These plays include a real historical event, person, or references to history.
The Persians by Aeschylus
King Xerxes of Persia is away leading the war effort against the Greeks. Atossa, the Queen Mother, waits for news of the battle. A messenger eventually arrives with a report on the Battle of Salamis.
This play can be read in the preview of The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by . . . (27% in)
Everybody Black by Dave Harris
A man introduces himself as a Black Historian. He’s been offered a lot of money by a group of white historians to write a definitive account of The Black Experience™. They want to know everything. The Black Historian accepted the offer, but there are problems—he’s mad, doesn’t know history, and has never met another Black person.
Several scenes from this play can be read in the preview of Humana Festival 2019: The Complete Plays. (56% in)
Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot (2 Acts)
Archbiship Becket is returning to England after being exiled for a disagreement with the king over religious involvement in government. News of his return elicits a mixed reaction from the priests and commoners. Becket is visited by four Tempters who entice him to leave the church.
Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka (5 Acts)
Elesin Oba walks through a village market in Nigeria, accompanied by drummers and singers. The women flirt with him. Elesin proclaims his commitment to the duty he must perform. This is his last day of life. The king died a month ago and is to be buried tonight. As the king’s chief horseman, it is Elesin’s duty to kill himself so the king won’t be alone.
The Hostage by Brendan Behan (3 Acts)
Pat, an IRA soldier and Irish nationalist, runs a lodging house/brothel with his wife, Meg. They have different views on Irish nationalism. The real owner, Monsewer, is delusional, believing he’s still fighting in the Civil War. There’s a radio report of an IRA prisoner due to be executed by the British. Two IRA guards arrive with a hostage, Leslie, a British soldier.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo (2 Acts)
Inspector Bertozzo is interviewing the Maniac, a man who’s been arrested multiple times for impersonation. Bertozzo tries to corner the Maniac into admitting to some wrongdoing, but he’s evasive. Betozzo has to release him. The Maniac sneaks back into the empty office and goes through the files. He destroys some of them. He finds documents related to a case in the public consciousness, about an anarchist who died while in police custody.
Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years by Emily Mann
Sadie and Bessie Delaney, elderly African-American sisters, have lived together most of their lives. They invite the audience into their home to talk about their lives. They aren’t rich, but they’ve managed their money well. They talk about their parents, work history, encounters with racism, the Great Depression, and other aspects of life.
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer
When Mozart died, there were rumors he had been poisoned by Salieri. We see the progress of their musical careers and rivalry.