What Is Modern Drama?

Modern drama is defined as theatrical plays written in the 19th and 20th centuries by playwrights such as Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen, Gerhart Hauptmann, Edmond Rostand, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Leo Tolstoy, Samuel Beckett, Tony Kushner and others. The term “Modern Drama” also refers to the title of a quarterly publication by the University of Toronto Press that focuses on dramatic literature.

The most prominent plays involved in modern drama discussions revolve around sociopolitical aspects of a playwright’s life and times. Plays such as “Pygmalion,” “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “The Glass Menagerie” all delved into social issues at the time they were written. “The Importance of Being Earnest” commented on English social structural barriers and the absurdity of upper-class thought.

Modern drama also focuses on different performing styles and aesthetics as they changed from operatic styles in Europe from the 1700s and early 1800s. Sets, characters, actors and portrayals were more open for interpretation. Playwrights were less concerned with fantastical plots, lush scenery and histrionic characters. Instead, playwrights focused on realistic topics, such as incarceration, poverty, social status, racial tension, war and everyday plights of workers.

“Modern Drama” expounds upon several subjects of theatrical performances. The quarterly publication began in 1958. Reviews, analysis and peer-reviewed articles are included in the journal.