Show History



Philemon is very loosely based on biblical events from the third century. In the New Testament of the Bible, Philemon was a wealthy Christian who received a private letter from the apostle, Paul. Eventually, he was martyred. The events of Philemon center around the time when Philemon has already been executed and the clown Cockian impersonates him.


The original version of Philemon opened on January 3, 1975, as one of the last productions at the Portfolio Theatre, which was established by authors Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt to create and promote modern musicals. The original run was supposed to be a limited engagement of only twelve performances, but after it closed, the authors decided to reopen it to meet ticket demand, and Philemon began performances again on April 8, 1975, playing an additional 48 times. The original cast included Dick Latessa as Cockian, Howard Ross as the Commander and Leila Martin (The Phantom of the Opera) as The Wife.

The York Theater Company produced Philemon in a brief Off-Broadway revival in 1991.

Cultural Influence

  • In October of 1976, PBS broadcast a Hollywood Television Theatre production of Philemon, again starring Dick Latessa as Cockian.
  • An original Off-Broadway cast recording was made and released on LP in 1975.


  • Schmidt and Jones' Portfolio Studio produced four experimental musicals, of which Philemon was one. The other three were Celebration, The Bone Room and Portfolio Revue.