children, Chimerica, Mosquitoes, Women Power & Politics.
Selected Awards: Olivier Award for Best New Play (Chimerica); Tony Award for Best Play (The Children).
Sarah Ruhl (America)
Notable works: Eurydice, The Clean House, Passion Play, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play).
Selected Awards: Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and Pulitzer Prize Finalist (The Clean House); Helen Hayes Award (Dead Man’s Cellphone); Tony Award nomination for Best Play and Pulitzer Prize Finalist (In the Next Room (of The Vibrator Play)).
Lucy Prebble (England)
Notable Works: The Sugar Syndrome, The Effect, Enron.
Selected Awards: Olivier Award nomination for Best New Play (Enron), Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play (The Effect).
Kate Mulvany (Australia)
Notable works: Seed, The Harp in the South, Jasper Jones, Blood & Bone, Medea
Selected Awards: Helpmann Award for Best Play (Jasper Jones), Sydney Theatre Awards Best New Australian Work (The Harp in the South)
Lynn Nottage (America)
Notable works: Intimate Apparel, Ruined, By the way Meet Vera Stark, Sweat.
Selected Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Obie Award Best New American Play (Sweat); Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, Obie Award for Best New American Play, and Drama Critics Circle Award (Ruined).
debbie tucker green (England)
Notable works: born bad, random, dirty butterfly, ear for eye, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), generations, stoning mary, two women
Selected Awards: Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer (born bad), Best Single Drama BAFTA (random).
Patricia Cornelius (Australia)
Notable Works: Do Not Go Gentle, Slut, Love, Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?, Shit, The Call.
Selected Awards: 2005 Patrick White Playwrights Award, 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Award (Do Not Go Gentle…).
Laura Wade (England)
Notable works: Breathing Corpses, Posh, Home I’m Darling, Colder Than Here, Other Hands.
Selected Awards: Pearsons Playwrights Best Play Award (Breathing Corpses), Olivie Award Nomination (Breathing Corpses and Colder Than Here).
Sarah Kane (England)
Notable works: Blasted, Crave, 4.48 Psychosis, Cleansed.
”Once you have perceived that life is very cruel, the only response is to live with as much humanity, humor and freedom as you can” – Sarah Kane.
Theresa Rebeck (America)
Notable Works: Spike Heels, Bad Dates, Seminar.
Selected Awards: Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, 2012 Athena Film Festival Award for Excellence as a Playwright and Author of Films, Books, and Television
Suzan Lori-Parks (America)
Notable works: Topdog/Underdog, In the Blood, Fucking A, Venus, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World.
Selected Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Topdog/Underdog), Obie Award for Playwriting (Venus).
Joanna Murry Smith (Australia)
Notable Works: Honour, The Female of the Species, Switzerland, Songs for Nobodies.
Selected Awards: 2009 Nomination for the Olivier for Best New Comedy (The Female of the Species).
Yasmina Reza (France)
Notable Works: God of Carnage, ‘Art’.
Selected Awards: 1998 Tony for Best Play, 1998 Olivier Award for Best Comedy (‘Art’). 2008 Tony for Best Play, 2009 Olivier Award for Best Comedy (God of Carnage).
Caryl Churchill (England)
Notable works: Top Girls, Cloud 9, Love and Information, Seven Jewish Children, Vinegar Tom, Serious Money.
Selected Awards: Obie Award for Playwriting (Cloud Nine, Top Girls), Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (Fen, Serious Money) & runner-up (Top Girls), Obie Award for Best New Play (Serious Money), Lawrence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play (Serious Money), Obie Sustained Achievement Award, Inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Lorraine Hansberry (America)
Notable Works: A Raisin in the Sun, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, Les Blancs.
Selected Awards: 1959 Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play
“Though it is a thrilling and marvellous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic — to be young, gifted and black.” – Lorraine Hansberry.
Sophie Treadwell (America)
Notable Works: Machinal, Highway.
“I’ll not submit any more—I’ll not submit—I’ll not submit” – Machinal.
Aphra Behn (England)
Notable Works: The Rover, The Rover pt 2, The Dutch Lover, The Emperor of the Moon.
Wow – what a line up! There you have it, a list of the best female playwrights throughout history, from Aphra Behn to Lorraine Hansberry. We encourage you to check out these incredible writers and their works! Missing anyone? Comment below, we’ll add them to the list!
If you’re looking to work on monologues or scene work on a regular basis, you can join us in our online scene club – we provide the material and a due date, you shoot and submit it for personalised video feedback from the lovely StageMilk coaches. For more info, head here.
I’d like to add Susan Cinoman
Wow. You published a list of the top 10 American Playwrights six years ago that did not include a single female playwright. So now you think you are making up for that with a list of 21 female playwrights from across the English-speaking world. How about just making your original list inclusive? There is no shortage of accomplished and successful American women and POC playwrights. There is no shortage of accomplished and successful female playwrights from around the world, and not just the English-speaking world. I’m thinking your writer’s room could probably use a few new perspectives and new faces, that would be a good place to start.