When people hear the word “literature,” they tend to immediately think about important books and works of poetry. Often, plays and playwrights are unfortunately lost or forgotten when discussing our favorite stories to read. However, these writers and their art are just as important to the literary world as any other genre and branch of literature.
Just because Pride Month is over, we shouldn’t stop celebrating the amazing LGBTQ+ writers who contribute their voices and talents to literature and the arts. Drama is a fantastic platform for individuality and self-expression, in addition to discussing significant themes and topics. Theater is one of the places where storytelling stemmed from; without theater or plays, the literature we know and love so much might look entirely different or nonexistent.
Here are ten LGBTQ+ playwrights who absolutely deserve to be recognized and celebrated!
One of the greatest Irish writers, Wilde’s influence and popularity still prevail today. His comical play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is one of the greatest, most beloved classics in the literary canon. Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” after the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, learned of his son’s affair. Wilde lost his court case due to the overwhelming evidence brought forth against him. Scorned and hated by his society, he went to France and lived in poverty for three years before he died. He was pardoned along with roughly 50,000 other men (convicted of the same or similar crimes) in 2017.
Once close friends with Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, Lorca’s relationship with both men ended after his first book, Gypsy Ballads, became a success. Lorca was led to tour the Americas due to the stresses of concealing his sexuality and dealing with pressure of being a public figure in his homeland. After returning, he was appointed director of a student theater company by the new leftist government. This particular company provided the poor with experiencing theater for free. Lorca thrived during this time, acting, directing, and writing. The House of Bernarda Alba, Blood Wedding, and Yerma are Lorca’s most notable pieces. A few of Lorca’s ongoing themes deal with women’s roles, class, and spirituality. When the government changed, Lorca was quickly targeted for his sexuality by Franco’s Falangists. After Lorca was murdered, he was buried in a mass grave. His works were illegal in Spain until 1953.
Aziza Barnes (they/their/them)
Barnes is a talented poet and playwright. Their play, BLKS, premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in 2017 and in 2019 also ran at the MCC Theater. BLKS tells the story of “three 20-somethings in New York City hunting for intimacy and purpose in a city that doesn’t seem to care.” The play received a nomination for a 2020 Lucille Lotel Award. Their poetry and performances break down various assumptions about areas including race, gender, and class.
Azure D. Osborne-Lee (he/they)
Aside from being the founder of Roots and Rivers Productions, award-winner Osborne-Lee is also one of the first members of the inaugural Trans Theater Lab cohort. He was a finalist and semifinalist for eight various honors and awards. In 2018, he received Parity Productions’ Commission for Women and Transgender Playwrights. He also won the Best Play Award in 2018 for the Downtown Urban Arts Festival and the Mario Fratti-Fred Newman Political Play Contest in 2015.
Osborne-Lee’s play Mirrors “follows the lives of three African-American women bound by love and loss and family in a sleepy Mississippi town during the summer of 1960.” His other work, Crooked Parts, was one of the plays featured for Pride Plays in 2020.
Carmen LoBue (they/them/Bue)
LoBue’s talents extend beyond playwriting; they are also a director, actor, producer, teacher, and activist. Using their art, LoBue’s personal ambition is to “heal the world.” Their works feature themes of political and social injustice, giving underrepresented groups such as womxn of color, minorities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community a voice. Their play Will You…Hold My Hair Back was part of the 2020 Pride Plays.
GarreTt David Kim (he/him)
On his official website, David-Kim describes himself as a “theater-maker, citizen-artist, and educator.” He is the Program Director at The 52nd Street Project, developing and overseeing arts programs for youths. He belongs to the Dramatists Guild of America. His play Are You There Truman? It’s Me, Just Another Guy Who Grew Up Secretly Worshiping Your Chiseled Porn Star Body Online, And Now I Think I Love You was a Barbour Award Finalist and was read for the 2020 Pride Plays. Kim’s Fine Food was a finalist for the Blue Ink Playwriting Award in 2017. Kim has also written one-act plays and shorter plays as well.
Rodney Hicks (he/they)
According to his official website, Hicks is an actor and playwright. He created the story of the musical 1968, and is also writing the book for it. In June 2020, their play Just Press Save was presented via Zoom for the Pride Plays Festival of New Plays. The play was also a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Conference.
Hicks performed on Broadway as a member of the original cast for Come From Away. His profile mentions that they were “nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical -Ford’s Theater & a Gypsy Rose Lee nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical -Seattle Rep.” Hick also was the first African-American to play Curly in “the first professional all Black” adaptation of Oklahoma!, the famous Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.
Donnetta Lavinia Grays (she/her)
An award-winning screenwriter, performer, and playwright, Grays claims that her inspirations are “drawn from the personal but also from the world around me and the political…Largely what I am attempting to do with my work is bring that black lady queerness into spaces where we’ve traditionally been ignored or invisible.”
Aside from being the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright’s inaugural recipient, Grays is also a member of the Time Warner Foundation WP Playwrights Lab and an alumna of the terraNova Collective Groundbreakers Playwright group. A few of her most notable plays include Warriors Don’t Cry, The New Normal, and Laid to Rest.
Erika Dickerson-Despenza (she/her)
Playbill’s profile of Dickerson-Despenza reads as follows: “a Blk, queer feminist poet-playwright, cultural worker, educator, and grassroots organizer.” Her ten-play Katrina Cycle “focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned man-made disaster.” She created a “water tetralogy” which uses water to reflect “Blk women’s bodies as sites of consciousness development and exile during key events in Black History.” These plays include: ocean’s lip/ heaven’s shore, took/tied hung/split, shadow/land, and cullud wattah.
Dickerson-Despenza received the 2019 Princess Grace Playwriting Award and was a finalist for the 2020 L. Arnold Weissberger Award. She has three different Residence organizations to her name and was a Fellow for two others. Playbill writes that Dickerson-Despenza is also “an associate organizer with the #LetUsBreatheCollective, a Chicago-based alliance of artists and activists.”
Sam Hamashima (they/them)
According to New Play Exchange, Hamashima’s work primarily centers on empowerment, change, and healing. Their two most significant works are American Spies and Other Homegrown Fables and Supposed Home. American Spies received the Kennedy Center Undergraduate Playwrights’ Award in 2018 and the University of Michigan Hopwood Award in Drama. Supposed Home was a finalist for the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. According to NPX, Hamashima is the second recipient of the Emerald Prize from the Seattle Public Theatre.