Leading Women: Plays for Actresses II


Gather any group of actresses, from students to stars, and someone will inevitably ask, "Where are all the great roles for women?" The roles are right here, in this magnificently diverse collection of plays–full-lenghts, one-acts, and monologues--with mainly female casts, which represent the answer to any actress's prayer.
The editors of the groundbreaking anthology Plays for Actresses have once again gathered an abundance of strong female roles in a selection of works by ...
See more details below
BN.com price
(Save 21%)$21.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (48) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $7.52   
  • Used (42) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


Gather any group of actresses, from students to stars, and someone will inevitably ask, "Where are all the great roles for women?" The roles are right here, in this magnificently diverse collection of plays–full-lenghts, one-acts, and monologues--with mainly female casts, which represent the answer to any actress's prayer.
The editors of the groundbreaking anthology Plays for Actresses have once again gathered an abundance of strong female roles in a selection of works by award-winning authors and cutting-edge newer voices, from Wendy Wasserstein and Christopher Durang to Claudia Shear, Eve Ensler, and Margaret Edson. The characters who populate these seven full-length plays, four ten-minute plays, and eleven monologues include a vivid cross-section of female experience: girl gang members, Southern debutantes, pilots, teachers, traffic reporters, and rebel teenagers. From a hilarious take on Medea to a taboo-breaking excerpt from The Vagina Monologues to a moving scene from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit, the plays in Leading Women are complex, funny, tragic, and always original--and a boon for talented actresses everywhere.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Edited by award-winning playwrights Shengold and Lane, this volume includes 22 theatrical works that premiered from 1990 through 2001. Comprising full-length plays, one-acts, and monologs, these works give actresses the opportunity to play characters ranging in age from the teens through the 70s. The array of pieces, by playwrights whose impressive track records have garnered most of the awards throughout the nation, is rich in female attitudes, nuance, and diversity conjured by a variety of situations. Alan Ball (American Beauty) writes a humorously revealing story about five bridesmaids coming in and out of a hotel room before, during, and after the wedding. In a different tone, Julia Jordan's "Smoking Lesson" centers on the angst of three teenage girlfriends after they discover a body in the Mississippi River. Produced at venues such as Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, South Coast Repertory, and the Humana Festival, to name only a few, these pieces are an excellent representation of the poignant writing available for actresses. The writers' bios at the back of the book are filled with information on other works, theaters, writing venues, and awards available in the United States. Recommended for all libraries. Elizabeth Stifter, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375726668
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/13/2002
  • Series: Vintage Original
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 1,358,888
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Lane and Nina Shengold have been editing contemporary theater anthologies for more than twenty years. Eric Lane's award-winning plays have been published and performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, and China. Plays include Ride, Times of War, Heart of the City, Dancing on Checkers' Grave, and Filming O'Keeffe. Floating, a PlayPenn finalist, was workshopped at Raven Theatre. Eric's short plays are published in Best American Short Plays, Poems and Plays, and the Foreign Language Press (Beijing). He wrote and produced the short films First Breath and Cater-Waiter, which he also directed; both films screened in more than forty cities worldwide. For TV's Ryan's Hope he received a Writers Guild Award. Honors include the Berrilla Kerr Playwriting Award, the La MaMa Playwright Award, and fellowships at Yaddo, VCCA, and St. James Cavalier in Malta. Eric is an honors graduate of Brown University, and artistic director of Orange Thoughts, a not-for-profit theater and film company in New York City.

Nina Shengold's plays include Finger Foods, War at Home, Homesteaders, and Romeo/Juliet, and have been produced around the world. Her one-act No Shoulder was filmed by director Suzi Yoonessi, with Melissa Leo and Samantha Sloyan. Nina won a Writers Guild Award for her teleplay Labor of Love, starring Marcia Gay Harden; other teleplays include Blind Spot, with Joanne Woodward and Laura Linney, and Unwed Father. Her books include the novel Clearcut; River of Words: Portraits of Hudson Valley Writers (with photographer Jennifer May), and a growing posse of pseudonymous books for young readers. A graduate of Wesleyan, she is currently teaching creative writing at Manhattanville College. Nina lives in New York's Hudson Valley, where she has been books editor of Chronogram magazine since 2004.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


One of the first things you learn in drama school is that there are more roles for men than for women. This is a wonderful thing to learn because it is true of the real world as well.
—from Medea by Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein

Actresses deserve better roles. This was our premise four years ago when we edited the Vintage anthology Plays for Actresses, a collection of seventeen plays with all-female casts. The response was overwhelming. The book became an instant bestseller among actresses. Teachers ordered it as an acting class text and monologue sourcebook. Most gratifying of all were the letters from playwrights, who told us about the new productions the anthology sparked—many mounted by groups of actresses who had banded together to produce plays that showcased their talents.

We’re thrilled to be publishing this brand-new collection. You’ll find an abundance of plays with all-female casts, along with a few that have one or more male roles but center on strong female leads. We selected the plays with an eye to variety, including works by award-winning authors and cutting-edge newer voices, with challenging roles for women of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. There are full-length and one-act plays, dramas and comedies, two-handers and ensemble pieces. We’ve also added a monologue section, which offers wonderful audition material and a sneak peek at even more plays for actresses.

The characters who populate the seven full-length plays in this book represent an amazing cross section of female experience: girl gang members, Southern debutantes, pilots, teachers, traffic reporters, rebel teenagers—and, of course, authors and actresses.

Jane Martin’s screwball farce Anton in Show Business goes behind the scenes of a regional theater production of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters as it spins wildly out of control. Its seven-woman cast plays multiple roles, ranging from a silicone-filled TV star to a gay male director to audience members who never shut up. In Collected Stories, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Donald Margulies examines the shifting relationship between a celebrated author and the grad student protégée who idolizes, then betrays her.

The Black and Latina gang members of Kia Corthron’s Breath, Boom speak a raw and immediate street poetry that lights their bleak lives like the fireworks its heroine dreams of creating. The ensemble cast includes juicy roles for as many as eighteen women. In Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, by American Beauty Oscar winner Alan Ball, the Southern bridesmaids stuck in identical taffeta gowns are one-of-a-kind individuals, as is the lone male who joins them.

Julia Jordan’s Smoking Lesson and Diana Son’s Stop Kiss are an acting class bonanza, filled with scenes for young actresses. Smoking Lesson takes place under the railroad trestle where three Midwestern girls once found a drowned child. Every year, the girls return on the anniversary, and tonight, their fifteen-year-old leader will tempt fate with the older male drifter accused of the crime. The multilayered Stop Kiss alternates two story lines, which take place before and after its central event. In the first, we watch two hip and witty young women, who both see themselves as straight, tentatively exploring the bounds of their friendship; in the second, we witness the aftermath of the brutal gay bashing spurred by their first kiss.

Tongue of a Bird, by actress/playwright Ellen McLaughlin, is a striking theatrical portrait of a female search-and-rescue pilot. In her obsessive search for an abducted teenage girl, she comes face-to-face with her own ghosts.

For actresses looking for shorter scripts, we’ve included four ten-minute plays. To paraphrase Spencer Tracy’s description of Katharine Hepburn: There’s not much meat on them, but what’s there is choice. Durang and Wasserstein’s hilarious take on Medea is joined by two equally lunatic comedies: Laura Shaine Cunningham’s “Happy Talkin’,” in which a lonely woman is pursued by a tribe of surreal telemarketers, and Mary Louise Wilson’s “Lost,” a portrait of two aging friends who can’t remember a thing. In Nina Shengold’s ten-minute drama “No Shoulder,” a childless woman discovers an unforeseen bond with a teenage hitchhiker.

Actresses looking for solo material will find an extraordinary range of women’s voices in our new monologue section. Three of these excerpts are from one-woman shows: Eve Ensler’s taboo-breaking hit The Vagina Monologues; Claudia Shear’s Blown Sideways Through Life, an exuberant hymn to temporary employment; and Rose, Martin Sherman’s portrait of a feisty Jewish widow whose life spans three continents and most of the twentieth century.

Warren Leight’s The Princess of Babylon and Michelle Carter’s Hillary and Soon-Yi Shop for Ties shed light on two teenagers best known from the tabloids: Amy Fisher and Soon-Yi Previn. Both pieces were first performed in anthology evenings of monologues, scenes, and (in Carter’s case) songs by their authors.

The six remaining monologues are excerpted from full-length plays with many strong female roles. These include Lynn Nottage’s Crumbs from the Table of Joy, a memory play about an interracial marriage; Jenny Lyn Bader’s quick-witted romantic comedy Manhattan Casanova; Migdalia Cruz’s Miriam’s Flowers, a searing look at a teenage girl driven to self-mutilation; Eric Lane’s Times of War, a lyrical trilogy that follows one woman’s journey over fifty years; Sherry Kramer’s What a Man Weighs, a highly original study of love and compulsion; and Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Wit, whose scholarly heroine battles with cancer. If any of these monologues speaks to you, go out and read the entire play. (Contact information for productions appears at the back of this book.)

Finding the plays for this book was a joy and privilege. We hope Leading Women will introduce readers to some of the finest writers working today. Their plays are complex, funny, tragic, and always original. We also hope that actresses frustrated by the lack of roles in the marketplace will find ways to bring these characters to life. Put together an evening of scenes, rehearse a staged reading, produce your own showcase or production. You’ll find audiences all over the world who long to see plays about women’s lives, just as actresses everywhere long to perform them. Go out there and find one another. The words are right here.

Nina Shengold and Eric Lane
May 2001

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)