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Theophilus North: Thornton Wilder’s Love Letter to Newport UPDATE: RSVP LIST CLOSED

April 4, 2019 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

The Newport Historical Society and the Thornton Wilder Family invite you to free readings of Wilder’s novels and letters, panel discussion, and reception to celebrate the reissue of Thornton Wilder’s novel Theophilus North (HarperCollins) at the Colony House, Washington Square, Newport, RI on April 4, 2019 at 5:30pm. All those in attendance will receive a complimentary copy of the novel with an all-new afterword by Thornton Wilder’s nephew and literary executor, Tappan Wilder, who will also take part in the event.

The last of Thornton Wilder’s works published during his lifetime, Theophilus North is part autobiographical and part the imagined adventure of Wilder’s twin brother who died at birth. When he set out to see the world in the summer of 1926, Theophilus North got as far as Newport, Rhode Island, before his car broke down. To support himself, Theophilus took jobs in the elegant mansions along Ocean Drive, just as Wilder himself did in the same decade. Soon the young man found himself playing the roles of tutor, tennis coach, spy, confidant, lover, friend and enemy as he became entangled in adventure and intrigue in Newport’s fabulous addresses, as well as in its local boarding houses, restaurants, dives and army barracks.

For the dramatic readings


Tony Estrella – A professional actor, director, and the Artistic Director of The Gamm Theatre in Warwick, R.I.

Casey Seymour Kim – Resident Artist at The Gamm Theatre in Warwick, R.I., and Professor of Theatre at Rhode Island College.


For the panel discussion


Sarah Littlefield ­- a professor of English and former chair of the English Department at Salve Regina University has presented and published papers on Thornton Wilder.


Dan Titus – an adjunct professor at Salve Regina University, a collector and curator of Newport’s photographic history and a collaborator with the Thornton Wilder Society on tours of Wilder’s Newport.

John Tschirch – an Architectural Historian presently working with the Newport Historical Society of a book focused on the evolution of Newport’s streetscapes and squares as a work of urban art.

Tappan Wilder – Thornton Wilder’s nephew and literary executor, who penned the novel’s new Afterward.

Wilder’s deep connection to Newport began when, at the age of 20, he was posted to Ft. Adams as a private in the Coast Artillery section of the National Army, 5th Company, Narragansett Bay Regiment in 1918. Like Theophilus North, Wilder spent the summer of 1922 tutoring in Newport and boarding at the YMCA. Wilder returned in 1926 and finished the last pages of what would be his first Pulitzer Prize-winning work, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. In later years, he visited whenever he could, his literary successes allowing him to stay in favorite hotels like the Viking and the Castle Hill Inn.

Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew and literary executor, has this to say about Theophilus North and this event.

“I am fond of describing Theophilus North as my uncle’s artfully crafted “summer read”: That special book that you save up for August and the nearest beach.  It’s more than that, of course, just as Our Town is more than a comfortable small-town story.  It’s not based on a casual acquaintance with Newport, but upon a lifetime’s worth of knowledge and love of the layers of this jewel on the Aquidneck and his fascination with how people handle “life.” The Colony House could not be a more perfect location to celebrate Thornton’s love letter to Newport, the place he loved and the place that inspired one last example of his canny and mischievous imagination at work to tell a story worthy of all seasons.”

The RSVP list is closed.

A big thank you to our sponsors the Boston Beer Company and Greenvale Vineyards.


April 4, 2019
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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Colony House
Washington Square
Newport, RI 02840 United States
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