The Long Christmas Dinner

by  Thornton Wilder

Short Play, Dramatic Comedy  /  5m, 7f

The Long Christmas Dinner - nine decades long - showcases the lives of several generations of the Bayard family, and some of their Christmas dinners.

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The Long Christmas Dinner

by  Thornton Wilder

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    5m, 7f
  • Duration


    40 minutes
  • SubGenre


  • Accolades


    From Off-Broadway
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Appropriate for all audiences
    • Adult
    • Senior
    • Children (Age 6 - 10)
    • Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13)
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

The Long Christmas Dinner – nine decades long – showcases the lives of several generations of the Bayard family, and some of their Christmas dinners. Wilder breaks the boundaries of time as we measure it, and invites us to partake of  “one long, happy Christmas dinner” – past, present, and future. As generations appear, have children, wither, and depart, only the audience appreciates what changes and what remains the same. “Every last twig is wrapped around with ice. You almost never see that,” young Genevieve marvels, not realizing that her mother made this observation years earlier, or that her daughter-in-law will one day do the same.

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"Like a surprise holiday gift [...] [these plays] shine like gems." - The New York Times

"Of all my plays it is the one that has found the widest variety of receptions. At some performances it has been played to constant laughter; some listeners are deeply moved and shaken by it; some find it cruel and cynical (What? The dead are forgotten so soon?)" - Thornton Wilder in a letter written April 11, 1960 to Gertrude Hindemith, whose husband, the composer Paul Hindemith, wrote an opera based on the play


Performing Groups

  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Senior Theatre
  • Church / Religious Groups
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Shoestring Budget
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups


  • No Special Cautions

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $75 per performance



  • Time Period: 1900-1910, 19th Century, 1930s, 1920s, 1910s / WWI
  • Duration: 40 minutes
  • Setting: The dinning room table in the Bayard home, over the course of nine decades.  
  • Additional Features: Local Celebrity Cameo, No intermission
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes


  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)


5m, 7f
LUCIA - Roderick's wife
RODERICK - Mother Bayard's son
CHARLES - Lucia and Roderick's son
GENEVIEVE - Lucia and Roderick's daughter
LEONORA BANNING - Charles's wife
LUCIA - Leonora and Charles's daughter, Samuel's twin
SAMUEL - Leonora and Charles's son, Lucia's twin
RODERICK - Leonora and Charles's youngest son
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Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Non-Traditional casting
  • Expandable casting
  • Roles for Teens
  • Flexible casting
  • Local Celebrity Cameo
  • Multicultural casting
  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)
  • Parts for Senior Actors



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.

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The Long Christmas Dinner was first produced November 25, 1931 in a joint performance by the Yale Dramatic Association and the Vassar Philaletheis at the Yale University theater in New Haven, Connecticut, along with Love and How to Cure It, Such Things Only Happen in Books, and The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden.

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