In August, Rowman & Littlefield will publish Orson Welles’s play, Marching Song, about the abolitionist, John Brown.  Providing a synopsis, the publisher notes:

“At the age of 25, Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. But this was not the first achievement in the young artist’s career. A few years earlier he terrorized America with his radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. And even before he conquered the airwaves, Welles had made a name for himself in New York theatre, with his dynamic staging of Shakespeare classics and the politically charged musical The Cradle Will Rock. But before all of these, there was Marching Song—a play about abolitionist John Brown—that Welles had co-written at the age of 17. While attending the Todd School for Boys, Welles collaborated with Roger Hill, the schoolmaster at Todd, to produce this full-length drama.

Marching Song, is a work by one of America’s true geniuses at an early stage of his creative growth. Steeped in historical detail the play chronicles Brown’s fight against slavery, his raid on Harper’s Ferry, his capture, his conviction for treason, and his execution. In addition to the entire text of the play, this volume features a biographical sketch of Welles and Hill—written by Hill’s grandson, Todd Tarbox—during their days together at Todd.

“A fascinating dramatization of a pivotal event in American history, this play also demonstrates Welles’ burgeoning development as a social commentator and an advocate for human rights, particularly on behalf of African Americans. Featuring a foreword by noted Welles biographer, Simon Callow, Marching Song: A Play is an important work by an American icon.”

American director, producer, actor, writer, and film historian, Peter Bogdanovich, remarking on the play observes, “Those of us who love Orson Welles owe a large debt of gratitude to Todd Tarbox for continuing to fill in the amazing puzzle pieces of Welles’ extraordinary creative life. That Orson was able to write as mature a piece as Marching Song at the age of 17 defies belief. But then he did make Citizen Kane at 25, not to mention all the masterpieces that followed, including The Other Side of the Wind, shown for the first time 40 years after he shot it, and still it seems ahead of its time.  Even from the grave, Orson is unstoppable.”

Civil War historian and author, James M. McPherson, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry for Freedom: The Civil War Era, remarking on Marching Song, declaresThis script of an action-filled play about John Brown raises profound questions about the role of violence in the crusade against slavery. The drama is compelling–no surprise, since one of the playwrights was Orson Welles, master of stage, screen, and radio, who uses this medium to illustrate a key event that brought on the Civil War.”

Ray Kelly, owner, and editor of, asserts, “A must-have for any serious Welles fan, Marching Song: A Play is bookended by two illuminating essays by Tarbox. It will be devoured by those looking for insight into the mind of one of the most creative men of the 20th century.”

Snippets from the book are available on Amazon:


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