Studies in the history and function of the British theatre playbill and programme 1564-1914
This thesis offers a comprehensive account of the history, forms and content of playbills and theatre programmes; of the different contexts of their physical production, dispersal and varied uses; and, beyond their immediate utility as a record of author, work, cast, place and time of performance, considers the evidence they yield of the social contexts of theatregoing. Chapter one demonstrates the ways in which diverse approaches to the classification of playbills and programmes facilitate an understanding of their most basic ingredients. Chapter two offers an account of the production and distribution of playbills and programmes from the mid-sixteenth through the early-twentieth centuries. Chapter three explores the relationship between bills of the play and other theatrical documentation. The historical considerations undertaken in the second section, chapters four through six, represent a chronological overview of the numerous developments to the form and content of the British theatre bill occurring between 1564 and 1914. The functional considerations undertaken in the final section offer an analysis of the duties fulfilled by the British theatre bill, before, during and after a production. Chapter seven is concerned with the role of the playbill in anticipation of the future, as a source of both allure and information. Chapter eight examines the role of the programme in conjunction with the present, as a guide to both the play and the theatre. Chapter nine concludes the study, discussing the role of the bill of the play in reflection on the past, as a chronicler of both theatre history and social history.