Theophilus North (One-Act Version)


Theophilus North (One-Act Version)

Short Play, Dramatic Comedy  /  3w, 4m

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

Theophilus North (One-Act Version)

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    3w, 4m
  • Duration
    40 minutes
  • SubGenre
    Adaptations (Literature), Adaptations (Stage & Screen), Biography, Period
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences, Adult, Senior, Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13), Teen (Age 14 - 18)
  • Nominee! Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding New Play
Theophilus North (One-Act Version)
Also Available



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.

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.

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.

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.

  • Time Period 1920s
  • Setting

    Newport, Rhode Island. Summer 1926.

  • Features Period Costumes
  • Additional Features Mime, No intermission
  • Duration 40 minutes
  • Cautions
    • No Special Cautions


“Imaginative, forceful theater... charming and breathtaking all at once.” – Variety

“Hope pulses so strongly through Theophilus North... Burnett injects his script with cosmic scope... imaginative, forceful theater... charming and breathtaking all at once...iIn 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.” – Talkin' Broadway

“Beautiful and intelligent... a mixture of Wilderesque sobriety and esprit. The late author would undoubtedly have tipped his boater.” – TheaterMania


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


  • Thornton Wilder: It's Time youtube thumbnail

    Thornton Wilder: It's Time

Licensing & Materials

  • Minimum Fee: £40 per performance plus VAT when applicable.

    Please submit a license request to determine availability.


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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 ...

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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 ...
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