"Six Characters in Search of an Author" is an absurdist three act play written by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello in 1921. The initial reception for the play at the Teatro Valle in Rome was not good with Pirandello reportedly forced to escape out of a side exit. The film fared much better at future performances. PirandelloWeb notes that the play had successful performances and Europe and the Americas after audiences and critics had "assimilated the extraordinary idea." The play has been performed many times since the 1920s and there was an also an Australian film version of the play made in the 1960s. The Britannica entry for the play says it had a "a great impact on later playwrights."
In the play, six unknown people arrive in the middle of the rehearsal of another play. They explain that they are unfinished characters in search of an author because they were abandoned by the author who created them. The six characters include The Father, The Mother, The Stepdaughter, The Son, The Boy and The Child. The manager overcomes his initial reluctance and decides to take on the strange dysfunctional family characters and have the actors act out their story. The rehearsal is filled with confusion and disruptions as the characters don't always agree with the developing plot and scenes.
Pirandello talks about his play in an essay he wrote for the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1925. VQR calls the article a confession and prefaces it with that bold tagline, "Pirandello Confesses.." Pirandello says he thought to himself, "I have already tormented my readers with hundreds and hundreds of stories. Why should I bother them with an account of these six unfortunates, and their wretched plight?"
But Pirandello was unable to push these characters away. He says, "These creatures of my brain were not living my life any longer: they were already living a life of their own, and it was now beyond my power to deny them a life which was no longer in my control."
Pirandello also says in the essay, "If I dare not heed the statement which G. B. Shaw has seen fit to make—that 'Six Characters in Search of an Author' is the most original and dynamic play ever written in any nation, or at any time, whether ancient or modern - I can at least feel in all conscience that the appearance of the 'Six Characters' marks a date in the history of the Italian theatre which it will not be possible for the supporters of the 'old' drama to ignore."
A translation of the play by Edward Storer (Dover Thrift Editions) is available for purchase on Amazon.com.