Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Drum Taps by Lindsay Price is a theatrical adaptation of a selection of Walt Whitman’s civil war poems. Available in both large cast and small cast versions, student performers can bring a war-time experience to stage.
The poems in Drum Taps represent Walt Whitman’s firsthand account of the Civil War. See the words, the emotion, the blood come to life in this theatrical adaptation. This is not your traditional readers theatre or poetry recital. This is flesh and bone words breathed to their fullest humanity. This is struggle and pain. This is confusion and contradiction. This is war.
Why did we publish this play?
It’s one thing to read about war in a textbook. It’s another thing to read an account by someone who was there, who can feel every word they write. And it takes on an entirely new meaning when you read a firsthand account of war through a creative genre.
Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps poetry illuminates his experience of the Civil War – his passion for it at the beginning, his despair at Lincoln’s death, his visits to the wounded at hospitals, his change of attitude towards war as it drew on.
Poetry is hard to stage. It’s a singular experience. I find Whitman’s poetry extremely character-driven. Each poem tells a story. But one genre does not necessarily fit easily into another. A poem is not a play. That was my challenge with my adaptation of Drum Taps – to bring the characters to life and to make it make sense to an audience.
Our version of Drum Taps brings war to life in a unique way. It’s a challenge, it’s cross-curricular, it’s a unique theatrical experience. All great reasons to publish a play.
Let’s hear from the author!
1.Why did you write this play?
Adaptation is my favourite style of writing. I like taking something in one form and finding it’s theatricality. I’ve always been fond of Walt Whitman, and had the opportunity to study some poems in detail. And that’s when I started seeing the possibilities. The vivid imagery of the poetry, and really, the first hand account of war really spoke to me.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
War brought to life.
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
I think the two images that bookend the play, that also represent Whitman’s changing view of war – the beginning of the war where there is excitement to see the young men in their clean uniforms going off to fight for right, and then the much different tone at the end, as the realities, the death, the anguish of war has been fully realized. Whereas at the beginning characters hold pieces of manuscript up high and proud, at the end (the poem is “To a Certain Civilian”) a character crumples pages of manuscript and throws them to the ground.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
Work with the text as is. It’s all Whitman, there are no lines of dialogue that are my own. So don’t change it, don’t modernize it, figure it out. It’s Whitman!
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
I think the source material is a vivid and vibrant first hand look at a war that doesn’t have a lot of primary sources. This alone is important. And then the task to bring a theatricality to poetry is a valuable process. I loved writing it and I have loved seeing it in performance!
Not right for your group right now? Search our play catalogue to find one that your performers will love!
Want to find out more about our newest plays, resources and giveaways?
Get on our list!