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Theophilus North (One-Act Version) - Short Play, Dramatic Comedy

Theophilus North (One-Act Version)

Thornton Wilder, Matthew Burnett

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Short Play, Dramatic Comedy

4m, 3f

ISBN: 9780573704031

A One-Act version of Theophilus North, a dramatic adaptation of the semi-autobiographical final work of Thornton Wilder.

More Information Below:

Description | Characters | Author(s) | Reviews
: Acting Edition
: Large Print
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $45 per performance


Short Play

Dramatic Comedy

Adaptations (Literature), Adaptations (Stage & Screen), Biography, Period

40 minutes

Time Period - 1920s

Settings Of Play -

The play is set in around Newport, Rhode Island during the summer of 1926.  Sets and properties can be made as simple or mimed as desired.  Simple Jazz Age, 1926 period costumes are desired.


Mime, No intermission

Bare Stage/Simple Set

Period Costumes


No Special Cautions


Appropriate for all audiences, Adult, Senior, Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13), Teen (Age 14 - 18)


High School/Secondary, College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Dinner Theatre, Professional Theatre, Large Stage, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups, Church / Religious Groups


From Off-Broadway, From the Helen Hayes Award nominated, and Off-Broadway full-length play

A One-Act version of Theophilus North, a dramatic adaptation of the semi-autobiographical final work of Thornton Wilder.

Set in the tony resort town of Newport, RI, during the height of the Jazz Age in summer, 1926, Theophilus North follows the exploits of the title character as he searches for adventure and his place in the world. Quitting his teaching position in New Jersey, and stranded in Newport after his jalopy breaks down, thirty-year-old Theophilus takes odd jobs (tennis instructor, French tutor, private reader…) in houses of the wealthy, infiltrating himself into the lives and troubles of Newport’s residents, both upstairs and downstairs. But the greatest adventure in store is not at all what he has imagined…


"Hope pulses so strongly through Theophilus North... Burnett injects his script with cosmic scope... Imaginative, forceful theater... Charming and breathtaking all at once... In the spirit of Wilder and with a dramatic vigor all its own, the play turns large-hearted living into art." - Variety

"Undaunted, [it] evokes... tender, unforced humanity... Rich in dry humor, and in Wilder's... philosophy that the cosmic permeates the quotidian... Gently funny, spryly wise..." - Time Out New York

"Charming... Captures Wilder's spirit of genial humor and tempered optimism... Ignites sparks of surprisingly deep emotion." - New York Daily News

"Excavates the Wilder play buried in the novel.... This Theophilus North is unmistakably a cousin of Our Town... There are muscles rippling under the play's rose-scented skin." - New York Sun

"Five stars... Purely sparkles with intelligence, wit and humanity... This is a play both for the head and the heart." - TalkinBroadway.com

"Beautiful and intelligent... A mixture of Wilderesque sobriety and esprit. The late author would undoubtedly have tipped his boater..." - TheaterMania.com

Theophilus North received its World Premiere co-production by Arena Stage in Washington, DC, and Geva Theater in Rochester, NY — for which it received a Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur Award nomination as Outstanding New Play or Musical of the Year.

Inagural Off-Broadway plroduction of the OBIE and Drama Desk Award-winning Keen Company, at the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York City.



4m, 3f


Local Celebrity Cameo, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)


Doubling/tripling roles.  Flexible casting allows for larger cast size, when desired. All Men and Women also play various locations and objects, which speak for themselves.

THEOPHILUS NORTH - lead, male, 30s, daring, intelligent, but emotionally reserved adventurer who quits his job in search of excitement
MAN 1 - 20s, plays a casino owner; snobbish teen; and a rich, insecure, philanding husband
MAN 2 - 30s, plays a friendly member of the servent class who befriends the lead; a P.E. teacher attempting to elope; and an uptight butler
MAN 3 - 60s, plays Theophilus's father; a worldly mechanic; a blowhard society father; and a housebound millionaire
WOMAN 1 - 20s, plays a captivating young tennis student and a self-centered heiress attempting to run away from home
WOMAN 2 - 30s, plays a concerned society mother; a pregnant socialite learning Shakespeare; and a commanding divorcee
WOMAN 3 - 50s, plays Theophilus's mother; a sweet and simple Irish nurse; and a doyenne of the servant class.

Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975), born in Madison, Wisconsin, and educated at Yale and Princeton, was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works explore the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of his seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, and his next-to-last novel, The Eighth Day received the National Book ... view full profile

Matthew Burnett

Matthew Burnett

Matthew Burnett is the recipient of Los Angeles's Natalie Wood Award for Excellence in Theatre. As playwright of Theophilus North, adapted from Thornton Wilder's novel and published by Samuel French, he was nominated for the Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical of the Year. He is the author of While Mortals Sleep: A Vonnegut Christmas Tale, based on works by Kurt ... view full profile

Other Matthew Burnett titles:

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