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The Farnsworth Invention - Full Length Play, Drama

The Farnsworth Invention

Aaron Sorkin

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Full Length Play, Drama

15m, 3f

ISBN: 9780573662867

"Vintage Sorkin and crackling prime-time theater [...] breezy and shrewd, smart-alecky and idealistic." - Newsday

: Acting Edition
: Large Print
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $100 per performance


Full Length Play



120 minutes (2 hours)

Time Period - 1930s, 1920s


Monologues, Scene work

Unit Set/Multiple Settings

Period Costumes


Mild Adult Themes


Adult, Teen (Age 14 - 18)


College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Large Stage


From Broadway

It’s 1929. Two ambitious visionaries race against each other to invent a device called “television.” Separated by two thousand miles, each knows that if he stops working, even for a moment, the other will gain the edge. Who will unlock the key to the greatest innovation of the 20th century: the ruthless media mogul, or the self-taught Idaho farm boy?

The answer comes to compelling life in The Farnsworth Invention, the new play from Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, The Newsroom, and The Social Network.
"Vintage Sorkin and crackling prime-time theater [...] breezy and shrewd, smart-alecky and idealistic." - Newsday

"A firecracker of a play in a fittingly snap, crackle and pop production under the direction of Des McAnuff, the drama has among its many virtues the ability to make you think at the same time that it breaks your heart." - Chicago Sun-Times

"The most exciting new play on Broadway [...] a rousing theatrical experience." - MTV News



15m, 3f


Reduced casting (Doubling Possible), Expandable casting, Features Teens, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle), Parts for Senior Actors


N/A (Not a musical)

Rental Materials


N/A (Not a musical)


N/A (Not a musical)

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin

Academy-Award® winning writer and renowned playwright Aaron Sorkin graduated from Syracuse University with a B.F.A. in Theatre. He made his Broadway playwriting debut at the age of 28 with the military courtroom drama, A Few Good Men, for which he received the John Gassner Award as Outstanding New American Playwright. The following year saw the debut of his off-Broadway play, Making Movies and in ... view full profile

Other Aaron Sorkin titles:

Now Playing
12/9/2014 11:56 AM
Michael Stratton 4/24/2013 7:40 PM
I don’t know how well Aaron Sorkin’s “The Farnsworth Invention” scores in terms of historical accuracy, but it’s a solid and engaging story.

The play focuses on two men who are racing to invent the first television: Philo Farnsworth, a small town engineering genius; and David Sarnoff, a self-made executive millionaire whose financial resources and ambition know no bounds. Throughout the show, we see how much they are willing to sacrifice – time, money, family, integrity, and more – in the pursuit of success.

Fans of Sorkin’s writing style will be comfortable with the witty dialogue that conveys technical information in bite sized quips and keeps everything moving at a brisk pace. This doesn’t leave much room for exploring intellectual or emotional depths, but there is some notable introspection – particularly in the play’s final moments.

No doubt, the play belongs to Sarnoff and Farnsworth, but there are several supporting roles that can be doubled and that offer other actors moments to shine. It might be noted that the female roles aren’t quite as interesting as the male ones, but they’re by no means pushed off to the side.

The technical elements in this play could pose a challenge to some groups, depending on space, budget, and overall resourcefulness. The story jumps back and forth across many locales, so a fluid and flexible playing space is important. Some unusual props are called for (notably a cathode tube) that may be hard to find or expensive, but the text is strong enough that suggestion and substitution may be effective options.

All in all, given the right cast with strong leads and dedicated supporting actors, capable technical and design crew, and put in front of an audience that doesn’t mind being informed while being entertained, this could be a strong entry to any theater’s season.

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