The best 29 Theatre books

Lights, camera, action! Step into the world of theatre with our carefully curated book list. From ancient Greek tragedies to modern Broadway hits, we explore the rich history and enduring allure of the stage. Whether you're a theatre lover or simply curious about this captivating art form, these books will transport you behind the scenes and into the spotlight. So prepare to be dazzled by the magic of theatre!

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1
Theatre Books: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller
4.3 (38 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Death of a Salesman about?

Death of a Salesman (1949) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest plays. A poignant critique of the promises and pitfalls of capitalism and the American Dream, it follows the salesman Willy Loman, his increasingly tense relationships with his family and colleagues, and his tragic, hallucinatory descent into fantasy and madness. 

Who should read Death of a Salesman?

  • Budding playwrights and theater enthusiasts
  • People curious about the dangers of unbridled capitalism
  • Anyone interested in modern drama

2
Theatre Books: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet

William Shakespeare
4.8 (73 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Hamlet about?

Hamlet (c. 1509-1601) is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest play. A tragedy in five parts, it tells the story of Prince Hamlet, a thinker who must turn to action to avenge his father. It’s not only the finely crafted plot that’s fascinated readers and theatergoers down the centuries, though – Hamlet is also a penetrating study of the meaning of life and death.

Who should read Hamlet?

  • Shakespeare lovers who haven’t gotten around to reading Hamlet
  • Those who find Shakespeare’s original language difficult to enjoy
  • Fans of Hamlet who want a refresher

3
Theatre Books: The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard

Anton Chekhov
4.0 (5 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's The Cherry Orchard about?

The Cherry Orchard (1904) is a poignant reflection on the fading influence of Russia’s nobility at the dawn of a new age of industry and materialism. The play centers on an aristocratic family returning to its ancestral estate, shortly before the property’s sale. Despite proposals to rescue the estate, the family’s impractical and nostalgic romanticism leads to disaster; the family home is sold to a plebeian millionaire intent on cutting down its titular cherry orchard. 

Who should read The Cherry Orchard?

  • Fans of classic Russian literature and drama
  • History buffs
  • Theater lovers unfamiliar with – but curious about – Chekov’s work

4
Theatre Books: The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Tempest

William Shakespeare
4.5 (11 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Tempest about?

The Tempest (1623) is the ultimate revenge story. After being exiled from Milan by his scheming brother, the sorcerer Prospero uses his magical powers to conjure a storm that shipwrecks his enemies on his island, where he uses a series of magical illusions to take his vengeance. 

Who should read The Tempest?

  • Shakespeare-lovers looking to fill the gaps in their knowledge of the bard’s repertoire
  • Fantasy enthusiasts interested in one of the earliest treatments of magic in literature
  • Anyone whose interest is piqued by shipwrecks, sorcery, and vengeance

What's Long Day's Journey Into Night about?

Long Day's Journey Into Night is a powerful and deeply personal play that delves into the dysfunctional dynamics of a family. Set over the course of one day, it explores the complex relationships between the Tyrone family members as they grapple with their own demons and the weight of their past. With raw emotion and poignant storytelling, Eugene O'Neill offers a haunting portrayal of addiction, regret, and the enduring bond of family.

Who should read Long Day's Journey Into Night?

  • Readers with an interest in dramatic literature and American classics
  • Anyone seeking a deep exploration of family dynamics and complex relationships
  • Individuals who appreciate introspective and emotionally charged storytelling

6
Theatre Books: Electra by Sophocles

Electra

Sophocles

What's Electra about?

Electra is a Greek tragedy that tells the story of a young woman seeking revenge for her father's murder. Written by Sophocles, the play explores themes of justice, family loyalty, and the consequences of seeking vengeance. Electra's unwavering determination and the complex relationships between the characters make this a compelling and thought-provoking read.

Who should read Electra?

  • People interested in ancient Greek tragedy and literature
  • Readers who enjoy exploring complex family dynamics and relationships
  • Those who appreciate thought-provoking stories that explore themes like revenge, justice, and loyalty

7
Theatre Books: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams

What's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof about?

Set in the Mississippi Delta, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is a powerful drama that delves into the complexities of family relationships, greed, and societal expectations. The play revolves around the wealthy Pollitt family as they gather to celebrate the birthday of patriarch Big Daddy. Tensions rise as long-buried secrets and desires come to the surface, ultimately exposing the fragile facade of their lives. Williams' masterful storytelling and rich character development make this a timeless classic.

Who should read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?

  • Readers interested in exploring themes of family dynamics and the complexities of relationships.
  • Individuals who enjoy thought-provoking dramas with intense and compelling characters.
  • Those looking to delve into the human condition and contemplate societal norms and expectations.

8
Theatre Books: Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen

What's Hedda Gabler about?

Hedda Gabler is a play written by Henrik Ibsen that delves into the complex and tragic life of the title character, Hedda Gabler. Set in 19th century Norway, the play explores themes of power, control, and societal expectations as Hedda navigates her unhappy marriage and the constraints placed upon her as a woman. With its gripping plot and thought-provoking dialogue, Hedda Gabler is a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences.

Who should read Hedda Gabler?

  • Individuals intrigued by complex and morally ambiguous characters
  • Readers interested in psychological dramas set in 19th-century society
  • Those who appreciate exploring themes of marriage, identity, and societal expectations

9
Theatre Books: The Bacchae by Euripides

The Bacchae

Euripides

What's The Bacchae about?

The Bacchae is a Greek tragedy that tells the story of the god Dionysus and his revenge on the city of Thebes. Through a series of dramatic events, the play explores themes of power, religion, and the consequences of denying one's true nature. It is a thought-provoking and timeless examination of the human condition.

Who should read The Bacchae?

  • Readers interested in ancient Greek tragedies and classical literature
  • Individuals studying theater, literature, or Greek mythology
  • People who enjoy exploring themes of power, control, and the consequences of excess

10
Theatre Books: The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill

The Iceman Cometh

Eugene O'Neill

What's The Iceman Cometh about?

The Iceman Cometh is a play by Eugene O'Neill that delves into the lives of a group of disillusioned individuals in a seedy bar. Set in 1912, the play explores themes of hope, delusion, and the human desire for connection as the characters confront their own shattered dreams and face the harsh realities of their lives. It is a powerful and thought-provoking examination of the human condition.

Who should read The Iceman Cometh?

  • Readers interested in complex character studies and exploration of human psyche
  • Theater enthusiasts who enjoy thought-provoking and introspective plays
  • People looking for a deep dive into the themes of despair, illusion, and the human condition

11
Theatre Books: Come From Away by Irene Sankoff

Come From Away

Irene Sankoff
Welcome to the Rock

What's Come From Away about?

Come From Away tells the remarkable true story of a small town in Newfoundland that opened its doors to thousands of stranded airline passengers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Through interviews and firsthand accounts, the book explores the kindness and generosity of the townspeople, as well as the bonds that were formed in the face of tragedy. It is a heartwarming tale of compassion and unity in the midst of adversity.

Who should read Come From Away?

  • People interested in heartwarming stories of human connection and resilience
  • Readers looking for a unique perspective on the events of September 11th, 2001
  • Those who enjoy learning about different cultures and the power of community

12
Theatre Books: Tartuffe by Molière

Tartuffe

Molière

What's Tartuffe about?

"Tartuffe" is a classic French play written by Molière. It tells the story of a wealthy man named Orgon who is deceived by the hypocritical and manipulative Tartuffe. The play explores themes of religious hypocrisy, gullibility, and the consequences of blind faith. It is a satirical and thought-provoking work that continues to be relevant today.

Who should read Tartuffe?

  • Readers who enjoy satirical and comedic literature
  • People interested in exploring themes of hypocrisy and deception in society
  • Those who want to delve into classic French plays and the works of Molière

13
Theatre Books: The Birds by Aristophanes

The Birds

Aristophanes

What's The Birds about?

"The Birds" is a comedic play by Aristophanes that tells the story of two Athenians who convince the birds to create a utopian city in the sky, in order to escape the control of the gods and the power of the city of Athens. The play is a satire on the political and social issues of ancient Greece, and explores themes of power, freedom, and the absurdity of human behavior.

Who should read The Birds?

  • Fans of ancient Greek literature and comedy
  • Readers interested in exploring satire and political commentary
  • Individuals studying theater and dramatic works

14
Theatre Books: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams

What's The Glass Menagerie about?

The Glass Menagerie is a classic play that delves into the lives of the Wingfield family. Set in 1930s St. Louis, the story revolves around the dreams and struggles of the family members, particularly the fragile Laura and her overbearing mother Amanda. Through poetic language and poignant storytelling, Tennessee Williams explores themes of illusion, escape, and the harsh realities of life.

Who should read The Glass Menagerie?

  • Individuals interested in exploring complex family dynamics and relationships
  • Readers who appreciate introspective and introspective narratives
  • Those who enjoy reading plays that reflect on the human condition

15
Theatre Books: Life Is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Life Is a Dream

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

What's Life Is a Dream about?

"Life Is a Dream" is a thought-provoking play that explores the themes of fate, free will, and the nature of reality. Written by Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca, the story follows the journey of Prince Segismundo, who is imprisoned at birth due to a prophecy. As he grapples with his newfound freedom, Segismundo questions the nature of his existence and the power of his own choices. This philosophical and introspective work challenges the audience to ponder the meaning of life and the role of destiny in shaping our experiences.

Who should read Life Is a Dream?

  • Readers who enjoy exploring philosophical themes and thought-provoking ideas
  • Individuals interested in Spanish literature and classic plays
  • Those who appreciate stories that challenge perceptions of reality and the nature of existence

16
Theatre Books: Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles

What's Oedipus at Colonus about?

Oedipus at Colonus is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles that tells the story of Oedipus, the former king of Thebes, as he seeks refuge in the sacred grove of the Furies at Colonus. The play explores themes of fate, redemption, and the power of the gods, as Oedipus comes to terms with his past and prepares for his eventual death. It is a powerful and thought-provoking examination of the human condition.

Who should read Oedipus at Colonus?

  • Anyone interested in Greek mythology and classical literature
  • Readers interested in exploring themes of fate and destiny
  • Students of literature or drama studying the works of Sophocles

17
Theatre Books: Philoctetes by Sophocles

Philoctetes

Sophocles

What's Philoctetes about?

"Philoctetes" is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles that tells the story of a Greek warrior who is abandoned on a deserted island because of a painful and foul-smelling wound. When the Greeks need his magical bow to win the Trojan War, they send Odysseus to convince him to join them. The play explores themes of betrayal, suffering, and the power of fate.

Who should read Philoctetes?

  • People interested in ancient Greek literature and mythology
  • Readers who enjoy complex characters and compelling storytelling
  • Those looking to explore themes of suffering, betrayal, and redemption in literature

18
Theatre Books: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry

What's A Raisin in the Sun about?

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is a powerful play that delves into the dreams, struggles, and resilience of an African American family living in 1950s Chicago. As they grapple with societal expectations, racial discrimination, and their own conflicting aspirations, the Younger family members each strive for a better life and a sense of dignity. This timeless classic explores themes of family, identity, and the pursuit of happiness.

Who should read A Raisin in the Sun?

  • Individuals interested in exploring themes of race, class, and identity
  • Readers looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally impactful story
  • Those who enjoy character-driven narratives that delve into complex family dynamics

19
Theatre Books: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama

Raina Telgemeier

What's Drama about?

Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel that follows the story of Callie, a middle school student who is passionate about theater. As she navigates friendships, crushes, and the ups and downs of putting on a school play, the book delves into themes of self-discovery and the excitement of being part of a creative community.

Who should read Drama?

  • Readers who enjoy young adult graphic novels
  • Individuals who have an interest in theater and behind-the-scenes production
  • Anyone who wants to explore themes of friendship, self-discovery, and navigating middle school

20
Theatre Books: Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Measure for Measure

William Shakespeare

What's Measure for Measure about?

Measure for Measure is a thought-provoking play by William Shakespeare that delves into themes of justice, morality, and power. Set in Vienna, the story follows the Duke as he temporarily hands over power to Angelo, who rules with strict enforcement of the law. When a young man named Claudio is sentenced to death for impregnating his fiancée, his sister Isabella pleads for mercy. The play raises questions about the nature of justice and the abuse of authority.

Who should read Measure for Measure?

  • Readers who enjoy Shakespeare's exploration of moral and ethical dilemmas
  • Individuals interested in the themes of justice, mercy, and power
  • People looking for a thought-provoking play that raises complex questions about human behavior

21

What's No Exit and Three Other Plays about?

No Exit and Three Other Plays is a collection of thought-provoking plays by Jean-Paul Sartre. In the titular play, three characters find themselves in a mysterious room in hell, forced to confront their own actions and the consequences of their choices. The other plays in the collection, The Flies, Dirty Hands, and The Respectful Prostitute, also delve into existential themes and moral dilemmas, making this book a compelling exploration of human nature.

Who should read No Exit and Three Other Plays?

  • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking and philosophical plays
  • Those interested in existentialism and the human condition
  • People looking for deep and introspective literature

22
Theatre Books: Othello by A. L. Rowse, William Shakespeare

Othello

A. L. Rowse, William Shakespeare

What's Othello about?

Othello is a tragic play by William Shakespeare that delves into themes of jealousy, betrayal, and racism. Set in Venice, the story follows the Moorish general Othello as he falls victim to the manipulations of his ensign, Iago. This classic work explores the destructive power of suspicion and the tragic consequences it brings.

Who should read Othello?

  • For literature enthusiasts who enjoy exploring Shakespeare's classic works
  • Individuals interested in themes of jealousy, betrayal, and racial issues
  • Readers who appreciate intricate character development and psychological drama

23
Theatre Books: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Atwood

Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Atwood

What's Pygmalion about?

Pygmalion is a classic play by George Bernard Shaw, first published in 1912. It tells the story of a professor who makes a bet that he can transform a working-class woman into a lady by teaching her how to speak and act like a member of the upper class. The play explores themes of social class, identity, and the power of language.

Who should read Pygmalion?

  • Individuals interested in the complexities of social class and language
  • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking and witty plays
  • People looking to explore themes of personal transformation and identity

24
Theatre Books: Richard III by William Shakespeare, Barbara A. Mowat

Richard III

William Shakespeare, Barbara A. Mowat

What's Richard III about?

Richard III is a historical play by William Shakespeare that delves into the Machiavellian rise to power and reign of King Richard III of England. Filled with political intrigue, manipulation, and betrayal, the play offers a compelling portrayal of one of Shakespeare's most complex and villainous characters. It explores themes of ambition, morality, and the consequences of unchecked power.

Who should read Richard III?

  • Enthusiastic readers who enjoy Shakespearean tragedies
  • History buffs interested in the War of the Roses
  • Students studying English literature or drama

25
Theatre Books: The Importance of Being Earnest by Trevor Millum, Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest

Trevor Millum, Oscar Wilde

What's The Importance of Being Earnest about?

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a comedic play that satirizes the manners and customs of Victorian society. Through witty dialogue and absurd situations, Wilde explores themes of identity, marriage, and societal expectations. The play follows the story of two friends who lead double lives in order to escape the constraints of their social obligations. It offers a humorous critique of the shallow values and hypocrisy prevalent in the upper class of the time.

Who should read The Importance of Being Earnest?

  • Readers who enjoy witty and satirical comedy
  • Those interested in exploring social class and hypocrisy
  • People who appreciate clever wordplay and playful dialogue

26
Theatre Books: The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles

What's The Oedipus Cycle about?

The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles is a collection of three timeless Greek tragedies: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. These plays explore themes of fate, free will, and the consequences of our actions. They tell the gripping story of Oedipus, a man destined to fulfill a tragic prophecy, and the devastating effects it has on his family and kingdom.

Who should read The Oedipus Cycle?

  • Readers who enjoy classic Greek tragedies and timeless themes
  • Students studying literature, drama, or ancient history
  • People interested in exploring the complexities of fate, free will, and human nature

27

What's The Vagina Monologues about?

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler is a groundbreaking collection of interviews, stories, and personal reflections that celebrate and explore the experiences of women. Through candid and fiercely honest monologues, the book addresses issues of sexuality, body image, violence, and empowerment, ultimately challenging societal norms and giving a voice to the often unheard stories of women.

Who should read The Vagina Monologues?

  • Individuals interested in exploring women's experiences and empowerment
  • Those seeking a deeper understanding of issues related to gender, sexuality, and social justice
  • People who appreciate thought-provoking and candid discussions about sensitive topics

28
Theatre Books: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett

What's Waiting for Godot about?

'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett is a timeless classic that delves into the themes of existentialism, the meaning of life, and the concept of waiting. Through the absurd and thought-provoking conversations between its main characters, Estragon and Vladimir, the play challenges our perceptions and invites us to reflect on the human condition.

Who should read Waiting for Godot?

  • Curious individuals who enjoy exploring the meaning of life and existence
  • Open-minded readers who appreciate thought-provoking and unconventional narratives
  • Those interested in the theater of the absurd and unconventional forms of storytelling

What's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? about?

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play written by Edward Albee that delves into the complexities of marriage and relationships. Set in the 1960s, it follows the tumultuous interactions between a middle-aged couple, George and Martha, and a younger couple, Nick and Honey, during a late-night gathering. Fueled by alcohol and deep-seated resentments, the play explores themes of truth, illusion, and the destructive power of secrets.

Who should read Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf??

  • Individuals who enjoy thought-provoking and intense explorations of human relationships
  • Readers who appreciate complex and flawed characters
  • Those with an interest in the complexities of marriage and the illusions people create to cope with their realities

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