Meet the Playwright behind Little Wars

Meet the Playwright behind Little Wars

Steven Carl McCasland is the playwright behind BAWDS' upcoming production of 'Little Wars'. Read on to hear more about what they have to say about the show!

My name is Steven Carl McCasland and I am the playwright of Little Wars.

At the age of 15, I went to see a play on Broadway written by the late, great Nora Ephorn titled IMAGINARY FRIENDS. It imagined a bitter duet: Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. The only difference between their famous literary feud and Ephron’s play? They were both dead and carrying on in the After Life.

In 1979, Mary McCarthy went on The Dick Cavett Show and declared that “everything Lillian Hellman says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.” Hellman righteously raged and sued McCarthy for defamation. McCarthy claimed to have evidence of her claims, including a witness who claimed to be the real “Julia” from Hellman’s 1973 memoirs Pentimento. Regrettably, years of alcohol and cigarette abuse got the best of these remarkable wits and it never went to trial.

To be entirely honest, I’d never heard of any of them when I was 15. Well, except for Nora Ephron. (You’ve Got Mail remains one of my favourite films of all time.) But they danced around my mind for many years to come, and I eventually found myself writing about McCarthy’s accusation. But this time, I wanted to imagine the very night Hellman might’ve met “The Real Julia”. And so, we find ourselves at one of Hellman’s legendary salons…

A few quick connections between the women: Hellman and Stein were both playwrights, in addition to memoirists. However, they were remarkably different voices, and certainly would not have gotten along. (Hellman was loathed by Stein’s best friend, a writer named Ernest Hemingway.) Parker wouldn’t have known Stein and Toklas, but her best friend Lillian would’ve been sure to invite her to any gathering where the alcohol would be flowing. (Dorothy was always a better friend than Lillian, but that - and Dorothy’s ashes - are a tale for another time…) Christie and Stein did exchange a few letters over time, but as far as I can tell, never truly crossed paths. Christie was questioned for her use of anti-Semitic tropes in her novels, and did decide to have many removed from her work in later publications. This decision led to my curiosity in putting her into this one-of-a-kind group. And then there’s Bernadette, a young girl who never existed, but I hope will be remembered by audiences for a long time to come.

When I’m not writing, I teach piano, acting and voice to students of varying ages and backgrounds, both in person and virtually. (Though I am located in New York City, I work with clients abroad in the UK as well.) I did direct for many years, including early workshops of my own plays, but over time I have focused more and more on writing. I am an avid reader of both fiction and memoirs, and my writing is heavily focused on the stories of remarkable (and complicated) women throughout history, including the characters in Little Wars, Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Laurette Taylor and more. I am currently developing a new play about the suffragettes who studied Jiu Jitsu for self-defence.

Little Wars asks its audience some tough questions: what is a single life worth, and what would you do to save it? What if it were a complete stranger? I hope that audiences walk away from the play with not only an interest in these remarkable women, but reinvigorated to speak out against the rising anti-Semitism, xenophobia and bigoted rhetoric spreading round the world. I hope that in my play you find laughter and fear, joy and sadness, and a passion to spread kindness. Thanks for coming to see it, and for supporting BAWDS and your local amdram!

Little Wars
by Steven Carl McCasland
Tue 26 - Sat 30 September 2023, 7.45PM
Sat 30 September 2023, 2.30PM
Get your tickets here.