Short Play, Dramatic Comedy  /  3w, 2m

In this provocative, sometimes chilling comedy, Wilder renders a child's-eye view of the grown-up world.
  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    3w, 2m
  • Duration
    30 minutes
  • SubGenre
    Theatre for Young Audiences, Fables/Folktales, Experimental
  • Suggested Use
    • Scene work
    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences, Adult, Children (Age 6 - 10), Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13), Teen (Age 14 - 18)



In this provocative, sometimes chilling comedy, Wilder renders a child's-eye view of the grown-up world, as a father, a mother and their three children play a revealing game of make-believe in which the children pretend to be orphans. Startling truths emerge on both sides, as pretense challenges the family to discard the traditional roles of parent, spouse, child and sibling – blurring the lines between perception and reality, artifice and innocence.

Published in Thorton Wilder One Act Series: The Ages of Man.


Childhood was first produced at the Circle in the Square Theater in New York January 10, 1962, as one of three plays grouped as Plays for Bleecker Street. It was televised by the CBC in 1966 and 1969, and by an educational television channel in 1966 and 1970.

CAROLINE – the oldest daughter, 12
DODIE – her sister, 10
BILLEE – her brother, 8

This play can also be cast with 2 girls, 1 boy, 1 male adult actor and 1 female adult actor.

This play can also be cast with 2 Girls, 1 Boy, 1 Male Adult Actor and 1 Female Adult Actor.

  • Time Period 1960s
  • Setting The yard of a suburban house.
  • Features Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes, Period Costumes
  • Additional Features No intermission
  • Duration 30 minutes
  • Cautions
    • No Special Cautions


“Admirers of Thornton Wilder's virtuouso short plays will be glad to hear he has returned to the form in which he excels.” – Irving Wardle, London Times, March 16, 1973

“We often hear the phrase 'a winning child.' Winning children (who appear so guileless) are children who have discovered how effective charm and modesty and a delicately calculated spontaneity are in winning what they want.” – Thornton Wilder, The Paris Review Interviews, 1957

“I've been writing two plays (Ira and Childhood) that have dream sequences, and have become very attentive to what takes place in dreaming... In Childhood I use something I none too clearly remember from The Interpretation of Dreams (and by the light of that book, observed in my own dreaming): that an important person in one's dream, whom one's censor does not wish to identify or acknowledge, appears veiled or masked, or seen from the back only. So my children's father and mother.” – Thornton Wilder, Journal, March 24, 1960


  • Thornton Wilder: It's Time youtube thumbnail

    Thornton Wilder: It's Time


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

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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