Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Ben Jonson Audition Announcement

Shakespeare Inc jpeg


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.


$25 per performance

Performances Dates & Times:

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


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

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

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.

To Schedule an Audition:

Email a head shot and resume to the playwright/director, Don Fried,, phone 303-815-6164.


Don Fried has been a full-time playwright, stage director and screenwriter for 12 years. His stage plays have had over 60 performances in North America and Europe, and his screenplays have been optioned, acquired, and produced.

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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