Winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Drama: English
Obie Award for Best New American Play: English
Two breakout plays by an Iranian-American playwright that examine the human costs of migration, both for those who leave their home country and for those who stay.
Sanaz Toossi’s English is a comic and empathetic play about a group of Iranian students taking an English language class in the hopes of passing the challenging TOEFL exam. Navigating word games and listening exercises, the students make every effort to become fluent enough to migrate abroad in order to pursue their disparate goals—one hopes to reunite with her Canadian son, another wishes to pursue medical school in Australia. All feel a tension between their Iranian homeland and their hoped-for future. In Wish You Were Here, the focus shifts to a close-knit group of women who initially decide to remain in Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. However, priorities shift as their fluctuating friendships begin to mirror the quickly changing political realities of the country. Taken together, these two plays provide a deeply humanizing portrait of the complex effects of diaspora both within and outside of Iran.
Sanaz Toossi is an Iranian-American playwright from Orange County, California. Her plays include the critically acclaimed, award-winning English (co-production Atlantic Theater Company/Roundabout Theatre Company) and Wish You Were Here (Playwrights Horizons; Williamstown/Audible, released 2020). She is currently under commission at Atlantic Theater Company (Launch commission; Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation grant), Roundabout Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Repertory, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival (American Revolutions Cycle). Sanaz was the 2019 P73 Playwriting Fellow, a recipient of the 2020 Steinberg Playwright Award, the 2022 recipient of The Horton Foote Award and Hull-Warriner Prize, and most recently, the 2023 recipient of the Best New American Play Obie Award. MFA: NYU Tisch.
“A quietly powerful play about four Iranian adults preparing for an English language exam in a storefront school near Tehran, where family separations and travel restrictions drive them to learn a new language that may alter their identities and also represent a new life.” —Pulitzer Prize Citation
“Both contemplative and comic, [English] nails every opportunity for big laughs as its English-learning characters struggle with accents and idioms. But the laughter provides cover for the deeper idea that their struggle is not just linguistic.” —The New York Times on English
“English feels like a breath of fresh air when so many new plays seem to follow a thesis with which the playwright delights in bludgeoning the audience. It’s a remarkably mature off-Broadway debut…As in life, there are no clear-cut lessons in English—and that makes it well worth your time.” —TheaterMania on English
“Charting the course of a tight-knit friend group as the Iranian Revolution shakes up its members’ lives one intimate conversation at a time, [Wish You Were Here] feels like a night in with the girls while the world outside crumbles and changes.” —Theaterly on Wish You Were Here
“[A] gorgeous and humanizing look at Iranian culture with a deep regard for what its citizens have been asked to sacrifice… In reflecting on each character's evolution, one realizes how easy it is for an unthinkable reality to become normalized―especially when one loses access to their dreams and loved ones.” —New York Theatre Guide on Wish You Were Here