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Title: Boy actors on the early modern English stage : performance, physicality, and the work of play
Author: McCarthy, H.
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis argues for a reconsideration of early modern boy actors as actors, focusing on their active, physical contributions to the plays in which they performed. It suggests that attending to the physical demands of performing as a boy on the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline stage can allow for a more thorough understanding not only of the way boy players performed, but also how plays were written for them in the first place. The thesis makes two key contributions. The first is in its recontextualization of the value and dramaturgical centrality of boys to the plays in which they performed through emphasis on the physical 'body work' of collaborative performance, often discernibly calibrated by the playtext. The second is the case it builds for the value of present-day performance practice in refining our understanding of this corporeal aspect of boy actors' craft. Central to the thesis's revisionist account of boy playing is the triangulation of historical research mapped onto early modern plays-through close study of discrete scenes and entire playtexts-with practical performance work which puts specific stagecraft to the test in a twenty-first-century rehearsal setting and, finally, with a sustained study of a twenty-first-century boy company (Edward's Boys) in rehearsal and performance. This multifaceted approach builds a case for a mode of reading early modern drama which attends to the corporeal dynamics of a printed playtext-dynamics which are all the better understood through practice and performance observations. Informed by re-evaluation of numerous historical sources (many of them untheatrical) pertaining to early modern physical expectations of boys, close theatrically-oriented readings of plays across the early modern repertory, and analysis of present-day performances of boy actors' stagecraft in staging workshops and the twenty-first-century boy company repertory, the thesis ultimately seeks to build a more rounded picture of what it meant-and what it took-to work as a boy actor on the stages of early modern London.
Supervisor: Aebischer, P. ; Rycroft, E. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: boy ; actor ; performance ; early modern ; theatre history ; practice-based research ; Edward's Boys