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Theophilus North (Play) - Full Length Play, Dramatic Comedy

Theophilus North (Play)

Thornton Wilder, Matthew Burnett

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Full Length Play, Dramatic Comedy

4m, 3f

ISBN: 9780573630415

Nominee! Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding New Play

More Information Below:

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

Minimum Fee: $75 per performance


Full Length Play

Dramatic Comedy

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

120 minutes (2 hours)

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.


Local Celebrity Cameo, Mime

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, Reader's Theatre, Shoestring Budget, Outdoor, Large Stage, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups, Church / Religious Groups


From Off-Broadway

Nominee! Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding New Play

From Off-Broadway comes this astonishing charmer of a play, based upon the semi-autobiographical final work of three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning icon of American letters, 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…

A dramatic comedy in two acts, Theophilus North was created for seven actors (4M, 3W) playing multiple roles. However, with flexible casting it allows parts for over twenty actors, for non-professional groups that wish to find properties to accommodate larger casting needs. Theophilus North can be easily produced with minimal sets, properties and costumes.

"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

If you choose to produce Theophilus North, the following opportunities are available:

• License the play for four or more performances, and at your request through Samuel French, playwright Matthew Burnett will agree to a free one-hour Skype Q&A with you and your department/company.
• When you purchase plays from Samuel French for production purposes, you may request copies autographed by the playwright, at no additional charge.
• At your request from Samuel French, a free Theophilus North Study Guide introducing your students to the world of the play is available.

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. It has since been produced Off-Broadway at the Harold Clurman Theater, by the Drama Desk and OBIE Award–winning Keen Company, and at regional theaters including Organic Theater Company (Chicago, IL), TheatreWorks (Palo Alto, CA), People’s Light and Theatre (Malvern, PA), and Dorset Theater Festival (Dorset, VT), as well as at numerous community, college and high school theaters.

CLICK HERE to read more about Theophilus North from playwright, Matthew Burnett. 



4m, 3f


Ensemble cast, Flexible casting, Roles for Children, Room for Extras, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)


Doubling/tripling roles.  Flexible casting allows for larger cast size, when desired.


No Chorus

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.

All Men and Women also play various locations and objects, which speak for themselves.

Rental Materials


N/A (Not a musical)



  • Theophilus North

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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Elizabeth King Powers 3/30/2016 2:18 PM
Our high school put on Theophilus North in the fall of 2014. The flexible casting was wonderful, as it allowed us to separate some of the roles to get more students involved. With each rehearsal we became more and more friendly with the residents of Newport, and by show time the students had gotten so much out of the message of the story. It was a joy to direct and the students loved it as well - win-win!

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