About the Script and its Development
The Hand That Holds The Quill has been a labor of love for Cindy since 2018, when she began researching and reading about the 1787 Constitutional Convention. She began developing the script in 2019 after buying dramatic rights to Arthur Plotnik’s biography about her ancestor, Jacob Shallus: The Man Behind The Quill.
Although The Hand That Holds The Quill premiered at Central Penn College in Summerdale, PA, with three sold-out performances in September 2021 and a matinee at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Cindy has re-written almost every word of the dialogue since 2021.
In Cindy’s writing and re-writing, she has worked hard to distinguish The Hand That Holds The Quill from the musical 1776. After all, both works feature many of the same men in the same Philadelphia building swatting flies.
What sets Quill apart from 1776 is the inclusion of women in the story, fixating on their exclusion from history. Discovering that some delegate wives accompanied their husbands to Philadelphia was exactly what Cindy needed to inject a feminine perspective to politics.
Another storyline and two characters Cindy wanted to research was that of freed African Absalom Jones and his wife Mary. Absalom Jones had a personal (and historical) encounter with white supremacy in April 1787 that parallels, in some respects, an experience Jacob has. Both Absalom and Mary have expanded roles in the new version of Quill. (Absalom Jones established the first Black Episcopal congregation in Philadelphia in 1794.)
Cindy has re-worked the script to create more drama and intrigue. Some original characters had to go, but re-shaping the story gave Cindy the opportunity to flesh out other characters, particularly Benjamin Franklin. Ben now has a solo, appropriately titled “Inventing America.”
In her re-writing, Cindy realized how modern-day politics still grapple with 1787 issues–making the musical so very relevant. In these turbulent political times, Cindy believes The Hand That Holds The Quill can educate, engage, entertain, and challenge theatre audiences as the 250th anniversary of our nation approaches in 2026.
Cindy is looking for a home to workshop The Hand That Holds The Quill in or around Philadelphia. Please contact her with any questions, suggestions, or requests for script samples.
“In 1787, a Philadelphia clerk named Jacob Shallus was hired to scribe the first official copy of the newly-drafted United States Constitution. Over two hundred years later, one of his descendants has written a play about Shallus, his work at the Constitutional Convention, and the famous men who drafted the document which he then penned.”Sean Adams, Pennlive
“The Hand that Holds the Quill combines some personal history that links [the playwright] to the writing of the U.S. Constitution, along with the voices of wives and children of the Founding Fathers and some lesser-known African-Americans who already were advocating for the abolition of slavery in the new nation.”David N. Dunkle, The Sentinel
“The play makes people think about who was fully included in our country when the Constitution was drafted—and who was largely ignored, such as women, people of color and immigrants.”Barbara Trainin Blank, The Burg
Jacob Shallus may or may not have realized the legacy of his handwritten letters engrossed on a four-page document called the U.S. Constitution. But his cousin Cindy Rock Dlugolecki certainly does. She hopes more people learn and share the little-known story of his contribution to American history.Beth Ann Miller, The Daily American
The Hand That Holds The Quill Music Sample