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Most Seen on Stage? Shakespeare the Character, Not the Playwright


From left, Lucy Briggs-Owen and Tom Bateman in the 2014 play “Shakespeare in Love.”

Johan Persson/Disney

Works by Shakespeare aren’t counted. But works about Shakespeare are. A survey by American Theater magazine shows that “Shakespeare in Love,” the 2014 play about young Will’s formative years, adapted by Lee Hall from the wildly successful 1998 film version, will be the most produced play in the United States during the 2017-18 theatrical season.

The play, first staged in London, will have 15 productions across the country, including in Atlanta, Boston and Cleveland. It has not yet made it to New York City.

The survey, which covered 1,917 productions planned by 380 theaters, also showed that Lauren Gunderson, the author of “I and You” and “The Book of Will,” will be the most-produced playwright, with 27 productions, including 8 co-writing credits.

In a statement, Ms. Gunderson said that she hoped it would be an “encouraging and motivating moment for women in theater.” She added: “Stories by and about women can and must be produced across the country to complete the deep generational narrative that our art form so uniquely puts forth.”

American Theater, which has been compiling these annual lists since the 1994-95 season, excludes from its tally plays by Shakespeare (108 this season) and holiday shows like “A Christmas Carol” (42 coming up). For the first time, the magazine will celebrate the announcement of its top ten lists with a live-streamed event at the Drama Bookshop in New York, which will feature Ms. Gunderson among other guests.

Other plays that made the most-produced top ten include Lisa Kron’s “Fun Home” (12 productions); Simon Stephens’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (9); and two Jane Austen entries, “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” by Ms. Gunderson and Margot Melcon (8), as well as “Sense and Sensibility” (8).

Runners-up on the most-produced playwrights list include Ayad Akhtar, who topped both lists last year with his Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced,” and a few more venerable figures: Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Eugene O’Neill and Oscar Wilde.

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