This book challenges the traditional boundaries that have separated the histories of the first actresses and the early female playwright, bringing the approaches of new histories and historiography to bear on old stories to make alternative connections between women working in the business of theatre. Drawing from feminist cultural materialist theories and historiographies, it analyses the collaboration between the actresses Elizabeth Barry and Anne Bracegirdle and women playwrights such as Aphra Behn and Mary Pix, tracing a line of influence from the time of the first theatres royal to the rebellion that resulted in the creation of a players' co-operative. This is a story about public and private identity fuelling profit at the box office and gossip on the streets, investigating how women's on- and off-stage personae fed each other in the emerging commercial world of the business of theatre. Employing the narrative strategy of the micro-history, it offers a fresh approach to the history of women, seeing their neglected plays in the context of performance. Competition with the patent house resulted in a dirty tricks campaign that saw William Congreve supporting the female rebels or, as this book suggests, being supported by them. By combining detailed analysis of selected plays within the broader context of a playhouse managed by its leading actresses, the book challenges the received historical and literary canons, including a radical solution to the mysterious identity of the anonymous playwright ‘Ariadne’. It is a story of female collaboration and influence.
Actor and activist
Viv Gardner and Diane Atkinson
The autobiography of Kitty Marion was written in the early 1930s but never published. It records Marion’s childhood in Germany, her life in British provincial theatre and music hall and her campaigns against the ‘casting couch’, a career as a militant suffragist or suffragette during which she committed numerous acts of arson, was imprisoned and suffered force feeding, and finally her move to America and involvement in the American birth control movement. The Epilogue details her life in New York after the end of the autobiography, including her work in the Federal Theatre Project, while the three appendices reproduce extracts from key archive documents which throw additional light on the autobiography. An Introduction outlines the problems Marion incurred trying to publish her story, its subsequent history and addresses some of the issues that her story raises about women’s history of activism.