Non-Western plays, plays by Black, Indigenous, people of color, by women and by queer writers from before 1945.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Donate to These Organizations!
  3. Listing of Plays
  1. Armenia
  2. Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Bolivia
  6. Brazil
  7. Canada
  8. China
  9. Cote D’Ivoire
  10. Cuba
  11. Denmark
  12. Egypt
  13. Ethiopia
  14. Finland
  15. France
  16. Germany
  17. Ghana
  18. Guatemala
  19. Haiti
  20. Hawaii
  21. India
  22. Indonesia
  23. Iran
  24. Ireland
  25. Italy
  26. Japan
  27. K’ich’e People
  28. Korea
  29. Mexico
  30. Nahua People
  31. Nicaragua
  32. Nigeria
  33. Peru
  34. Philippines
  35. Poland
  36. Quechua/Kichwa People
  37. Romania
  38. Russia
  39. Senegal
  40. South Africa
  41. Spain
  42. Sri Lanka
  43. Sweden
  44. Turkey
  45. UK
  46. Ukraine
  47. Uruguay
  48. USA
  49. Yiddish Theater

  1. Further Reading: Anthologies and Anthologists
  2. Further Reading: Secondary Sources on Non-Literary Traditions
  3. Further Reading: Plays After 1945
  4. Contributors - Please add your name here if you contribute and would like to be credited!
  5. Acknowledgments & Shared Lineage
  6. Source Wish List


The genesis of this idea emerged in 2016 from an anonymous, ad-hoc feminist collective inspired by Guerrilla Girls (Preying Womantis). At first, the list was intended to be representative, not exhaustive. Since then, the list has steadily expanded, as more and more material came to light and our list of collaborators grew and grew.

The goal of the list in its current form is twofold: 1) to create a list of plays for living theater artists to read, discuss, adapt, and produce, and 2) to provide scholars and teachers with plays that will introduce new perspectives into theater history research, syllabuses, and curricula. We’re explicitly not looking to create a new canon of texts upheld as the highest order of The Dramatic Imagination, but rather to study and value writers and texts that traditional theater history would rather sweep aside. We’ve all heard the tired fictions that prop up all-white, all-male theater history syllabuses and seasons (“We’d love to do a classical work by a Black writer, but there just aren’t any!” “We’ve got to teach Strindberg–how else will our students learn about Symbolism?” “I don’t know where to find any plays by Indigenous playwrights!” “We already have a Japanese play in our theater history survey course.”). Hopefully, this list will help blast these lazy, ignorant excuses into oblivion.

The plays are organized in a rough chronology within each country or culture of origin, which are in turn listed alphabetically. Generally, playtexts that are in the public domain have a link; if you’re interested in reading something on this list that doesn’t have a link attached to it, please post an inquiry; someone in our community should be able to help you track down a copy!

The list skews heavily towards Europe, the US, and other Western states–the consequence of survival bias and colonial erasure. Within these countries, many works, such as The Drama of King Shotaway and other original scripts performed at the African Grove Theatre, didn’t survive because a racist society wasn’t looking out for their preservation. Many cultures have rich, powerful traditions of live performance, narrative dance, poetry, and collaborative storytelling that have never been recorded on paper in a script. The guiding principle is to meet these limitations as best as possible , include as many titles as possible, and incorporate an appendix of secondary resources on non-literary performance traditions.

Furthermore, many of these plays are records of the violent social structures and prejudices of their times. Plays by white women in imperialist-settler societies, like Susanna Rowson in the US or Olympe de Gouges in France often feature racist characters and tropes, while the Nō and Sanskrit theaters are elite traditions that often erase or elide the experience of the lower classes. They should be taught and understood carefully and in context.

Because no list is perfect or complete, there are numerous gaps here that need to be filled—including, among others, modern China, Japan, India and Mexico, Korea, Latin America, eastern and southern Europe, Africa, southeast Asia, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Oceania, and Indigenous cultures around the world. There are very few queer playwrights listed here, because of the persistence of historical homophobia and transphobia. Only two playwrights listed here (Teresa Deevy and Juan Ruiz de Alarcón) had documented disabilities.

So please help if you like and as you are able, by contributing edits, additions, captions, corrections, concerns, thoughts and questions as comments to this document and introduction. Hopefully, we can build a non-hierarchical, open-source community for dialogue and play that expands our collective scope of what dramatic texts are available for performance and study.

It should go without saying that hate speech of any form won’t be tolerated.

Thanks for reading. Let’s write better, more complete, and more inclusive theater histories together.

-The Alternative Canon Community


Many scholars, archivists, critics, and historians have spent far more time than I have assembling, translating, and writing about these plays. They, and other organizations working to empower and build solidarity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and female playwrights and theatermakers, deserve your attention and dollars. If this canon has helped you somehow, and you feel in a position to do so (especially if you’re the beneficiary of systemic bias in theater and in life), please check them out, support their work, and give generously.

Black Theatre Network:

Latinx Theatre Commons:

Consortium of Asian-American Theaters and Artists:

Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (Canada):

Arts Administrators of Color Network:

The Kilroys:

The International Center for Women Playwrights:

Women of Color in the Arts:

First Peoples’ Fund:

BIPOC List of Demands for the White American Theater:


Levon Shant, Ancient Gods (1908)

Symbolic drama of inner dreams and desires, lofty stubborn idealism and stormy, soul-searching upheaval.

Hagop Baronian, Honorable Beggars (1880)

Satire about greed and human vanity.


José Podesta, Juan Moreira (1886)

High melodrama and true crime--with gauchos! Sometimes performed in circuses! What’s not to love??? 1920 Translation by Jacob S. Fassett 

Armando Discépolo, Mustafa (1921) Babilonia (Babylon, 1925)

A prolific Argentine playwright credited with developing that country’s version of the aesthetic known as the “Creole Grotesque.” These plays deal with Argentina’s urban migrant poor.

Alfonsina Storni, Polyxena y la cocinerita (Polyxena and the Little Cook, 1932) Cimbelina en 1900 y pico (Cymbeline in 1900 and a Bit, 1932)
Storni dubbed these two plays her “Pyrotechnic Farces”; they are revisions of classic works inspired by the Spanish avant-garde. Storni was also a prolific writer of children’s theater.


An excellent source for pre-1945 Australian works is

Edith Susan Gerard Anderson (?)

Katherine Susannah Pritchard, Brumby Innes (1927)

Written in the 1920s by a white Australian, Brumby Innes is one of the first plays to portray Aboriginal Australians onstage, well before a play by an Aboriginal author ever found success in Australia (that would be Kevin Gilbert’s The Cherry Pickers, in 1968).

Henrietta Drake-Brockman, Men Without Wives (1938)

Betty Roland, A Touch of Silk (1928)


Mirza Fath’ali Akhundzadeh/Akhundov

Sakina Akhundzadeh


Anonymous, The End of Atau Wallpa (c. 1535 - 1555)


José de Anchieta, Na Festa de São Lourenço (Play for the Feast of Saint Laurence); Auto de Santa Ursulá, Play for the Reception of Provincial Superior Marçal Beliarte (1550-1600)

Anchieta was a Jesuit priest who wrote instructional pageants in both Portuguese and Tupi to be performed by his congregants, colonial settlers and natives alike. These plays resemble medieval pageant festivities and autos sacramentales, providing an example of Jesuit educational drama used as colonial indoctrination in the New World.

Luis Carlos Martins Pena, The Jealous Officer, or The Fearsome Slave Catcher (1845)

A nineteenth-century melodrama—or perhaps a parody of a nineteenth-century melodrama (!) (?)

Gonçalves de Magalhaes,

Gonçalves Dias,  [b]

Machado de Assis, Hoje Avental, Amanhã Luva (1860), Desencantos (1861), O Caminho da Porta (1863) O Protocolo (1863) Quase Ministro (1864) As Forcas Caudinas (1865/1956) Os Deuses de Casaca (1866) Tu, só tu, puro amor (1880) Não Consultes Médico (1896) Lição de Botânica (1906)

Júlia Lopes de Almeida, A Herança (The Heritage, 1908) [no English trans.]

Oswald de Andrade, O Homem e o Cavalo (The Man and the Horse, 1933) and O Rei da Vela (The Candle King, 1933)

De Andrade was a modernist poet and radical in dialogue with the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century; he penned the Cannibalist Manifesto, a Brazilian response to the manifestoes of the Futurists, the Dadas, and the Surrealists.

Nelson Rodrigues, The Wedding Gown (1943)


Li Xingdao, The Circle of Chalk (c. 1264-1294)

A zaju, or Northern Chinese-style “crime and punishment” play. The story formed the basis for Klabund’s Chalk Circle and then Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, so a comparison of the three texts could be really fruitful.

Guan Hanqing, Moving Heaven and Shaking Earth: The Injustice Done to Dou E (c.1300)

Another famous zaju play.

Ji Junxiang (?), The Orphan of Zhao (c.1300) This play, along with The Circle of Chalk, became one of the most well-known Chinese plays in the West in the early twentieth century. It’s been (misguidedly) labelled “the Chinese Hamlet,” because its plot deals in revenge.

Zhu Youdun, A Leopard Monk Returns to the Laity of His Own Accord (1433)

Tang Xianzu, The Peony Pavilion (1598)

Cao Yu[c], Thunderstorm (1935), Sunrise, and Wilderness (1937)

A play at the intersection of Chinese and Western traditions; Thunderstorm is a modern psychological drama that was enormously popular at the time of its premiere, and remains so to this day. 1978 Translation of Thunderstorm by Wang Tso-Liang & A.C. Barnes[d]

Cote D’Ivoire:

Bernard Dadié,

Germain Coffi Gadeau,


Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, Baltasar (1858) [no English trans. available]

Gonzalo Roig, Cecilia Valdés (1932) [No English trans. available]

A zarzuela, or musical comedy in the Spanish tradition, based on a 19th-century Cuban novel. The plot deals with slavery, colorism, and race relations, so it’s relatively forward-thinking compared to American musicals of the time. A comparison with Show Boat, which premiered five years earlier, would be fruitful.


Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), The Revenge of Truth

Dinesen’s marionette play would be a great study in comparison to Lorca, Tieck, Efimova & other modernists interested in puppets and metatheater.

Jorge Icaza Coronel,


Ibn Daniyal, The Shadow Spirit, The Amazing Preacher and the Stranger, The Love-Stricken One and the Lost One Who Inspires Passion (c. 1270-1300)

Be prepared to clutch your pearls; these plays are lewd, filthy, pervy medieval comedy with a lot of heart[e][f].

Tawfiq Al-Hakim, The People of the Cave (1933), Sheherezad (1934)

Al-Hakim is Egypt’s most celebrated playwright of the twentieth century.


Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariyam, Fabula: Yawreoch Commedia (The Comedy of Animals, 1916-1921?)

So fascinating: a collection of animal fables, some of which are satirical/allegorical (the rats create a democracy!). Written, apparently, for an audience of one: the tyrannical regent Lij Iyasu. When Queen Zauditu read it, however, she saw a satire of the government, and banned all Western-style theatre in Ethiopia until she died in 1930.

Yoftahe Negussie

Malaku Baggosaw, Talaku Dagna (The Great Judge, 1934)


Hagar Olsson, S.O.S. (1928), Det Blå Undret (The Blue Wonder, 1932) and Lumisota (1939)
These plays, the first two of which are written in Swedish, are examples of the early twentieth-century Scandinavian avant-garde. Olsson was interested in the social questions raised by Expressionist dramas, and puts them onstage in these plays.


Olympe de Gouges, Zamore and Mirza (1788)

De Gouges was an ardent political activist and radical French feminist who lost her head during the Reign of Terror for being *too* lefty. For an avowedly abolitionist play, the racial politics here are decidedly 18th-century—French imperialists are let off the hook for slavery, while the blame is placed on individual East Asian “overseers” of enslaved Africans.

George Sand, Gabriel (1839)

Madame Rachilde, The Crystal Spider (1892), Madame la Mort (1892)

The Crystal Spider is a small but very spooky Symbolist drama, and would make a great addition to any course in European modernism or the avant-garde. Madame la Mort & Other Plays translated & edited by Kiki Gounaridou and Frazer Lively (1998)

André Gide, Saül: Le roi Candaule (1904)


Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Dulcitius, Callimachus, and Pafnutius (Late 10th cen.)

Hroswitha’s plays are most frequently strange, grotesque, and comic dramatizations of female chastity as a Christian virtue. The Plays of Roswitha translated by Christopher St. John (1923)

Hildegard von Bingen, Ordo Virtutum (c.1150)

A rad mystic visionary play from a rad medieval mystic visionary.

Luise Adelgunde Gottsched, The Testament (1745?) [No English trans.]

Charlotte von Stein, Neue Freiheits-System (A New System of Freedom, 1799)

A satire on neo-Platonism and nineteenth-century German manners involving a kidnapping gone wrong, commedia tropes and characters, and lots and lots of cross-dressing.

Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer, Die Grille (The Cricket, 1856) [No English trans.]

Based on a novel by George Sand, who is also on this list--see France.

Elsa Bernstein (writing as Ernst Rosmer), Wir Drei (We Three, 1892), Dämmerung (Twilight, 1893), Königskinder (King’s Children, 1895)

Else Lasker-Schϋler, Die Wupper (Dark River, 1909), Arthur Aronymus (1936) and Ich und Ich (I and I, 1939-1945)

Lasker-Schϋler was one of the leading members of the German avant-garde and a champion of Expressionism in drama and poetry. Highly regarded in Bohemian circles in Weimar Germany, she fled into exile after the Nazis rose to power.


Kobina Sekyi, The Blinkards (1915)

Sekyi, called “the Shaw of West Africa” by his friends, wrote this play, a satire on growing Europeanism and Anglicization in Ghana, in English and Fante.


Miguel Ángel Asturias, Soluna (1955)

Asturias, a Nobel Prize winner, writes here of the consequences of Westerners messing around with Mayan culture. Teatro: Chantaje, Dique Seco, Soluna, & La Audiencia de los Confines plays by Miguel Ángel Asturias (1964)[g]


Juste Chanlatte, Comte de Rosiers, L’Entrée du Roi en sa Capitale, en Janvier 1818 (1818), Néhri (1819), and La Partie de Chasse du Roi: Opéra en Trois Actes I (1820)
The team over at has done a fabulous job translating, researching, and contextualizing Néhri.[1] Read even more of their great writing contextualizing Haitian drama and material literary objects here.

Alibée Féry,

Jean-Baptiste Romane, Le Morte de Christophe (

Pierre Faubert, Ogé ou le Préjugé de Couleur (1856)
Erin Zavitz has a
study guide on this play, which treats the Haitian Revolution and deals with color prejudice.

Massillon Coicou, L’Empereur Dessalines (1906)

Quechua/Kichwa People:

Anonymous, Ollantay (1470-1770)

Ollantay was certainly written before 1770, but beyond that there seems to be a lot of debate about when exactly it was written. English-speakers may be forced to rely on this translation, which is in a kind of florid early-1900s Fakespeare.


Classical Sanskrit Drama:

Bhasa, Urubangham (The Shattered Thigh)

This play is interesting because it treats Duryodhana, a villain in the Mahabarata, in a sympathetic light.

Sudraka, Mṛcchakaṭika (The Little Clay Cart; Date Unknown, before 5th century CE)

This play’s a lot of fun. Unusually for a Sanskrit drama, it follows numerous virtuous commoner characters in urban settings and plenty of high-octane antics. 1905 Translation by Arthur Ryder

Kalidasa, The Recognition of Sakuntala

Easily the most famous of all Sanskrit plays, picked up by Goethe and nineteenth-century Orientalists as an example of “Eastern genius,” on par with Shakespeare and the greats of Western poetry. [h][i][j][k] 2006 Translation by Somadeva Vasudeva

Vishkadatta, Mudrarakshasa (The Rakshasa’s Ring, c.300 CE - 600 CE)

Political intrigues: another unusual theme for Sanskrit drama. 1923 Translation by K.H. Dhruva; 1944 Translation by Ranjit Sitaram Pandit; 2005 Translation by Michael Coulson 

King Mahendravikramavarma, Bhagavad-Ajjukam (The Saint-Courtesan, c. 600-700 CE)

A farce about a holy man and a courtesan switching bodies--the original Freaky Friday!

Bhavabutti, Rama’s Last Act (c. 733?)

2007 Translation by Sheldon Pollock

Krishna-Mishra, Prabodhacandrodaya (The Rise of Wisdom Moon, c.1050)

Featuring characters like Intelligence, King Intuition, Patience, Lust, Egoismo, and Miss Conception, this is a great example of allegory outside of the western tradition. Matthew Kapstein’s translation for the Clay Sanskrit Library is also fun and colloquial.

Modern Indian Drama

Rabindranath Tagore, The Post Office (1913), The King of the Dark Chamber (1914), Red Oleanders (1924)[l]

Tagore’s plays have much in common with Symbolist drama. They’re frequently allegories for a person’s inner life, featuring minimal staging and the use of sensory deprivation via darkness or an onstage scrim. Tagore, however, is perhaps more explicitly invested in questions of social and political justice than his European Symbolist counterparts, as is evident in Red Oleanders. 1914 Translation of The Post Office by Devabrata Mukertea; 1914 Translation of The King of the Dark Chamber by Tagore

Swarnakumari Devi,Rashid Jahan, Behind the Curtain [English Translation] and Woman
Jahan was a radical feminist, communist, gynecologist, and Urdu-language writer. As this review of her collected writings demonstrates, these plays deal with the intersection of the patriarchy and women’s health.

Bharati Sarabhai, The Well of the People (1943)
One of the most successful English-language plays by an Indian woman before 1945, The Well of the People is a poetic allegory with themes drawn from Gandhian ideology and “the worship of the poor as God.” See the video here for a full lesson module on this play.


Kwee Tek Hoay, Allah jang Palsoe (The False God, 1919) [no English trans. available]

Rustam Effendi, Bebasari (192?)

Armijn Pané, A Portrait of the Times (1937)
This play deals with a lot of different facets of modern life in Jakarta during the ‘30s: materialism, unemployment and the Great Depression, feminism and womens’ education, the conflict between elders and children. Formally, some interesting modernist elements here--the characters seem self-aware that they see themselves reflected in another play of Pané’s, while Suparman’s long monologues poetically deal with the sense of alienation from self and society that defines many modernist movements.


Mirza Aqa Tabrizi, The Story of Ashraf Khan (c. 1870)

Although it’s explicitly a play about political corruption, Tabrizi’s drama contains many fantastical elements, including a scene where Ashraf Khan is tormented by snakes in the middle of a dream. Tabrizi was less familiar than Akhundzadeh with Western theater models, and thus less constrained by them.

Hasan Moqaddam, Ja’far Khan az Farang Amadeh (Ja’far Khan Has Returned from Europe, 1922)

A short comedy satirizing European manners from an Iranian perspective, and “one of the most influential plays in the history of the theatre of Iran”[2]

Sa’id Nafisi, Akherin Yadegare Nader Shah (The Last Memento of Nader Shah, 1926/7)

Nafisi’s comedy is a satire of the Reza Shah Pahlavi regime, its nostalgia for a glorious past, and its attendant militarism.


Susanna Centlivre, A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1718)

Lady Augusta Gregory, The Rising of the Moon (1903), The Image (1909), The Deliverer (1911), Aristotle’s Bellows (1920)

Gregory’s often pigeonholed as a writer of nationalist satire, propaganda, and light comedy and regarded as a lesser dramatist than her sometime collaborator Yeats. Yet: Complicated, formally experimental plays and tragicomedies like The Image and The Deliverer demand a richer, more subtle interpretation of her career.

Teresa Deevy, King of Spain’s Daughter (1935), Katie Roche (1936), Wife to James Whelan (1937)

Deevy was a prolific playwright in the generation just after Yeats and Gregory, and one of very few Deaf playwrights on record from this time period.


Terence, Andria (The Girl from Andros, 166 BCE), Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law, 165 BCE), Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor, 163 BCE), Phormio (161 BC), Eunuchus (161 BCE), Adelphoe (The Brothers) (160 BCE)
Brought to Rome as a slave, Terence, a North African, was hugely influential in the Roman world but also in the medieval period and early modern Europe, influencing playwrights like Hroswitha and Shakespeare. 1896 Translation of The Comedies of Terence by Henry Thomas Riley

Angeliki Palli

Giuletta Pezzi, Carlo Sand (1848)

Antonia Tanini Pulci

Maria Antonia Scallera Stellini

Annie Vivanti

Isabella Andreini, La Mirtilla (1588), a pastoral comedyMina della Pergola, Fidelity (1917)

A weird Futurist sintesi about gender politics, and, so far as I can find, the only Italian Futurist theatre piece written by a woman. Can be found in Futurism: An Anthology (Yale University Press, 2009)


Zeami Motokiyu, Atsumori, Izutsu (The Well-Cradle), Hagoromo, Sekidera Komachi, Matsukaze, Yamamba

The first five here are a few of the most well-known and most representative plays of the Nō canon, and Yamamba is the only play among the most famous Nō repertoire where both the waki and shite characters are women. It’s also an interesting meditation on the interplay between representation and reality.

Kanze Kojiro Nobumitsu, Ataka (The Barrier), Funa Benkei (Benkei Aboard Boat)

Nobumitsu’s Nō plays tend to be more exciting and more recognizably “stageworthy” to Westerners than Zeami’s.

Ichikawa Danjuro I, Shibaraku! (Just a minute!)

The quintessential example of the aggressively masculine aragoto style of kabuki.

Tsuuchi Jihei II, Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura (Sukeroku: Flower of Edo, 1713)

One of the best-known and best beloved retellings of the Soga Brothers story, a recurring myth in traditional Japanese drama. It’s also really exciting and funny, a vivid snapshot of the bustling, commercial hub of Edo and the people who lived and worked there.

Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Kokusen’ya Kassen (The Battles of Coxinga, 1715), Shinju Ten no Amijima (The Love-Suicides at Amijima, 1721), Onnagoroshi Abura no Jigoku (Woman-Killer and the Hell of Oil, 1721)

Chikamatsu’s plays span diverse genres; Coxinga is an epic history, the Love Suicides are intimate plays of erotic desire and death, and plays like Woman-Killer are tales of debauchery and violence ripped straight from the headlines.

Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu translated by Donald Keene (1964)

Takeda Izumo et al., Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, 1748)

The legend of the 47 ronin is an important source text in traditional Japanese drama.. This is the most famous retelling, a sprawling all-day affair filled with vengeance, honor, and intrigue.

1876 Translation by Hoffman Atkinson

1917 Translation by Jukichi Inouye

Nanboku, Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (Ghost Stories at the Yotsuya and Tokaido, 1825)

Murdered babies, poisoned wives, corpses floating on doors, and a ghost coming out of a lamp; this may be the spookiest play...ever? A dark subplot of the heroic Chushingura narrative, a great example of 19th-century kabuki’s “aesthetic of cruelty” (zankoku no bi) and one of the foundational stories in Japanese horror. Compare to Jacobean revenge tragedy or Grand Guignol for a spine-tingling study in stage gore.

Segawa Joko III, Sakura Giminden (The Tale of the Martyr of Sakura, 1851)

The tale of the Martyr was the subject of numerous folk legends and pageants and is intertwined with the history of the nineteenth century peasant rebellions in Japan.

Kawatake Mokuami, Benten Kozo (Benten the Thief, 1862), Onna Shosei Shigeru (The Woman Student, 1877)

In these two plays, Kawatake self-consciously manipulates kabuki’s gender-bending performance traditions: the thief Benten dresses up as a classy lady to swindle a merchant, and the main character in The Woman Student is a girl disguising herself as a boy to attend school.

Hasegawa Shigure, Chōji midare (Wavering Traces, 1911)

A modern play that uses the form of Kabuki to make something completely new.

Akita Ujaku, The Skeletons’ Dance (1926)

A short, Expressionist play from the 1920s that rages against anti-Korean prejudice and xenophobia.

Murayama Tomoyoshi, Boryokudan ki (Chronicle of a Gang of Thugs, 1929)
This play is an example of an epic proletarian drama in dialogue with Piscator and Brecht.

Sakae Kubo, Land of Volcanic Ash, 1937
One of the most famous social-realist plays of the pre-war period in Japan.

K’iche’ People:

Anonymous, Rabinal Achí, (c.1400-1490)

Ritual drama from the pre-Columbian period.


Kim U-Jin, Nanp’a (Shipwreck, 1926), Sandoeji (The Wild Boar, 1926)

Sometimes Anglicized as Kim Woo-jin, Kim’s plays haven’t been translated into English, but he was an innovator in Expressionist playwriting in Korea. An anthologized version (I think?) can be found here.

Yu Ch’ijin, T’omak (The Hut / The Earthen Hut / The Shack, 1932/33)


Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Los empeños de una casa[o][p] (The House of Trials, 1683), Divine Narcissus and its loa (1689), , Amor es el más laberinto (Love is the Greatest Labyrinth, 1689)

Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, [Project Gutenberg]

Anonymous, likely Pedro Bautista Pino, Los Comanches (Date unknown, late 18th cen.?)

A short pageant play depicting the confrontation between the Spanish colonial military and Cuerno Verde, a Comanche leader.

Rodolfo Usigli,

Celestino Gorostiza,

Francisco Monterde,

Xavier Villarutia, Parece mentira and En que piensas? (It Seems Untrue and What are you Thinking About?, 1943)

Villarutia was a Mexican modernist poet and playwright; these experimental plays were first published in the collection autos profanos.

Nahua People

Anonymous Catholic authors, Final Judgment (c.1535), The Three Kings (c.1678), The Tepaltzingo Passion Play (c.1590)

Categorizing these plays under “Aztec Culture” and not, say, “Mexico,” follows scholar Louise Burkhart, who writes “despite its Roman Catholic models, Nahuatl theater belonged to the Native people who...learned to stage the plays as part of their communal religious life, and who passed the script from generation to generation.”

Don Bartolomé de Alva, The Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide (1640)

Alva was descended from Aztec nobility on his mother’s side. I haven’t read it, but “The Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide” is one badass title.


Anonymous, Güegüence[q] (16th century)


Idoma people, The Ogwu Inquest, The Ẹnɔńcε Áákɔ Inquest and Ányɔpέ Ākātā’s Inquest

In Idoma culture, inquests are ritual funerary dramas that follow a poetic, “scripted” form. They are performed by a community when one member dies to inquire into the “social reason” for the death.

Yoruba People, texts on the Apidan tradition, the Gelede festival, and the Obatala ritual drama

Kacke Götrick’s writings and scholarship often deal with these topics; it may also worth taking a look at the short description that Hugh Clapperton gives in his synopsis of an apidan performance. (, page 55 of the document)


Felipe Pardo y Aliaga, Los Frutos de la Educación (The Fruits of Education, 1829) [No English trans.]

Manuel Ascencio Segura, Ña Catita (1856) and Las Tres Viudas (1862) [No English trans.][r]

Clorinda Matto de Turner, Hima-Sumac (1883, pub. 1892) [No English trans.]

Matto de Turner was a newspaper editor, novelist, activist, and translator. Of white settler ancestry, she learned Quechua, and her writings (like Hima-Sumac, a prose tragedy that casts Inca leader Tupac Amaru as “the illustrious victim of liberty”) often dramatize or romanticize the struggle of Indigenous people against Peruvian colonial rule, with all the good and bad that brings.


Juan Abad, Tanikalang Guinto, (The Golden Chain, 1902)

A sarswela featuring a love story that develops anti-imperialist and anti-American themes and features allegorical elements. It landed its author in jail after US authorities deemed it “seditious”.

Aurelio Tolentino, Bagong Cristo (1907)
In this play, Christ is a labor leader leading the peasantry.

Hemogenes Ilang and Leon Ignacio, Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden, 1917)

The most popular sarswela, the distinctly Filipino version of the Spanish / Latin American zarzuela musical comedy. Although there’s no printed script available, video can be found @ Yale libraries:

Julian Cruz Balmaseda, Sang Bunganga ng Pating (At the Mercy of Sharks, 1921)

A famous sarswela which involves social commentary on government aid and usurious moneylenders.


Tekla Teresa Łubieńska, Wanda, Charlemagne and Wedekind

Stanis∤awa Przybyszewska, The Danton Case & Thermidor[s]

Franciszka Arnsztajnowa, Widmo: Ballada w I akcie (The Spectre: A Ballad in One Act), Luxoniolo [t]

Zofia Na∤kowska, Dzień Jego Powrotu (The Day of His Return) Dom Kobiet (House of Women)[u]

Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska[v]

Eliza Orzszekowa

Gabriela Zapolska, The Morality of Mrs. Dulska (Moralność Pani Dulska)

Felicja Kruszewska, The Dream

Puerto Rico:

Luisa Capetillo, After Death (1913)


Zinaida Gippius, Sacred Blood (1901) and The Green Ring (1916)

Two different plays written at two very different times. Sacred Blood is a Symbolist play with mermaids and witches and that; The Green Ring, written just before the Revolution, is a realistic play of the young generation. Gippius is also a fun “live your modernism”-type figure, who wore mens’ clothes and traveled in the avant-gardiest of circles.

1916 Translation of The Green Ring by S.S. Koteliansky 

Elena Guro, The Beggar Harlequin (~1905-1912)

Guro was also a painter; she was right in the thick of the Russian avant-garde. This play reflects the modernist fascination with clowns, and can be compared to the Pierrot plays of Guro’s contemporaries.

Nina Simonovich-Efimova, Pensive Puppets (193?)

A ten-minute, two-character theatricalist puppet show in the tradition of Tieck.

Senegal & Francophone West Africa (THIS SECTION UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

Student plays from the École William Ponty
The École, founded in 1903, was designed to provide a European education to West Africans living under French colonial rule. Beginning in 1935, superintendent Charles Béart intended to launch a uniquely African dramatic tradition, “corresponding to the cultural situation of Africa in the 1930s.”[5] The politics of these “William-Ponty dramas” are thorny and complex--marked by the school’s colonial mission and European aesthetic imperialism (they’re written playtexts, after all) written by elite students representing many ethnic groups from around French West Africa.

South Africa: (Under construction)

Herbert Isaac Ernest Dhlomo, The Girl Who Killed to Save (1935), Cetshwayo (1936-1937)

The Girl Who Killed to Save, one of the first plays by a black South African, tells the story of Nongqawuse, a Xhosa prophet whose visions told her that white Europeans would leave South Africa if the Xhosa people destroyed their own cattle and crops.


Angela de Azevedo, El Muerto Disimulado [no English trans.]

Ana Caro Mallen de Soto, Valor, Agravio y Mujer [no English trans.][w][x], El Conde Partinuplés

Leonor de la Cueva y Silva, La Firmeza en la Ausencia [no English trans.]

Feliciana Enriquez de Guzman, Tragicomedia los jardines y campos sabeos [no English trans.]

Marla de Zayas y Sotomayor, La traición en la amistad  [Translated as A LIttle Betrayal Among Friends by Caridad Svich in Caridad Svich: The Spanish Golden Age Plays

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Los empeños de una casa and El divino Narciso

Maria Luisa Algarra,

Federico Garcia Lorca, The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the Garden (1928), Blood Wedding (1932), and The House of Bernarda Alba (1936)

Thanks to Wm. Bullion for advocating for Lorca here! Blood Wedding and Bernarda Alba are often recognized as classics, but Lorca also has a lot of early plays from the 1920s that demonstrate his enduring interest in the puppet theater, folk forms of poetry and song, and the duende. Lorca’s assassination is the subject of some mystery, but he was likely targeted for some combination of his homosexuality and his socialist politics.

Three Tragedies: Blood Wedding, Yerma, Bernard Alba by Lorca; translated by James Graham-Luján & Richard O’Connell (1955)

Sri Lanka:

*Sri Lanka did not win independence until 1948, which misses the cutoff for this project by three years. In the spirit of inclusion and representation that is the very foundation for this project, however, I argue for its inclusion, and propose the two of the seminal texts of the earliest playwright working in the Sinhala language. (It would seem very much outside of the spirit of this project to relegate all Sri Lankan performance to the “After 1945” section by dint of an arbitrary cutoff date.)

Ediriwira Sarachchandra, Maname (1956) and Sinhabahu (1961)

These two works of Sinhala dance-music-drama are looked to as the root of a Sri Lankan national drama. Featuring onstage musicians, onstage choruses, and a limited number of independent, named singer-dancers, these plays showcase a fascinating syncretic mixture of disparate cultural and theatrical traditions, including Sri Lankan ritual dance, classical Indian drama, and Western (Portuguese and English) musical and theatrical conventions. Their narratives, as Sarachchandra’s works tend to be, were drawn from the the Jātaka tales (the birth stories of Lord Buddha) and regional folk history.

As far as I know, they are untranslated, but performances are available on YouTube: Maname and Sinhabahu.


Anne Charlotte Leffler, Sanna kvinnor (True Women, 1883), En Räddande Engel (A Saving Angel, 1883), and Sanningens vägar (The Ways of Truth, 1892) 

True Women (my English translation here) is a realist “indignation play” in the style of Doll’s House, A Saving Angel is an “avant-garde one-act...which depicts in the form of a dance the unsettling effects of urban sexuality on a group of young women” and The Ways of Truth is a wild, weird, Symbolist (or proto-Symbolist) allegory play--my translation here.

Alfhild Agrell, Räddad (Saved, 1883) [no English trans.]

Agrell was an activist for women’s rights and campaigned against sexual double standards. This play is her response to (rebuttal to?) A Doll’s House; it’s formally and narratively similar.


Traditional Turkish theater:

Orta Oiunu tradition, The Sorcery

Orta Oiunu is similar to karagöz puppet theater and shares many of the same characters and situations. It’s often been compared to commedia dell’arte.

Meddah tradition, Hamal the Porter, The Seven Dull-Hearing Ones, The Quest of the Bride, A Dream of a Turk

Meddahs were solo performers; according to Talat Sait Halman, “the sit-down version of the American stand-up comic or the British music hall comedian.”

Karagöz puppet theater, A Picnic to Ialova, The Bloody Poplar

Karagöz is the name for Turkey’s shadow puppet tradition, named after the stock central character.

Modern Turkish drama:

İbrahim Şinasi, Şair Evlenmesi (The Poet’s Marriage, 1860)

Namik Kemal, Vatan Yahut Silistre (Fatherland or Silistria, 1873)

Nazim Hikmet, Kafatasi (The Skull, 1933); Unutulan Adam (Forgotten Man, 1935)\



Lady Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam, Fair Queen of Jewry (1602-1613)
The first English-language play written by a woman.

Lady Jane Cavendish and Lady Elizabeth Brackley (c. 1645)

An utter delight. Typical romantic comedy plot that is atypical in that the perspective of the women is centered throughout. (Please see the comment under “UK” above for more info!)

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, 1624-1674, The Convent of Pleasure[aa] (1668)

First published in Plays, never before printed, London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.
A “closet drama”, however, the play makes the distinction between stage drama and closet drama much less clear by highlighting the instability of all performing bodies, includes cross dressing, masquing, pastoral.

Aphra Behn, The Rover (Part 1: 1677, Part 2: 1681), The Feign’d Courtezans (1679), The Emperor of the Moon (1687), and The Widow Ranter (1689)
I get that The Rover is considered Behn’s masterpiece, but it has such a deeply problematic “comic” rape scene in it. The Feign’d Courtezans doesn’t have this problem, and its plot centers around two noblewomen who reclaim their sexual agency by posing as courtesans (it also includes a scene where a band of musicians gets hilariously caught up in a brawl). The Emperor of the Moon has elements of court masque and spectacle, and The Widow Ranter deals with Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia.

The works of Aphra Behn @ Project Gutenberg

Mary Griffith Pix,[ab] The Spanish Wives (1696)

Hannah More, The Search After Happiness (1762)

This is the earliest play that I found in which every single character is female. Also, it could be a good example of eighteenth-century pastoralism leveraged for educational purposes.

Isaac Bickerstaff (alt. Bickerstaffe), Love in a Village (1762), The Maid of the Mill (1765), The Padlock (1768), etc.

A remarkably prolific and popular librettist, Bickerstaff helped to change the course of English musical drama by advocating for original scores for his musical plays, not just recycled tunes, as was the fashion. In doing so, he found success collaborating with Thomas Arne, Thomas Dibdin, and Samuel Arnold, some of the era’s best composers for the London popular stage. His career was cut short, however, when he was accused publicly of sodomy, forcing him to flee England for his life. Though social taboos of his time complicate this claim: Bickerstaff is perhaps the first identifiably queer writer of the English-language musical theater—the first in a distinguished and populous line.

Hannah Cowley, The Belle’s Stratagem (1780)

Elizabeth Inchbald[ac], Such Things Are (1787)

Joanna Baillie, Orra (1812) & The Dream (1812)

The Complete Poetical Works of Joanna Baillie (1832) [Contains 16 plays]

Mina Loy, Collision & Cittabapini, (1915) The Pamperers (1920), and The Sacred Prostitute

Loy’s all-in for Futurism (kind of!); The Pamperers name-drops Marinetti & the Italian Futurists against a decadent bourgeois background. In her manifesto, she outlines a feminist Futurism, advocating for a radical realignment of social sexual mores, as well as the literal surgical destruction of virginity, with distinctly fascist / eugenicist undertones.


Lesya Ukrainka, Forest Song (1911)

A neat blend of the 19th- and early 20th-century interest in folklore with elements of Symbolism, harnessed to the broader project of defiant Ukranian resistance to Czarist Russia.

Florencio Sánchez, Barranca Abajo (1905)

Florencio Sanchez’s most famous play; full text is available on PDF online.

United States:

Mercy Otis Warren, The Blockheads (1776)

Restoration comedy tropes meet War of Independence propaganda.

Susanna Rowson, Slaves in Algiers (1794)

A mess of ideology anchored in white supremacy: pro-women’s rights, anti-slavery (well, white slavery), anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic. A proto-melodrama. Worth mentioning for her cultural prominence: Rowson was an eminently successful playwright, and the best-selling female writer in the US before Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Anna Cora Mowatt, Fashion (1845)

Satire on normative American manners juxtaposed with European ones.

Ira Aldridge, The Black Doctor (1847)

Aldridge, a theater professional of African descent born in New York City, was the first international superstar from the United States[ad]. This is his only extant original play, and an exciting example of nineteenth-century melodrama.

William Wells Brown, The Escape, or a Leap to Freedom (1858)

Brown was an escaped slave who performed all the roles in The Escape himself for sympathetic Northern audiences. The Escape is a milestone in solo performance, anticipating Anna Deavere Smith and Daniel Beaty, among others. Unfortunately, Brown’s other play was not preserved.

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Peculiar Sam, or The Underground Railroad (1879)

One of the earliest musical plays by a Black American writer: William Wells Brown-meets-Harriet Beecher Stowe, as filtered through the imaginative theatrical lens of a twenty-year-old writer (and starring soprano!), (re-)appropriating minstrel tropes and music to tell a story from a real, then recent chapter in Black history. For the text, see the anthology Roots of African American Drama (eds. Hamalian and Hatch), pp. 96–123.

Sadakichi Hartmann, Christ (1891)

Arguably the first Asian-American drama, Hartmann’s play was banned and burned in Boston when it was first published for its salacious content and symbolist decadence that Oscar Wilde would envy. It solidified Hartmann’s career as a provocateur; he would go on to write many more plays and later be crowned “King of the Bohemians” in the 1910s.

Jesse A. Shipp, Will Marion Cook, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, In Dahomey (1903)
The first musical performed on Broadway with an all-Black cast and production team, negotiating within and challenging the dominant minstrel and vaudeville traditions of the day.

See the anthology Black Theatre USA: Plays by African Americans 1847-Today (1996)

Rachel Crothers, A Man’s World and He and She (1910)

W.E.B. DuBois, Star of Ethiopia (1911)

When first performed, Star of Ethiopia featured a cast of hundreds and had an audience of thousands. Today, it’s all but forgotten. Significant for its place in the history of American pageantry.

Scott Joplin, Treemonisha (1911)

Technically, it’s not a play; it’s an opera, but it’s a great example of early twentieth-century black opera and experiments with incorporating popular musical forms like ragtime, Joplin’s signature genre.

Winsor, Mary, A Suffragist Rummage Sale (1913)

This short pro-suffrage propaganda play is absolutely wild, takes ten minutes to read, and is extremely forward-thinking formally, since it’s a kind of activist “happening” that is written to take place at an auction in support of women’s suffrage.

Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) and William F. Hanson, The Sun Dance Opera (1913)

As with Treemonisha (above), it’s actually an opera, not a play, but it's the first recorded dramatic work I could find by a Native North American author. It incorporates actual Plains Indian ritual. Its composition and production history are a case study in cultural appropriation by supposedly sympathetic white collaborators.

Angelina Weld Grimké, Rachel (1916)

The first professionally produced full-length play by a Black woman in America. Rachel is worth a read for its treatment of motherhood and its poetic, lyrical realism in the style of Ibsen and Chekhov. A sophisticated play that deserves much more credit than it’s been given.

Djuna Barnes,


Edna St. Vincent Millay, Aria da Capo (1920)

Pacifist one-act written in the wake of WWI, featuring Pierrot and Columbine.

Susan Glaspell, Trifles (1916), and The Verge (1921)

The Verge is a classic of American feminist Expressionism.

Georgia Douglas Johnson, A Sunday Morning in the South (1925)

A short example of an anti-lynching play, a significant twentieth-century movement in political theater that has been ignored by mainstream American theater history.  See the anthology Strange Fruit: Plays on Lynching by American Women (1998)

Zora Neale Hurston, Color Struck (1926)

Although most famous for her prose fiction, Hurston also wrote ethnography and plays; her “folk plays” of life in the South offer a different view of Black life in America than her contemporaries in the Harlem Renaissance. Color Struck also deals with colorism and competition within Black communities. Three Plays by Zora Neale Hurston (Lawing and Jawing; Forty Yards; Woofing)

Mae West, The Drag (1926) and Pleasure Man (1928)

The first open homosexuality I know of on the English-speaking stage in America; these plays are significant, too, as case studies in the concept of “obscenity” and how it’s been applied to theater.

Marita Bonner, The Purple Flower (1928)

Bonner, most well-known for her short stories, first published this piece in The Crisis in 1928. In this provocative, modernist allegory, Bonner--like her counterparts in the fledgling Soviet Union--tackles the question of the “New Man” of the twentieth century. Stages literal white devils years before Baraka!

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Gallows Gate (1928)

Best known for her naturalist writings on the Florida Everglades, Douglas set this pseudo-symbolist play in her favorite setting, the Everglades, as well, where a young man’s parents await his execution. The sound of a creaking dead-man’s rope haunts this one-act meditation on corporal punishment. Originally intended as Little Theater, it was staged in Miami as part of the FTP in 1937.

Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, Mule Bone (1930)[6]
The play that broke the friendship between Hurston and Hughes.

Dawn Powell, Walking Down Broadway (1931)

Sophie Treadwell, Machinal (1928)

Another classic of American feminist Expressionism.

Du Bois, Black Man and the Moon (1931)

Anticolonial myth play? Revisionist Primitivism? Black Expressionism? Early Afrofuturism? An incredibly difficult play to categorize, but incredibly rich and vivid in its imagery; a worthy counterpoint to O’Neill’s wild experiments in staging in Emperor Jones and elsewhere.

Lynn Riggs, The Cherokee Night (1932-1936)
Riggs, one of the earliest Cherokee dramatists, is most well-known for Green Grow the Lilacs, the play on which Oklahoma! was based. The Cherokee Night, as Dr. Kirby Brown of the University of Oregon explains, offers an “alternate picture of Cherokee nationhood [and] Oklahoma statehood, focusing on the impacts to Cherokee families.” This great segment from Osiyo TV contextualizes his drama and film work:

Langston Hughes, Scottsboro, Limited (1932) and The Em-Fuehrer Jones (1938)

Scottsboro is one of Hughes’s most significant contributions to American agitprop theater. As angry and leftist a play as anything by Odets; like Odets, Hughes is also attempting a radical break from traditional forms. Em-Fuehrer Jones is a parody of O’Neill’s Emperor Jones that replaces Brutus Jones with Hitler and upends O’Neill’s racist tropes, so it makes a good companion piece. Hughes has an enormous catalogue of plays that aren’t often discussed, from short socialist fables like The Gold Piece to grand opera like Troubled Island.

Gertrude Stein, Four Saints in Three Acts (1934)

Stein’s opera (set to music by Virgil Thomson) follows neither a stable plot nor stable characters. Nor is the language sensical or structured. A landmark in American experimental drama, and film from the original performance is worth checking out, too:

Wei Chai Chun Yee, For You a Lei and Marginal Woman (1936)

Yee builds on the work of her classmate Ling-Ai Li, writing one-act dramas of Asian- and Hawai’ian-American familial identity.

Ayn Rand, The Night of January 16th (1936)

Rand has a kind of interesting participatory element at the end as a sort of twist, but, of course, with right-wing politics diametrically opposed to, say, Brecht or Boal. If you’re into that sort of thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Theodore Ward, Big White Fog (1937)

Big White Fog inaugurated the epic multigenerational African-American family history play, setting the stage for Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson with its exploration of competing ideologies within a single family: pan-Africanism, Communism, and American capitalism.

Yiddish Theater (Poland, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Germany Latvia, Lithuania, and the US):

Jacob Gordin, The Yiddish King Lear (1892)

Y. L. Peretz, Night in the Old Market Place (Bay Nakht Oyfn Altn Mark)
A panoramic, experimental, epic dramatization of Jewish modernity. An English rendering exists by Frank London with great music - a translation by Hillel Halkin is available online.

Sholem Asch, God of Vengeance (1908)
God of Vengeance serves as the primary inspiration for Paula Vogel’s Indecent (2015), providing a great opportunity for pairing early 20th and early 21st century pieces. PDF: 1918 Translation by Isaac Goldberg ; Also see the anthology The Dybbuk and Other Great Yiddish Plays (1966)

S. Ansky, The Dybbuk (1915)
The author, S. Ansky, was a Jewish communist who conducted an ethnographic expedition into the Jewish “pale of settlement” in the Russian borderlands before writing this play. The Dybbuk is a living archive of many of his findings, as well as being a drama exploring themes of mysticism, modernity, queerness, and the supernatural. Filmed version with english subtitles: See the anthology The Dybbuk and Other Great Yiddish Plays (1966)

H. Leivick, The Golem (1921)

These last three plays are often cited as the masterpieces of the Yiddish theater. If the statistics cited in Yiddish Theater in Detroit are to be believed, they were also among the most frequently produced and toured--a rare example of consensus between a theatergoing public and the arbiters of taste. See the anthology The Dybbuk and Other Great Yiddish Plays (1966)

Further Reading: Anthologies and Anthologists

Let’s give credit to the scholars and researchers who spend their lives rigorously pursuing a field of expertise. Below, please find a (partial, growing) list of academic and professional sources and published anthologies here. Please look up the sources below and give them love, or if there’s something that isn’t here that definitely should be, please let me know.

  • Diana Taylor, Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance
  • Donald Keene, Samuel Leiter, and James R. Brandon on classical Japanese theater
  • Katherine E. Kelly (ed.), Modern Drama by Women 1880s-1930s
  • Helen Gilbert, Postcolonial Plays 
  • Jane Plastow, African Theatre and Politics
  • Biodun Jeyifo (ed.), The Norton Anthology of Modern African Drama
  • Susanne Kord (ed.), The Feminist Encyclopedia of German Literature
  • The Clay Sanskrit Library translations of classical Sanskrit plays.
  • James V. Hatch and Ted Shine, Black Theatre USA
  • Nordic Women’s Literature Online
  • Louise Burkhardt, Aztecs On Stage
  • Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, The Seditious Tagalog Playwrights: Early American Occupation
  • Out of the Wings
  • Mohammad R. Ghanoonparvar (ed.), Iranian Theatre: An Anthology
  • Bernard L. Peterson, Profiles of African American Stage Performers and Theatre People, 1816-1960
    Martin Banham, Errol Hill, George Woodyard, Dr Bertrand Piccard, Olu Obafemi, eds. The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre
    Harley Erdman,
    Women Playwrights of Early Modern Spain
  • Tabitha McIntosh and Grégory Pierrot, translators of Néhri
    Marlene Daut’s translation of
    La Partie Chasse du Roi in The Haiti Reader
  •, a resource for those interested in plays by Australian women pre-1945 or contemporary Indigenous and Aboriginal theater
  • Digital Yiddish Theatre Project: English language synopses and scholarship on Yiddish plays.
  • Kathy Perkins & Amandina Limahba (eds.) (2008) African Women Playwrights. Ama Ata Aidoo / Violet Barungi/ Tsisti Dangarembga/
  • Contemporary Plays by African Women edited by Yvette Hutchinson and Amy Jephta (2019) Plays by Adong Judith/ Thembelihle Moyo/ Sara Shaarawi
  • South African non-literary tradition: archive of The Centre for the Less Good Idea (Johannesburg)
  • Playography Ireland - A comprehensive database of new Irish plays produced professionally since 1904
  • The BIPOC Swap List, facilitated by Ricky Pak and listed here thanks to Charlotte Stratton:
  • Articles on feminist performances from contemporary Turkey:
  • puppetry:  Deniz Basar, "Modes of Pleasure: Contemporary Feminist Erotic Puppet Theatre from İstanbul with Love," in Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations, ed. Alissa Mello, Claudia Orenstein, and Cariad Astles (n.p.: Routledge, 2019).
  • dance: Basar, Deniz (2018). A Feminist Archeology of Collective Memory in Turkey: A
  •      Retrospective Look on works of Movement Atelier with a focus on AHHval /
  •      CirCUMstances. Danza e ricerca. Laboratorio di studi, scritture, visioni.,
  •      (10), 199-216.
  • Feminist meddah: Arol, Neslihan. (2019). Gender in Comedy: Reflections from A Practitioner-Researchers. In I. Lehmann, K. Rost, & R. Simon (Eds.), Staging Gender - Reflexionen aus Theorie und Praxis der performativen Künste (pp. 113-129). Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript.
  • Source of the list: Notos Literary Magazine’s Results of the Large-Scale Survey on “Century’s 40 Plays”
  • Notos, Issue 80, February-March 2020
  • → 237 Turkish academics, critics, playwrights and artists contributed to the survey

Secondary Sources on Non-Literary Performance Traditions With Origins Before 1945

There are obviously so many incredibly important performance traditions from around the world, incorporating dance, poetry, song, gesture, storytelling, and spoken prose, that to categorize them all here would be very difficult! As a starting point, here is a short list of some performative traditions that include at least two or three elements in common with “drama” in the Aristotelian sense, including plot, music, dialogue or narration, dance, and spectacle:

The Egungun and Gelede traditions in Yoruba culture
Kachina ceremonies in Hopi and Zuni cultures

Aboriginal Australian Performance

Ta’ziyeh ritual drama in Iran

Jeliya, the life and art of West African griots

Korean P’ansori, narrative storytelling with music

Wayang Kulit: Indonesia’s spectacular puppet theater tradition

The ritual and festive expressions of the Congo culture in Panama:

Performances/reenactments at the Gióng festival in Vietnam:

Space- and place-based storytelling and oral tradition of the Mapoyo:

Koteba theatre in Mali:

The Lenong tradition in Indonesia:

Nyau mask tradition of the Chewa in East Africa:

Further Reading: Plays After 1945

Jane Bowles, In the Summer House (USA, 1953)

Aimé Césaire, Tragédie du Roi Christophe (Martinique/Afro-Caribbean, 1963)

James Baldwin, Blues for Mister Charlie (USA, 1965)

Hannie Rayson, Hotel Sorrento (Australia)

Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, The 7 Stages of Grieving (Australia)
Ama Ata Aidoo, Anowa (Ghana, 1970)

Marguerite Duras, India Song (France, 1972)

Utpal Dut, A Mother from Kakdwip, The Rights of Man (India)

Badal Sircar, And Indrajit (India)

JANAM (Jana Natya Manch), DTC Ki Dhandhli, Halla Bol (India)

Sanjay Pawar, Pass the Buck on Brother (India)

Mahesh Dattani, A Muggy Night in Mumbai (India)

Mohan Rakesh, Halfway House (India)

Asif Currimbhoy, Goa (India)

Girish Karnad: Hayavadana (India)

Koleka Putuma No Easter Sunday for Queers (South Africa, 2019)

Koleka Putuma (South Africa, 2019) Mbuzeni

Kathy Perkins (ed) (1998) Black South African Women: An Anthology of Plays. PLays by: Fatima Dike/ Maishe Maponya/ Gcina Mhlophe/ Muthal Naidoo/ Duma Ndlovu

Franca Rame, Female Parts: One Woman Plays (Italy, 1981)

Hidden Fires and Other Monologues (India, 2002)

Anne Washburn, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (USA, 2012)

Girish Karnad, Naga Mandala, Hayavadana, Tuglaq

Alonso Alegria, Crossing Niagara (1981)

Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko, WAAFRIKA 1-2-3: Queer African Fantasia (2016)
Rebecca Fisseha, wise.woman

Judith Thompson

Djanet Sears

Wajdi Mouawad

David Yee

Normand Chaurette

Kevin Loring

Tomson Highway

She, Lao. Teahouse: A Play in Three Acts, China Books & Periodicals; Reissue edition (August 1, 1984)

Jiang, Yang. Baptism, translated by Judith M. Amory and Yaohua Shi. Hong Kong University Press; 2nd Revised ed. edition (February 5, 2007)Apio, Alani. Kamau. Palila Books, 1994.

This play by Hawaiian playwright Alani Apio, is a story about a period in a young man's life (Alika) who is being forced out of his family's house by a newly owned mainland corporation.

Amano, Lynette. Ashes. In Kumu Kahua Plays, edited by Dennis Carroll, 3–46.Honolulu: University Press of Hawai’i, 1993.

A play that takes place in 10 scenes. Is spaced out, disconnected but deliberate scenes dealing with coming to terms of their fathers death.

Lum, Darrell H.Y. Oranges Are Lucky. In Kumu Kahua Plays, 63–82. 1995

This play takes us through the life of Ah Po and through the disparity of her past and present.

Benton, James G. Twelf Nite O Wateva! In Kumu Kahua Plays, 185–238. 1983

The Hawaiian take of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in which pain and external conflict are minor elements.

Kneubuhl, John. Think of a Garden; Mele Kanikau: A Pageant; and A Play: A Play. In Think of a Garden and Other Plays. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 1997.

The first play of a trilogy written before the playwright's death. This play speaks on the personal relationship of the authors bicultural upbringing and the roots of Samoan history.

Aw, Arthur. All Brand New Classical Chinese Theatre. In Kumu Kahua Plays, 83–122. 1983.

This play takes you through the story of Micheal and his bouts with Schizophrenia. And also parodies conventions of the chinese opera.

Inouye, Lisa. Reunion. In Kumu Kahua Plays, 47-62. 1983.

This play takes us through the predicament of veterans who have returned home but are still not able to find themselves once returning.

Sakamoto, Edward. In The Alley. In Kumu Kahua Plays, 123-142. 1983

Touted as one of the best short plays of Hawaiian theatre. It tells a story on the dynamics on racial conflict in Hawaii.

Carrol, Dennis. Paradise Tours. In Kumu Kahua Plays, 143-162. 1983.

A short play that exposes the Hawaiian tourist traps as less than the paradise it's perceived to be and more of a hell on earth for natives.

Kates, R. Charles, The Travels of Heikiki. In Kumu Kahua Plays, 163-184. 1983.

A children's play that echoes the tale of the Odyssey but is an accessible tale to children about a Hawaiian boy, his mother and his grandmother.

Edib, Halide. (1953). Masks or Souls? A Play in Five Acts. London, George Allen.

→ very important woman writer from late Ottoman period and early Republic. She has only one play. It has never been staged. Hülya Adak wrote multiple articles about this play.

Taner, Haldun. (1970). The Ballad of Ali of Keshan. Nuvit Uzdoğru (Trans.). International Institute

National Centre of Turkey. Music by Yalçın Tura.

→ canonically important play. Brechtian.

→ Halman, Talat S., and Jayne L. Warner (Eds.). (2008). An Anthology of Modern Turkish

Drama, Volume 1: Ibrahim the Mad and Other Plays: An Anthology of Modern Turkish

Drama. Syracuse, Syracuse UP.

→ Halman, Talât S., and Jayne L. Warner (Eds.). (2008). An Anthology of Modern Turkish

Drama, Volume 2: I, Anatolia and Other Plays. Syracuse, Syracuse UP.

→ these two volumes are good to understand how Turkish academia defines its own theatrical canon (lack of the inclusion of woman playwrights is telling. There is only Nezihe Araz in the second volume.)

Erincin, Serap, (Ed). (2011). Solum and Other Plays from Turkey. Translated by Serap Erincin and

Mark Ventura, Seagull Books.

→ contemporary plays from Turkey (1990s-2005/6) / includes women writers and practitioners works

Yula, Özen. (2017). Unofficial Roxelana and Other Plays. Translated by Irem Seçil Reel Şen,

Seagull Books.

→ involves a good introduction by Marvin Carlson

Thompson, Judith. The Crackwalker. Playwrights Canada Press, 1980.

Theresa is bold, beautiful, seductive, and according to Canadian social services, mentally challenged. She has her life - her friends, her lover, her religion, her desire for a baby and love of Tim Horton’s doughnuts. Through Theresa Thompson explores the effects of religion, social standing and expectations and “good intentions” - however damaging they may be.

Background on Judith Thompson.

Background on the Play.
Betzein, Angela.
Hoods. Currency Press, 2007.

Burcell, Leah. The Drover’s Wife. Currency Press, 2016.

Cooper, Edythe B. See the Crocodile. Australian Script Centre, 1998.

Cornelius, Patricia. SHIT. Currency Press, 2015.

Cornelius, Patricia. SAVAGES. Playlab, 2013.

Hardy, Sara. Queer Fruit. Australian Script Centre, 1998.

Jaivin, Linda. Seeking Djira. Australian Script Centre, 2003.

James, Andrea. YANAGAI! YANAGAI!. Currency Press, 2003.

Kilpatrick, Fleur. TERRESTRIAL. Australian Script Centre, 2018.

Lee, Michele. MOTHS. Australian Script Centre, 2016.

Vu, Chi. Banh Chung. Australian Script Centre, 2013.

Dymphna Cusack, Morning Sacrifice (1942)

Baraka, Amiri. What Was the Relationship of the Lone Ranger to the Means of Production?. Anti-Imperialist Cultural Union, 1978.

        Workers at Colonel Motors are visited by a mysterious Masked Man, who talks with them about where they stand in society - how they fit into the world through their labor. Are they truly free, as he says?

Background on Amiri Baraka.

Farley, Cassiopeia. OK One-Act. Central Washington University Theatre Arts, 2020.

In 2150, a college student realizes there is no history left of the 1990s. In her search, she uncovers only a can of OK Soda and an accompanying OK Manifesto. She and her friend begin a journey into how, and why, only this history remains.

Available on New Play Exchange.

Hariharan, Jyotsna. The Lord of Wealth (ten-minute play). Hypokrit Theatre, 2019.

Christmas Eve in a convenience store: the franchisee and a union organizer encounter the Hindu God of Wealth passed out in the frozen foods section. They hope to take advantage of his presence to explore their own ambitions and visions of the American Dream.

Available on New Play Exchange. 

Lobue, Carmen. Will You...Hold My Hair Back?. Rattlestick Theatre, 2020.

Grace and Piper are the biggest and latest gay couple on social media. As they plan their very public union, they navigate issues brought on by their opposing familial backgrounds - one from a working-class Italian-American home, the other from an affluent African-American family. Initially presented as a part of Rattlestick Theatre’s 2020 Pride Plays Festival.

Background on Carmen Lobue.

Love, Donja R. one in two. Dramatists, 2019.

A semi-autobiographical exploration of what it means to be a black, queer, HIV-positive man. Through relationships with partners, family, ex-partners, strangers, doctors - people and people. This is a show of joy and strength in the face of staggering statistics.

Background on Donja R. Love.

Background and Review of the Play.

Moayed, Arian. The Courtroom: A Reenactment of One Woman’s Deportation Proceedings. Dramatists, 2020.

        In a dramatization of a series of court transcripts, Arian Moayed outlines the court proceedings of a woman fighting a deportation case in US Court of Appeals after an alleged violation of voter law.

        Background on Arian Moayed.

Reed, Ishmael. The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Archway Editions, 2020.

In a twist on Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Lin-Manuel Miranda is visited by ghosts of those used or ignored in his musical Hamilton: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton; enslaved men and women, an indentured servant, Harriet Tubman. In this satire, he’s left to explore, justify and potentially rally against what the musical has come to represent.

        Background on Ishmael Reed.

Background and Review of the Play.

Washburn, Anne. Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play. Oberon Books, Ltd., 2014.

A sort-of comedy, sort-of epic that explores what we hang onto in a world without electricity - an apocalyptic world that exists after a world over-saturated by media and pop culture. As the world changes, so too do these stories; in this case, a classic episode of The Simpsons.

Background on Anne Washburn.

Background and Review of the Play.


As you make contributions, if you wish to be credited, please list yourself here!

Luke Bolle
Brian D. Valencia

Acknowledgments and Shared Lineage

First and foremost, we acknowledge the land, lives, and labor stolen from Indigenous peoples by settler powers across the world, and the lives and labor stolen by the Transatlantic slave trade. We commit to ending oppression and seek reparations and justice for all.

Contributors, please feel free to leave your own personal acknowledgments here, as we create a space to explore and celebrate a collective lineage of artistry, scholarship, and ideas. 

Kate Cuellar, for her generous thoughts, feedback, and support

Allison Shackelford, for general contributions, thoughts, and feedback

Airos Sung-en Medill, for reviewing & providing thoughts and feedback

Helen Jaksch, for thoughts and feedback

Nahuel Telleria, for contributions to the Argentina and England sections

Wm. Bullion, for contributions to the Guatemala and Spain sections

Denise Serna, for contributions to many sections, including Latin America, and for feedback and support

Isaac Gomez, for reviewing an early draft of the document

Taylor Barfield, for contributions to the USA section and for his writing and thoughts on Black theater in the USA.

Olivia Lilley, for thoughts, feedback, general contributions, and workshopping a translation of Leffler’s True Women

Lavina Jadhwani, for reviewing an early draft of the document with me over coffee, and for the challenge to build out the section on modern Indian theater

Leean Kim Torske, for reviewing an early draft of the document

Catherine Sheehy, for contributions to the USA section and for work to value, teach, and stage plays like Dawn Powell’s

Ann Folino White, for her thoughts on the USA section, for championing rigorous, justice-oriented histories of race and theater in the US

Paul Walsh, for working to diversify the Drama 6 curriculum at Yale

Kee-Yoon Nahm, for contributions to the Korea section and to the project overall

Tanya Dean, for contributions to the Ireland section

Catherine María Rodríguez, for many valuable contributions to the project and specifically to work on El Güegüense (Nicaragua)

Ashley Chang, as a member of Preying Womantis and for contributions to the US section

Ariel Sibert, for being the one with the idea to initiate the project as part of Preying Womantis

Preying Womantis, for commitment to the practice of chaotic, ad-hoc collaboration with cool people like David Clauson and institutional critique

Lauren Dubowski, for contributions to the Poland section

Daniel Smith, for beta-testing this list in a graduate seminar and for contributions to the Spain and France sections

Kedar Kulkarni, for scholarship and pedagogy on Indian theater

Will Fleming, scholarship and pedagogy on Japanese theater

Marc Robinson, for teaching the Early American Drama course from which many texts are taken here

Kelly Kerwin, for encouragement and thoughts at the very start of the project over pizza

Aaron Aptaker, for feedback on how to move to a more open-source model

Source Wish List

For those hard-to-find something you’d like to read or find a copy of and hopefully our community can help you track it down!


A Beggar's Art: Scripting Modernity in Japanese Drama, 1900-1930, M. Cody Poulton

Susanne Kord, Feminist Encyclopedia of German Literature:,contains,34617623

Cudahy Library   Reference   PT41 .F46 1997


Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama


Alfonsina Storni, Dos Farsas Pirotecnicas:,contains,21756269


Katherine Pritchard, Brumby Innes:


Alfonsina Storni, Teatro Infantil,


Nina Efimova, Pensive Puppets, in Paul McPharlin, Puppet Plays:

Hagar Olsson, Collected Plays:*&recCount=50&searchType=1&searchArg=ocm13259260*&recCount=50&searchType=1&searchArg=ocm08766096

Jane Plastow, African Theater and Politics[af]


[1] Thanks to Dr. Dan Smith for pointing me to this website!

[2] M.R. Ghanoonparvar, “Persian Plays and the Iranian Theater,” in Sherifa Zuhur, Colors of Enchantment: Theatre, Dance, Music, and the Visual Arts of the Middle East. Oxford University Press, 2001.

[3]For this section, I am indebted to my colleague Dr. Tanya Dean. Thanks, Tanya!

[4] Eternally grateful to Lauren Dubowski for her work in this field and on this section, and for reminding me to check Polish names for the “∤”!

[5] Bernard Mouralis, “William-Ponty Drama,” in European-Language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa, Vol. 1, Albert S. Gerard, Ed. 

[6] I’m grateful to Taylor Barfield for the gentle reminder that I left this play off the list.

[a]Dr. Amanda Harris at University of Sydney is doing research on Aboriginal performance in the early 20th century.

[b]Significant contributions to Brazilian Romanticism? Find titles.

[c]Cao Yu had two other successful plays! Sunrise, and Wilderness

[d]leads to an error page

[e]Are any of Ibn Daniyal's plays available open-source in English?  I'd love to bring one into my early lit survey course.  (With Covid restrictions, I doubt I'll be able to ILL a print edition to make a scan.)

[f]Are you able to get hold of this

[g]For Bethany

[h]working on a VERY free adaptation right now:

[i]how can we access your adaptation?

[j]via the link above!

[k]Thanks. I now see I need to register to get access.

[l]Does anyone have access to the Nupur Gangopadhyay Lahiri translation of Red Oleanders from 2008?

[m]Bahram Beyzai, Death of Yazdgerd (1979) is a Persian play about the death of Yazdegerd III by Bahram Beyzai, often considered his magnum opus, which he adapted into a film of the same name.

[n]add Franca Rama; also if Rome is included in Italy, Terence (from North Africa)

[o]An excellent 2005 English translation can be found here:

[p]Decide on capitalization rule for all Spanish titles; inconsistent throughout. The original (sentence case) here is standard for Spanish and not incorrect. Elsewhere (France section, for example), titles appear in sentence case, as well.


[r]A bit dated.


[t]F. Arnsztajnowa, "Widmo: Ballada w I akcie", Ateneum (Warsaw), Year III, vol. 1, Nos. 1–3, January–March 1905, pp. 104–109


[v]Defo co-authored a (now lost) play with Witkiewicz.

[w]If I'm not mistaken, this has been translated by UCLA's Diversifying the Classics project as 'The Courage to Right a Woman's Wrongs':

[x]Theres also an older translation on

[y]I'm surprised not to see _The Tragedy of Mariam, Fair Queen of Jewry_ by Lady Elizabeth Cary, which is the first English language play written by a woman. (wr. 1602-4, pub.1613).

[z]The Concealed Fancies, by Lady Jane Cavendish and Lady Elizabeth Brackley (c. ~1645), is an utter delight. Although it was likely a closet drama (or perhaps meant for private family performance), I've adapted it for stage, and it's SO fun. Typical romantic comedy plot that is atypical in that the perspective of the women is centered throughout.

[aa]Full text available here:

[ab]Mary Pix and a host of other Female English/Irish 18th Century playwrights (Suzanne Centlivre, Hannah Cowley, Elizabeth Inchbald, etc) and titles of their works can be found listed in this book:        Additionally full texts of many of their works can be found in this database:

[ac]Another strong play by Inchblad is Lovers' Vows - it has themes of classism and women's rights.  Famously the play performed in Austen's Mansfield Park:

[ad]suggesting this because Edwin Forrest usually gets celebrated/named as the first US actor to establish himself abroad. Also, Aldridge is perhaps most famous for performing Shakespeare, but did more than that.

[ae]Nightwood (1936)?

[af]The Saint-Courtesan

A farce by King Mahendravikramavarma

A play about a holy man and a courtesan switching bodies--the original Freaky Friday