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Creating Historical Drama

Creating Historical Drama

A Guide for Communities, Theatre Groups, and Playwrights

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Christian H. Moe, Scott J. Parker, and George McCalmon. Foreword by Romulus Linney


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
6 x 9


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About the Book

This guidebook for transforming actual American figures and events into dramatic form has aided many communities and groups in writing, planning, and producing first-rate historical dramas. The new edition of Creating Historical Drama: A Guide for Communities, Theatre Groups, and Playwrights features updated examples of drama and dramatic activities from short indoor productions to large-scale, outdoor historical dramas; new material about funding, economic impact on communities, budgeting, and marketing; and current information on physical theatre development.

Responding to a national interest in dramatizing historical material in a variety of community settings, the volume begins with a discussion on the scope and sources of historical drama, as well as the reasons for historicizing drama. From there, it details the features of biography, pageant, and epic dramas, and takes on important issues such as historical accuracy and dealing with expository material. The handbook then provides assistance in composing drama, leading and organizing the theatre group, organizing the community’s resources, and evaluating the audience and the production site. Twenty-nine illustrations, with sketches by Darwin Payne and Ronald Naverson, augment the discussion.

Written for the nonspecialist and particularly useful to novice playwrights and directors, the volume is equally important for professional historians, educators, and theatre artists. More than a guidebook, Creating Historical Drama convincingly demonstrates that the genre is a beneficial and significant cultural phenomenon that not only educates and entertains, but also has the power to revitalize civic economy and morale.


Christian H. Moe is a professor emeritus of theater at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he served as department chair and coexecutive director of the McLeod Summer Playhouse. He has written four books and more than a dozen plays.

Scott J. Parker is the director of the Institute for Outdoor Drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the former producer of The Lost Colony, the nation’s first outdoor historical drama.

The late George McCalmon, former director of theatre and chair of the department at Cornell University, brought years of experience as a theatre director and teacher to the writing of the first edition.


“[A] fine work of insight and scholarship, sweeping in scope, admirable in detail, and devoted to its subject. If you care about historical drama, you must have it.”—Romulus Linney, from the Foreword

“The authors with both academic and working experience in theater production relate general guidance and practical considerations for evaluating resources, organizing activities, and engaging in relevant, skilled, coordinated actions for a community theater group to stage a successful historical drama. The crucial challenge of finding and developing talented actors is not overlooked either. Success for such a community production is measured by standards of artistic performance, community service, and management responsibility. Historical dramas are particularly appealing to community theater groups because of the wide freedom they allow in dealing with different historical times, the range of important and often colorful characters, and recurring issues in human affairs. Historical plays can also have a high education value for a local population when local historical characters, scenes, and topics are portrayed. All dimensions of this type of drama particularly suited to community theaters are dealt with, from developing an idea and perspective, writing a script, staging, and engaging with the larger community. This second edition is an abridged revision of the first edition put out in 1965.”—Midwest Book Review