‘Childhood’ is Wilder at his best.
— New York Daily News
Admirers of Thornton Wilder’s virtuoso short plays will be glad to hear he has returned to the form in which he excels.
— Irving Wardle, London Times, March 16, 1973
We often hear the phrase, ‘a winning child.’ Winning children (who appear so guileless) are children who have discovered how effective charm and modesty and a delicately calculated spontaneity are in winning what they want.
— Thornton Wilder in The Paris Review Interviews, 1957
I’ve been writing two plays (“Ira” and Childhood) that have dream sequences, and have become very attentive to what takes place in dreaming. . .In Childhood I use something I none too clearly remember from The Interpretation of Dreams (and by the light of that book, observed in my own dreaming): that an important person in one’s dream, whom one’s censor does not wish to identify or acknowledge, appears veiled or masked, or seen from the back only. So my children’s father and mother.
— Thornton Wilder, Journal, March 24, 1960

A Comedy
2 males, 3 females

In this provocative, sometimes chilling comedy, Wilder renders a child’s-eye view of the grown-up world, as a father, a mother and their three children play a revealing game of make-believe in which the children pretend to be orphans. Startling truths emerge on both sides, as pretense challenges the family to discard the traditional roles of parent, spouse, child, and sibling–blurring the lines between perception and reality, artifice and innocence.

Childhood was first produced at the Circle in the Square Theater in New York January 10, 1962, as one of three plays grouped as “Plays for Bleecker Street. It was televised by the CBC in 1966 and 1969, and by an educational television channel in 1966 and 1970.

A note on publication:
Childhood was first published in November 1960 in The Atlantic Monthly and later in 1997 by TCG in The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder, edited by Donald Gallup and Tappan Wilder. It is also included in Collected Plays & Writings on Theater edited by J. D. McClatchy, published by The Library of America in 2007.