Six Characters in Search of an Author

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Six Characters in Search of an Author
Written byLuigi Pirandello
  • Director/Manager
  • Actors
  • Stage technicians
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Stepdaughter
  • Son
  • Boy
  • Child
Date premiered1921 (1921)
Place premieredTeatro Valle, Rome
Original languageItalian
GenreAbsurdism, metatheatre
SettingA theatre

Six Characters in Search of an Author (Italian: Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore [ˈsɛi persoˈnaddʒi in ˈtʃerka dauˈtoːre]) is an Italian play by Luigi Pirandello, written and first performed in 1921. An absurdist metatheatric play about the relationship among authors, their characters, and theatre practitioners, it premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome to a mixed reception, with shouts from the audience of "Manicomio!" ("Madhouse!") and "Incommensurabile!" ("Off the scale!"), a reaction to the play's illogical progression. Reception improved at subsequent performances, especially after Pirandello provided for the play's third edition, published in 1925, a foreword clarifying its structure and ideas.

The play was given in an English translation in the West End of London in February 1922, and had its American premiere in October of that year at the Princess Theatre, New York.


The characters are:[1]

  • The Father
  • The Mother
  • The Stepdaughter
  • The Son
  • The Boy
  • The Child
  • Madame Pace
  • The Manager/Director
  • Leading Lady
  • Leading Man
  • Second Lady
  • L'ingénue
  • Juvenile Lead
  • Other Actors and Actresses
  • Property Man
  • Prompter
  • Machinist
  • Manager's Secretary
  • Door-Keeper
  • Scene-Shifters


stage scene with director bending forwards, actress standing gesticulating and small family sitting in row
Performance by the Pirandello Theatre of Art, Rome, given in London in 1925: the Manager/Director with the family

An acting company prepares to rehearse the play The Rules of the Game by Luigi Pirandello. As the rehearsal is about to begin, they are unexpectedly interrupted by the arrival of six strange people. The Director of the play, furious at the interruption, demands an explanation. The Father explains that they are unfinished characters in search of an author to finish their story. The Director initially believes them to be mad, but as they begin to argue among themselves and reveal details of their story, he begins to listen. The Father and The Mother had one child together (The Son), but they have separated and Mother has had three children by another man – The Stepdaughter, The Boy and The Child (a girl). The Father attempted to buy sex from The Stepdaughter, claiming he did not recognize her after so many years, but The Stepdaughter is convinced he knew who she was the entire time. The Mother walked in on The Father and The Stepdaughter shortly after The Father's proposal and informs The Stepdaughter that he is her ex-husband; they both express their disgust and outrage. While The Director is not an author, he agrees to stage their story despite disbelief among the jeering actors.

After a 20-minute break, The Characters and The Company return to the stage to perform some of the story so far. They begin to perform the scene between The Stepdaughter and The Father in Madame Pace's shop, which the Director decides to call Scene I. The Characters are very particular about the setting, wanting everything to be as realistic as possible. The Director asks The Actors to observe the scene because he intends for them to perform it later. This sparks the first argument between The Director and The Characters over the acting of the play because The Characters had assumed that they would be performing it, seeing as they are The Characters already. The Director continues the play, but The Stepdaughter has more problems with the accuracy of the setting, saying she doesn't recognize the scene. Just as The Director is about to begin the scene once more, he realizes that Madame Pace is not with them. The Actors watch in disbelief as The Father lures her to the stage by hanging their coats and hats on racks, and Madame Pace follows, "attracted by the very articles of her trade".

Manager with stepdaughter gesticulating in a distraught manner while the father looks bemused
The Manager, The Stepdaughter and The Father, played by Egisto Olivieri, Marta Abba and Lamberto Picasso, 1925

The scene begins between Madame Pace and The Stepdaughter, with Madame Pace exhorting The Stepdaughter, telling her she must work as a prostitute to save The Mother's job. The Mother protests at having to watch the scene, but she is restrained. After The Father and The Stepdaughter act half of the scene, The Director stops them so that The Actors may perform what they have just done. The Characters break into laughter as The Actors try to imitate them. The Actors continue but The Stepdaughter cannot contain her laughter as The Actors use the wrong tones of voice and gestures. The Father begins another argument with The Director over the realism of The Actors compared to The Characters themselves. The Director allows The Characters to perform the rest of the scene and decides to have the rehearsals later.

This time, The Stepdaughter explains the rest of the scene during an argument with The Director over the truth on stage. The scene culminates in an embrace between The Father and The Stepdaughter, which is realistically interrupted by the distressed Mother. The line between reality and acting is blurred as the scene closes with The Director pleased with the first act.

The final act of the play begins in the garden. It is revealed that there was much arguing among the family members as The Father sent for The Mother, The Stepdaughter, The Child, The Boy, and The Son to come back and stay with him. The Son reveals that he hates the family for sending him away and does not consider The Stepdaughter or the others a part of his family. The scene ends with The Child drowning in a fountain, The Boy committing suicide with a revolver, and The Stepdaughter running out of the theater, leaving The Son, The Mother, and The Father on stage. The play ends with The Director confused over whether it was real or not, concluding that in either case he lost a whole day over it.



The play was staged in 1921 by the Compagnia di Dario Niccodemi at the Valle Theatre in Rome to mixed results. The public split into supporters and adversaries. The author, who was present at the presentation with his daughter Lietta, was forced to leave the theatre through a side exit in order to avoid the crowd of opponents. However, the play was a great success when presented in Milan.

West End production, 1922[edit]

The first production in English was given at the Kingsway Theatre, London on 26 February 1922, directed by Theodore Komisarjevsky, with the following cast:[2]

  • The Father – Franklin Dyall
  • The Mother – Lilian Moubrey
  • The Stepdaughter – Muriel Pratt
  • The Son – William Armstrong
  • The Boy – Frederick Peisley
  • The Little Girl – Sylvia Spagnoletti
  • Madame Pace – Margaret Yarde
  • The Manager and Leading Comedian – Alfred Clark
  • The Leading Man – George Hayes
  • The Leading Lady – Sylvia Young
  • The Juvenile Man – Maurice Colbourne
  • The Juvenile Lady – Elizabeth Arkell
  • The Heavy Lady – Muriel Hope
  • The Third Actor – Hugh Owen
  • The Fourth Actor – D. A. Clarke-Smith
  • The Stage Manager – Matthew Forsyth
  • The Prompter – J. Leslie Frith
  • The Stage Doorkeeper – Gilbert Davis

Broadway and off-Broadway productions[edit]


Translations into English[edit]

  • Edward Storer (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1922)
  • Frederick May (1954)
  • Eric Bentley (1964)
  • Paul Avila Mayer (1967)
  • John Linstrum (1979)
  • Felicity Firth (1988)
  • Mark Musa (Penguin, 1996)
  • Anthony Mortimer (Oxford, 2014)


In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pirandello 1923, p. 2.
  2. ^ Parker 1925, p. xxv.
  3. ^ "Six Characters in Search of an Author (1922)". Internet Broadway Database.
  4. ^ ​Six Characters in Search of an Author (1924) at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  5. ^ "Six Characters in Search of an Author (1931)". Internet Broadway Database.
  6. ^ "Six Characters in Search of an Author (1955)". Internet Broadway Database.
  7. ^ "Six Characters in Search of an Author (1963)". Internet Off-Broadway Database.
  8. ^ Lewis 1991, p. 52.
  9. ^ Lewis 1991, pp. 116–117.
  10. ^ Lewis 1991, pp. 118, 121.
  11. ^ "6 Characters in Search of an Author | Sydney University Dramatic Society". Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Layout 1" (PDF). Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  13. ^ Globe Theatre: Six Characters in Search of an Author – BBC – Radio Times
  14. ^ "David Gordon" Archived 10 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine on the Joyce Soho website
  15. ^ "Eight Characters in Search of a Sitcom". Internet Movie Database.
  16. ^ Wilson, Ann (7 November 2013). "Drama". University of Toronto Quarterly. 82 (3): 430–452. doi:10.3138/utq.82.3.4. ISSN 1712-5278.
  17. ^ Boyd, Andrew. "12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse". I Want a Better Catastrophe. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  18. ^ Stewart, Jason (2 January 2020). "On the Road with 12 Characters in Search of an Apocalypse". Dark Mountain Project. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  19. ^ Hawksley, Rupert (10 June 2020). "Staged, BBC One, review: David Tennant and Michael Sheen's Zoom comedy is better than The Trip". i. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  20. ^ Walsh, Liam Francis. "Six Characters In Search of an Outlet". Retrieved 3 January 2023 – via


  • Lewis, Margaret (1991). Ngaio Marsh: A Life. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 978-0-7011-3389-4.
  • Parker, John, ed. (1925). Who's Who in the Theatre (fifth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. OCLC 10013159.
  • Pirandello, Luigi (1923). Three Plays. London and Toronto: Dent. OCLC 859419774.

External links[edit]