Dunlap, William (dŭnˈlăp) [key], 1766–1839, American dramatist and theatrical manager, b. Perth Amboy, N.J. Inspired by the success of The Contrast by Royall Tyler, he began to write plays for the American Company (see Hallam, Lewis). His second comedy, The Father; or, American Shandyism, produced in 1789, was his first success. Later plays of his are excellent examples of the Gothic romance school. André (1798), a tragedy based on an actual occurrence in the Revolution, was the first native play on American material. He was a partner in the American Company (1796–97) and he later was manager of the Park Theatre, New York City (1798–1805). Dunlap was a founder and secretary of the National Academy of Design. His History of the American Theatre (1832) and History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (1834) are invaluable source books and contain important autobiographical material. Dunlap's diary was edited by D. C. Barck in 1930.
See biographies by O. S. Coad (1917, repr. 1962) and R. H. Canary (1970).