The Rivers Under the Earth

by  Thornton Wilder

Short Play, Drama  /  2m, 2f

This play is thought to represent middle-age, in Wilder's unfinished cycle of The Ages of Man.
On a point of land jutting into a lake in southern Wisconsin, the Carter family enjoys a summer's eve. It's an evening like many others: Nothing happens and everything happens.

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The Rivers Under the Earth

by  Thornton Wilder

License Estimator

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    2m, 2f
  • Duration

    Duration

    30 minutes
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Not Applicable
  • Accolades

    Accolades

    Not Applicable
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Scene work
    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience

    Target Audience

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

Additional Info

This play is thought to represent middle-age, in Wilder's unfinished cycle of The Ages of Man.

On a point of land jutting into a lake in southern Wisconsin, the Carter family enjoys a summer's eve. It's an evening like many others: Nothing happens and everything happens. Each member of the family - sixteen year-old Tom, his seventeen-year-old sister Francesca and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carter - shares different memories somehow connected with their surroundings. These memories color the mood of the evening. Young Tom nearly gets into a fight over a girlfriend, whose name, Violet, recalls a key image from his childhood. Francesca never liked this promontory and though she's not sure why, her parents recall their daughter burying a dead robin in that very spot. Mr. and Mrs. Carter struggle with their middle-age in the context of poignant personal memories of moments experienced on that section of rock. Throughout the action, Wilder weaves a tapestry of animosities and affections, memories and confessions, conscious and unconscious behavior and the unfathomable formation of identity.

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Considerations

Performing Groups

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

Cautions

  • No Special Cautions

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $45 / performance
    $75 / performance of 3 plays
    $100 / performance of 4 or more plays


    License Requests for single titles should be submitted on individual title pages.

Production

Details

  • Time Period: 1960s
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Setting: A point of land near a lake in souther Wisconsin
  • Additional Features: No intermission
  • Features / Contains: Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes, Period Costumes

Music

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

Casting

2m, 2f
MRS. CARTER - mother, 38
TOM - her son, 16
FRANCESCA - her daughter, 17
MR. CARTER - their father, 43
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Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Non-Traditional casting
  • Features Teens
  • Multicultural casting

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Authors

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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