Don Fried — Playwright & Author

“Shakespeare Inc.” at TheatreNOW — Audition Notice

The Play

Shakespeare Inc. is a comic, but historically possible take on the Shakespeare authorship controversy – that William Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him. In the play, the real authors are three Elizabethan aristocrats who, for various reasons, cannot use their own names. They trick the ambitious, but hopelessly untalented and clueless playwright wannabe William Shaksper (sic) to front for them. However, as the works of “William Shakespeare” become increasingly successful, Shaksper demands more artistic input and an increasing share of the profits.

Shakespeare Inc. is a zany tale of ambition, jealousy and suspicion, that also deals with the serious themes of why people write and, as long as result is great art, should it matter who gets the money and the fame.

Shakespeare Inc. won first prize in the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association Playwriting Contest. It has been produced in London, Los Angeles and Denver.

Performances Dates & Times:

September 7 – October 6, Fridays & Saturdays, 7 pm


$25 per performance


Saturday, April 28, 2 – 5 pm at TheatreNOW, 19 S. 10th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401

No need to prepare a monolog. We’ll do cold readings from the audition sides.

If you are interested but can’t make the audition, contact the director at the email address or phone number listed below.


July 23 – September 6, Mondays – Thursday evenings, 7 – 9:30 pm

Some weekend rehearsals may be in the last week before opening.


(And historical characters ages. Note that there is significant flexibility regarding the ages of the actors playing the roles.)


Christopher Marlowe:  Age 27 at start of play; ages 25 years during the play. Brilliant playwright, trying to drink himself into an early grave.

William Shaksper (pronounced shack-spur):  Age 27. Ambitious, but hopelessly untalented and clueless playwright wannabe.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford: Age 41. British aristocrat, author and patron of the arts. Great ideas, but not very good at writing the finished manuscripts, and he’s frustrated about it.

William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby:  Age 30 at start of play; ages 25 years during the play. British aristocrat and patron of the arts. He’s the businessman and appeaser of the group.

Francis Bacon: Age 30 at start of play; ages 25 years during the play. Social-climbing Renaissance man. Jealous of anyone’s success or influence other than his own.

Ben Jonson:  Age 19 at start of play; ages 25 years during the play. Up and coming young playwright. Increasingly jealous of Shakespeare’s success.

Ruffian 1 (Can be played by same actor as Bacon or Jonson.)  Crude, hired hit man.

Ruffian 2 (Can be played by same actor as Bacon or Jonson.)  Dumb, hired hit man. Ruffian 1’s side-kick.


Barmaid:  Age 50-60. (Can be played by same actor as Queen Elizabeth.) Unsophisticated cockney. She engages in sexy repartee with Marlowe.

Mary Sydney, Countess of Pembroke: Age 30 at start of play; ages 25 years during the play. British aristocrat, author, and patron of the arts. She’s an earth mother who keeps the “boys” from getting out of line.

Queen Elizabeth 1st:  Age 58 (Can be played by same actor as Barmaid.) Tough, brilliant.  There’s a reason why she’s the Queen, even if she sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick.


Don Fried has been a full-time playwright, stage director and screenwriter for 11 years. His stage plays have had over 60 performances in North America and Europe, and his screenplays have been optioned, acquired, and produced.


Phone: 303-815-6164


Synopsis of the Play

The play opens at a current-day weekend theatre party, the participants of which are all descendants of William Shakespeare and other authors who are rumored to have had some part in writing Shakespeare’s works — Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, Edward de Vere, Mary Sydney and William Stanley. Sydney, the owner of the house, shows Marlowe an old  manuscript which claims to be the true account of how Shakespeare’s works were written.

Marlowe begins to read the manuscript and, without warning, we are in the Mermaid Tavern in 1593. Marlowe encounters the hopelessly untalented aspiring author, William Shaksper (sic), who convinces Marlowe to help him with his writing. De Vere and Stanley come looking to hire Marlowe to polish de Vere’s brilliantly conceived, but poorly executed plays. For various reasons, none of the three can use their own names, so they trick the oblivious Shaksper as a front.

The successful venture appears to be jeopardized by Marlowe’s death in a tavern brawl, but it is later revealed that the death was faked to keep Marlowe from going to prison. Marlowe, now hidden in Sydney’s country home, Wilton House, and disguised as the Scottish academic, Newgate, continues to write, assisted by the rest of “Shakespeare Inc” — de Vere, Sydney, Stanley, and a growing army of consultants.  Meanwhile, Shaksper’s head has been turned by his growing fame and wealth and he constantly seeks a bigger piece of the proceeds. Bacon and Jonson, who are jealous of Shaksper’s success, come to Wilton House with Queen Elizabeth to meet the Bard. Queen Elizabeth quickly realizes that Shaksper couldn’t be writing such brilliant works. To the delight of Marlow, Stanley and Mary, she decides that Bacon is the true author.

Bacon becomes increasingly frustrated with his rumored status as a successful playwright, a status from which he derives no benefit, and convinces Shaksper to let him “franchise” the name to a host of other writers. The principals of Shakespeare Inc. are angered by the degradation of the reputation they worked so hard to create, and consider what they can do to end Shakespeare’s career — even to the point of murder.  At the same time, a jealous Jonson is intentionally ruining Shakespeare’s health by taking him on drinking bouts in bad weather. In the end, it is unclear whether Shakespeare Inc. or Ben Jonson is responsible for Shaksper’s death.

At the play’s conclusion, we are again in the present day, where the authors’ descendents prepare to continue the battle on their ancestors’ behalf.


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