These plays about identity have a character struggling with their identity or trying to find out who they really are. Often, they’ll be feeling pressure to ignore their true self. Others might have identity as a theme in a more general sense.
Plays About Identity
Blue Door by Tanya Barfield
Lewis can’t sleep. His wife has left him because he wouldn’t go to the Million Man March. She thinks he’s disconnected from his history. He has a vision of three generations of his ancestors.
This play can be read in the preview of Contemporary Plays by African American Women: Ten Complete Works. (25% in)
Getting Out by Marsha Norman (2 Acts)
Arlene is granted parole after serving eight years for the murder of a cab driver. She moves into a dingy Kentucky apartment. Bennie, a guard at her facility, drives her there and lugs her trunk up the stairs. He asks her about her preferences for the place, but she doesn’t care. Interspersed with the present action are scenes of Arlene (Arlie) when she was younger. We see some of her life before and during her prison sentence.
Some of the first act can be read in the preview of Marsha Norman Collected Plays. (11% in)
Trying to Find Chinatown by David Henry Hwang (1 Act)
Ronnie, a Chinese American, is playing his violin on the street in the Lower East Side of New York. His clothing is from the 60s and he has piercings. Benjamin, a blond tourist from the Midwest, stops to listen for a while. Benjamin asks for directions to an address in Chinatown, which upsets Ronnie. They get into a discussion about ethnic identity.
The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (3 Acts)
Stanley is staying at Meg and Petey’s boardinghouse. Two new visitors, Goldberg and McCann, arrive, which causes Stanley some concern. A birthday party is being planned for Stanley, but when confronted by the two new men, he denies it’s his birthday. They question him thoroughly.
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (5 Acts)
After a show one night, Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering have a run in with a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. Higgins is a phonetics expert; he claims that with three months of tutoring he could pass that girl off as a member of high society. The next day Liza shows up at Higgins’ place to begin.
Sizwe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard (1 Act)
Sizwe Bansi visits the photography studio of Styles. He wants a picture taken to send his wife, and says his name is Robert Zwelinzima. He writes a letter to his wife detailing his search for work and how he came to change his name.
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (3 Acts)
Nora comes home after some shopping. Her husband, Torvald, a bank manager, scolds her over her spending. Nora had secured a loan years earlier by forging her father’s signature. She has been secretly paying it back but is finding it difficult. Krogstad, a man who works for her husband, knows Nora’s secret and threatens her when he runs into some problems.
Plays About Identity, Cont’d
The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein (2 Acts)
The scenes cover notable incidents in Heidi’s life from sixteen to forty. It includes her romantic relationships, involvement in women’s groups, friends, education, and career as an art historian.
Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff (3 Acts)
James works at a school for the deaf as a speech teacher. He begins a relationship with Sarah, the cleaning woman, who is deaf. Sarah and James struggle to live in both the hearing and deaf worlds.
This Is a Test by Stephen Gregg (1 Act)
It’s test day at school, and Alan is panicked. All his preparation has gone wrong, and there are many distractions. He struggles to answer the questions.
The Foreigner by Larry Shue (2 Acts)
Froggy, a staff Sergeant, and Charlie, his visiting friend, are staying at a fishing lodge. Charlie is sad and reticent, so Froggy tells the owner, Betty, that Charlie is a foreigner and doesn’t understand English. Charlie gets roped into this scheme and ends up hearing a lot of private information. Betty is in danger of losing the lodge and some guests plan to buy it.
Funnyhouse of a Negro by Adrienne Kennedy (1 Act)
Sarah, a young woman with a black father and white mother, lives in New York. She’s conflicted with her racial identity, with bad feelings toward her father and positive ones toward her mother. The play opens with a surreal sequence.
The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht
Shen Teh, a prostitute, agrees to provide lodging for three gods. Before they leave, they pay her a generous sum, which she uses to buy a tobacconist shop. Due to her newfound success, she is soon beset with requests for help and various payments. Her cousin, Shui Ta, arrives and helps with the business. He cuts off the handouts. Shen Teh continues to be imposed upon.
The Cocktail Party by T. S. Eliot
Guests are gathered at the Chamberlayne home for a cocktail party, but Mrs. Chamberlayne isn’t there. Her husband makes an excuse for her absence, but she has left him. He talks to a psychiatrist about his life.
The Cuban Swimmer by Milcha Sanchez-Scott
Marguerita Suarez, nineteen-years-old, swims in the Pacific Ocean while her family follows close by in a boat. She’s competing in a race from San Pedro to San Catalina Island. Reporters on a helicopter arrive on the scene and talk about the action and backstory.
I’ll keep adding plays about identity as I find more.