My research focuses on the development of the repertory or “stock” system of playing and the ways in which it conditioned the Tudor theatre industry. Discrete projects on the performance of race, collaborative economies, and climate illustrate how the repertory system mitigated financial risk while engendering innovation in the theatre—capitalizing on how the constitutive processes of reception and appropriation shape (early) modern habits of mind. My scholarship and reviews have appeared in or are forthcoming from Early Theatre, Shakespeare Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, Notes & Queries, The Map of Early Modern London, Shakespeare, The Journal of Dramatic Theory & Criticism, and Scene, among others. None of it could have been undertaken without the generous support of numerous fellowships and grants, including from the NEH, Mellon Foundation, Early Modern Conversions, Folger Shakespeare Library, Huntington Library, Newberry Library, and Society for Theatre Research.
I am completing a book manuscript, The Repertory System Before Shakespeare: Playing the Stock Market, which traces the development of the repertory system and the ways in which it conditioned the 1580s and 1590s English theatre industry. Using financial data and the paratheatrical archive in conjunction with archaeological work, I examine four seasons of four different playing companies to expose the interconnections between thematic concerns and staging techniques that set a given company apart. In doing so, I argue that it was repetition, revision, and collaboration, rather than novelty, that produced the diverse, solvent marketplace in which William Shakespeare and his contemporaries would come to train.
Most significant in this research is the discovery that more than seventy percent of plays, and more than ninety percent of performances, in this period featured what we would now identify as people of color. Additionally, in attending to the collective process that was the sixteenth-century theatre industry, this is the first book to offer a dramaturgical approach comparing several troupes rather than focusing on individual company biographies. Providing a comparative methodology to Theatre History, these material findings directly impact practitioners and Performance Studies. A précis was featured in the 2018 #NextGenPlen session of the Shakespeare Association of America conference.
My next book project, Playing Conditions: Climate and the Rise of Early Modern English Drama, examines climatological phenomena affecting Britain in the sixteenth century to understand the potential role played by climate in the emergence of the professional playing companies and, by extension, the rise of the Shakespearean playhouses. Accounts of the weather in this period tend to focus either on the Little Ice Age as an overarching influence, or on specific weather events to which plays allude. Underway in partnership with Laurie Johnson (University of Southern Queensland) and archaeologist Heather Knight (Museum of London Archaeology), this work is particularly timely as the digs of the Rose (1989), Curtain (2016), and Red Lion (2020) foundations are changing everything Shakespeareans thought we knew about spaces of play.
Rather than extrapolating from nature-based metaphors, this study analyzes archaeological data of drainage around known playhouse sites and North Atlantic Oscillation historical index records supported by ice rings to chart localized weather patterns. Comparing these to financial data measuring attendance of specific playhouses, plays, and in what seasons available in testimonial evidence will answer fundamental questions to the field: did weather affect attendance to the outdoor playhouses of the Renaissance? If so, what kind of weather and to what extent? Did playing companies schedule to accommodate climate?
You can find me attending, reviewing, and occasionally directing plays in the Portland area. Get in touch via Twitter (@ElizETavares). Follow my blog, Bite Thumbnails: A Playgoer’s Notebook, for informal theatre reviews, commentary on the state of the theatre industry, and a series on the publishing process.
Puck the Cat and I will see you on the boards!
- PhD, English literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- MA, English literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- BA, English & History, DePaul University