The Historical Correctness of Co-Ed "Newsies" Productions


Believe me when I say Newsies is going to be a hot property for local theatres for the foreseeable future. Given the immense youth fanbase this piece has, I am willing to bet it will be a high school production chestnut for years to come. 

While the choreography might have to be adjusted for amateur/high school productions, one other major change you're likely to see is a co-ed ensemble of newsies. Now before anyone suggests they may have a problem with that, let me remind you of a couple of reasons why this is going to happen. 

First of all, finding a large group of young men to come out for community theatre/high school auditions is hard enough when you're trying to cast five, let alone 15-20 for a show like this. 

Secondly, casting female newsies isn't adjusting historical accuracy either. While the job was mostly filled by boys ages 8-15 years-old, there were young girls or "newsgirls" that also sold papers as well. While the boys would sell their papers on corners or walk the busy city streets, some newsgirls would save up their money to build newsstands to sell theirs, often leading to better results. 

So while it's not known how many girls participated in the Newsboy Stike of 1899, it is possible that they could have. So I hope that quells any complaints of seeing women protesting the price of "papes" in upcoming productions. 

Given that newsgirls sold papers all over the country, I do hope that this sways theatres from not dressing their female cast members as boys. There's no reason to. If you're looking to be historically accurate with costuming, here is what newsgirls wore while selling papers in the early 1900's. These three are from Hartford, CT:


And these two are from Delaware:


So if you're planning on casting women in your Newsies ensembles:

1. You're not wrong for doing so.

2. Casting newsgirls is a tribute to the many that sold their papers just as well as the boys did, if not better. 

Title Photo: Deen van Meer