The Designated Mourner


Writers: Wallace Shawn


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Contemporary, Simple/No Set
Time & Place
An unnamed Western country, Present Day
Cast Size
Ideal for
Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre, Small Cast
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult characters


The Designated Mourner focuses on the lives of three people: Jack, Judy, and Howard. Howard is an outspoken critic of the right-wing, fascist regime which governs his unnamed country, and his views ultimately cost him his life. His daughter, Judy, adores her father but her husband, Jack, has grown to despise the older man. Through a series of interlocking monologues, the three characters reveal the ongoing political tensions and social pressures governing the nation. Theirs is a country in which the intellectual elite are wiped out by an authoritarian society with little tolerance for free thought. Howard’s ‘subversive’ essays and poems are decreed to be too divisive and he is marked as a dissenter and subsequently executed by the government.

As Jack caves in to a nervous breakdown, the political situation reaches its peak. With Howard dead, Judy is arrested and ultimately killed. Alone and emotionally unstable, Jack is left as the lone survivor of his middle-class circle in a nation torn apart by repression, violence, and fear.

Lead Characters

The Designated Mourner guide sections