Staging History: Investigating the Potential for a Web Resource for Theatres, Playwrights and Dramaturgs

Project: Research project (funded)Internal pump-priming

Project Details


In order to map the growth and diversity of the history play on UK stages, I am currently constructing a database of historical drama performed since 1900. This will form the cornerstone of my ongoing research, as I will be able to identify trends in playwriting, concentrations of activity in specific regions and venues, and rises and falls of interest in plays set in particular historical periods. However, this data, if published online, might also be a useful resource for dramatists, dramaturgs, programmers and artistic directors in identifying plays that have already been written that are set in a given period. As part of the development process for new work, such increased consciousness of prior theatrical productions and patterns would help writers and dramaturgs develop a play's distinctive voice and may even lead to revivals of neglected plays. Given the shrinkage and, in some cases, extinction of literary management roles in modern producing houses, universities can offer a valuable role in making aspects of theatre history easily available to companies and theatres. The final, web-published version of the database would also be able to automatically update itself to build in new productions and revivals, and so would require only light-touch occasional editing.

Nevertheless, the utility and attractiveness for theatre practitioners of this database is untested. In this project, I seek funding for travel and accommodation to enable me to interview key figures in British theatre about the processes of research and development that inform and underpin new writing with historical settings. My target venues will be primarily producing houses in London, northern England and Scotland. From these theatre figures – artistic directors, dramaturgs, and literary managers – I plan to obtain data on how commissioning, development, research and rehearsal of historical plays works, whether academics are involved as advisors, and how relevant and useful information on other stage treatments of the period would be to that process.
Short titleStaging History
Effective start/end date1/03/181/06/18