History Plays and Writing For A Large Cast

About a year ago, I wrote about a play that I was “mulling over“.  In addition to mulling over the idea, I’ve also been doing a fair bit of research, reading different accounts of the Upper Canada Rebellion, and soaking up as much information I can. Recently, I acquired a book I’ve been wanting to find for a while, The Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, which contains excerpts from letters, newspaper articles and the like that were written as the events were occurring.  This book has been invaluable as a research tool.

When I first conceived of this play, it was as a small cast, single-set play, the kind we often see in small to mid-sized theatres these days.  There’s a reason why most plays that are produced have a small cast, and a single set: money.  Its expensive to produce a play that has a lot of actors, something that can really only been done for plays by Shakespeare or for musicals.  For new plays, it can be difficult for theatres to be able to afford to produce plays with a large cast, since the play a) may have a limited appeal/audience or b) employing actors and building sets may take away from the funds available for other shows.   As I have progressed in my research, however, I’ve determined that confining the events of this topic to a small cast, on one set does a disservice to the topic, and to the drama of the thing.

I have given myself “permission” to write big, to not worry about how many characters and the scope of the play during the writing phase.  That’s “thinking like a producer”, which I think I should avoid during writing phase of the project.  So, I’m going to do that.

The play is shaping up to be structured like a Shakespearean history play (though I won’t attempt to write in iambic pentameter, that way leads to madness).  Right now, I’m plotting out the play (selecting the “historic events” and writing down how the scene will be structured around those events).

When the play is written, then I’ll worry about how to deal with a play that has such a large cast. But for now, I’m just writing.


  1. Well, people manage to *do* Shakespeare on little to no money all the time, so …

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