Shear Madness

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Shear Madness
Written by Paul Pörtner
Date premiered  1963 (1963-MM)
Place premiered Ulmer Theatre
Ulm, Germany
Original language German
Official site

Shear Madness is one of the longest-running nonmusical plays in the world.[1] On Friday, January 29, 2009, the Boston cast celebrated its 30th anniversary (the show's 12,580th performance) at The Charles Playhouse Stage II.[2]


Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan acquired rights for a murder mystery originally titled Scherenschnitt, written by German playwright Paul Pörtner (1925–1984), and made it into Shear Madness.[citation needed]


The play is set in a unisex hair salon in the city in which it plays. The landlady, Isabel Czerny, who lives above the shop is murdered and the audience gets involved in the action by questioning the actors and attempting to solve the crime. The characters include a flamboyant hairdresser and their flirty yet ditzy assistant, along with a prim and proper uptight older lady, and an older man who is a "used antique dealer". Much of the dialogue is improvised by the actors, and the humor tends to revolve around topical references to current events.

The ending of the play is different every night as audience members hear clues, question the characters, and then vote on who they think is guilty.[3]

Performance history[edit]

As of June 12, 2013, actor Patrick Shea has performed with the Boston cast of Shear Madness for 30 years.

Shear Madness opened in Boston at the Charles Playhouse Stage II in January 1980. A second production, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts's Theater Lab in Washington D.C., opened in August 1987. A third production opened in November 2015 at the New World Stages Off-Broadway theater in New York City. The Boston production is sometimes described as the longest-running or second-longest-running non-musical play in the world, although various non-musical plays have run for longer: Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap in London since 1952, Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano in Paris since 1957, and Israel Horovitz's Line in New York City since 1974. A Turkish adaptation by director Nedim Saban opened in Istanbul in 1998. In 2003 Saban adapted the play for a second time; he introduced SMS messages and online chatting as means of interaction.[4] A French adaptation by director Sébastien Azzopardi, written by Azzopardi and Sacha Danino, opened in Paris in 2011.

Performance locations[edit]

City Theatre Website Status
Boston, MA Charles Playhouse Website Currently Running
New York, NY New World Stages Website Closed July 10, 2016
Washington, DC John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Website Currently Running
Seoul, Korea KONTENTZ BOX Website Currently Running
Seoul, Korea Dream Art Center Website Currently Running
Athens, Greece Theatro Apothiki Currently Running
Paris, France Théâtre des Mathurins Website Currently Running
Kraków, Poland Bagatela Theatre Website Currently Running
Colorado Springs, Colorado Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center [N/A] Closed October 16, 2016
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Palace Theater [1] Closed March 2017
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada Persephone Theatre Website Currently Running


External sources[edit]