Nero, the Emperor of Rome, has an epic public relations problem. He summons Scribonius, last of the great tragedians, to write a play that will turn public opinion in his favor when it is presented at the Neronia Festival of the Arts. Although Scribonius is terrified of displeasing the Emperor, who has the habit of torturing and/or killing anyone who makes that mistake, he recognizes the opportunity to use the power of art to turn Nero's life around. As the two men work through each draft, Nero continually misinterprets Scribonius' meanings, finding justifications for even more tyranny and murder. Scribonius' last effort, having Nero portray himself in the play, backfires completely. Intoxicated by his own creativity, Nero decides he doesn't need a playwright at all -- he's going to go onstage, unscripted, at the Neronia Festival himself. And the Colosseum will never be the same.