When it comes to learning about playwrights, the average high school education is far from comprehensive. Most courses would simply introduce you to famous names like Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde and call it a day.
If that sounds a lot like your high school education, then there are probably plenty of important writers who you haven’t been exposed to. Ready to explore the rich world of dramatic theater writing? Here are 4 important playwrights you didn’t learn about in high school:
1. Alice Childress
Alice Childress was an African American playwright who was also an accomplished novelist and actor.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, and raised in Harlem, New York, Childress began her career as an actor in the 1940s. It was at Harlem’s American Negro Theatre where she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, “Florence.” The play is about a Black woman’s interaction with a white woman and how it changes her life.
She went on to write many plays and was praised for her realistic and human portrayals of African American life.
2. Dario Fo
While this influential playwright is famous in Italy, he’s little-known in the U.S. outside of theater circles.
Born in the 1920s, Dario Fo moved to Milan for college in the 1940s but left to join the army during World War II. Following the war, he returned to school to pursue an education in architecture. He quickly found that this course of study didn't interest him. It was then that he became involved in theater.
He went on to write over 80 plays, many of which he also directed. He was involved in music, costume design, and various other aspects of the performances. In 1997, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
3. Rabindranath Tagore
While many U.S. residents have never heard the name Rabindranath Tagore was an impressive fellow. During his lifetime in Bengal, he was a playwright, poet, and novelist of note. He was pen pals with Gandhi and won the Nobel Prize.
Tagore was born in 1861 in Calcutta. His father, Debendranath Tagore, was a philosopher who founded the Brahmoism.
Tagore began writing poetry at age eight. He wrote his first dramatic piece at age 20, and continued writing songs, plays, and poetry for the rest of his life. His lyrical writing and profound body of work earned him the title “the Bard of Bengal.”
In 1913, he was honored when he became the first non-European writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature.
4. Yukio Mishima
While his work probably wasn’t part of your high school English syllabus, Yukio Mishima (that’s a pen name, the artist’s real name was Hiraoka Kimitake) is considered one of Japan’s most important writers.
Born in the 1920s in Tokyo, he turned to intellectual pursuits after he was deemed physically unfit for military service during World War II.
He released his first novel to critical acclaim in the late 1940s. He then went on to write a variety of novels and plays, including works for both Noh and Kabuki theater. However, even while writing for traditional formats, his plays always featured twists and settings that made his work unique. His work also often drew on real life events, such as the burning of a famous temple located in Kyoto in "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion."
He ended his own life in the name of his beliefs, but many consider his writing to be his greatest legacy.