A Brief Wikipedia Spiral

screenshot of caroline or change website saying that the site can't be viewed because a flash plug is required.

After seeing the revival of the musical Caroline, or Change I went to read the Wikipedia article and was surprised to read that workshops for the show started way back in 1992. That just felt a bit early*, so I read through the citations and found that they did not mention workshops of the show at all. Nor could I find any press releases that talk about the workshops. Links I found from typing into Google "Caroline or Change workshops" (such as one theatre's dramaturgy study guide for the show) said that workshops began in 1999. Huh?

The question I seek to answer here is: what was the true timeline for the creation of this musical? To find out, I went through each edit made to the Wikipedia article, hoping to uncover missing sources. Here's what I found, and since I wrote this in just a few hours, I am most definitely missing something.

The first mention of workshops was added to the article on 20 June 2006. There is no verifiable citation. It just adds "after a series of workshops that began in 1999."

Nine days later the article is updated to specify "May 1999". No links on the page actually verify this.

Who are these editors? What did they know, and how?

The website for the original Broadway production was built with Flash so it's not possible to view it. I hoped for a moment it would have a history page would crack this case.

An aside: it's funny to me going through the versions of this page and seeing the description of it change from "sung-through" musical to "through-composed" musical. I imagine people sitting at their keyboards, livid at strangers for changing their classification. I'll spare you, dear reader, from me pointing out every minor change that amused me. There were many.

You might be wondering why this concerns me and I think it would be helpful for me to elaborate on that. I won't now.

Years go by and May 1999 remains in the article as the reference date for when this musical first came into being. I clicked through a lot of revisions.

I began to wonder if there was an easier way to find this. To go from after the change backwards, or before the change forwards.

A second aside (sorry): shout-out to the anonymous person (their IP address locates them on the Upper West Side, using Columbia University's internet) who changed the description of Rose's father from "conservative" Jewish man, to "aging communist".

Methology schmethodology, I eventually had my eureka moment, after about 40ish minutes of clicking.

19 November, 2014: the exact moment someone made the change I was looking for. What a day to choose chaos. The account credited with making the change has no other contributions to Wikipedia, besides this one. Their update did not include backing up of its truth, or any comment at all. I wonder how this person is doing today, and if they ever recall this? Do they boast to their friends at parties when the topic of Wikipedia comes up "yeah I edited a page once, I just changed a date on a page, to see if anyone would notice". Breaking news: tarvis did notice.

Before I do anything to remedy this error, I need to know the truth. I could email someone (perhaps someone involved in the workshops), but that would not constitute a reliable source that meets Wikipedia's standards for verifying information. How will ever get this information? Ah, the agony. Thankfully, such a source I describe does exist. Joanna Mansbridge's 2019 article has a footnote with a straightforward answer as to the development of the show.

When I am not sleepy as I am right now, I will make this adjustment—and add a citation.

* wasn't he busy with Angels in America?