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Theatre History and Historiography : Industry Professionals/Professional Industry

In the introduction to Performing Environments: Site-Specificity in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama, Susan Bennett and Mary Polito begin by calling for a more expansive history of seventeenth century drama, theatre and performance. They acknowledge why urban, usually London sites and performances have so often been the priority for theatre historians, as permanent playing spaces in the capital resulted in a tangible archive comprising ‘extant playtexts; information about theatre buildings and their locations; knowledge of when and where specific dramas were staged as well as composition of audiences; along with relevant contextual materials including histories of the city, maps, and contemporary non-dramatic representation in the visual arts, poetry, and other media.’ However, Bennett and Polito note that this has drawn focus to particular subject areas: ‘material evidence still tends, typically, to inform either readings of plays or histories of the theatres in which they were staged’ (2014: 1). This acts as a prelude to scrutiny of alternative site specific performance cultures within the edited volume, but it also alerts us to something else that is neglected when the archive promotes text and physical space: reference to the working practices and collaborative infrastructures that have always been essential to producing drama, theatre and performance.

Responding to such neglect has, undoubtedly, become a much greater focus for theatre historians in recent decades. For example, scrutiny of working practices – of professional industry as well as industry professionals – has been integral to studies of women’s work in professional theatre (see Tracy C. Davis’s Actresses as Working Women, Natasha Korda’s Labors Lost: women’s work and the early modern English stage). With the aim of furthering the project to scrutinise working practices within research, our focus for this conference will be upon the concepts of industry and professional work, and we invite papers that consider these subjects in relation to theatre history and historiography. Subjects may include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Tracing working practices and processes in the historical record
  • The altering definition of industry professionals and/or a theatre industry over time
  • Sights and sites of industry/professional practice
  • The significance (or not) of a distinction between the amateur and the professional theatre worker (and the celebrity/star versus ‘everyday’ actor)
  • Materialities of the industry/profession: promptbooks, financial records, autobiographies, souvenirs, publications e.g. The Play Pictorial, trade newspapers e.g. The Era etc.,
  • The professionals backstage: stage managers, set designers, scenic artists, theatre managers etc., as well as authors/playwrights, directors
  • Geographies of the industry within/outside of London
  • The craft: acting styles, training manuals etc.,
  • Industry debates e.g. art versus entertainment, theatre for instruction/pleasure
  • Impacts of Legislation, politics, religion etc., on industry practices and the profession

Please email all abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), an additional few sentences of biographical information and precise details of the audio-visual technology you will need to make your presentation to Dr Lucie Sutherland (lucie.sutherland@nottingham.ac.uk) and Dr Hayley Bradley (h.bradley@shu.ac.uk) The deadline for the submission of proposals is Thursday 13 April 2017. 

Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2017 Conference. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue.

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