The Committee of the Society for Theatre Research
President – Mr Timothy West CBE
Vice-Presidents – Mrs Eileen Cottis, Mr Ian Herbert, Dr Neville Hunnings, Mr Barry Sheppard, Dr Pieter van der Merwe MBE, DL
(The late Derek Forbes was also a Vice President until his death this January. To read our obituary, please click here)
Trustees – Mrs Eileen Cottis, Mr Michael Ostler, Ms Francesca Franchi
Chair – Mr Simon Sladen
Vice-Chair – Professor Trevor Griffiths
Honorary Treasurer – Mr Mark Fox
Honorary Secretary – Ms Diana Fraser
Finance and Membership Officer – Ms Yona Lesger
Annual Events Co-ordinator – Dr Valerie Kaneko-Lucas
Communications Officer – Ms Harriet Reed
Minutes Clerk – Mr Peter Close
Legal Advisor – Mr Lee Hargreaves
Independent Examiner – Mr Paul Barron
Mrs Jennie Bisset; Mr Geoff Davidson; Dr Gabriela Kurpan; Ms Rebecca Infield; Dr Eilidh Innes; Mr Howard Loxton; Professor Katherine Newey; Professor Steve Nicholson; Dr Marion O’Connor; Ms Kate Quartano Brown; Dr Michael Read; Miss Susan Solomon.
Professor Michael Burden
Mr Nick Bromley
A representative of the New Researchers Network
A representative of the Theatre collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum
A representative of Theatre Notebook
A representative of the Theatres Trust
For more about each member of the committee, click on their name below.
President: Mr Timothy West CBE
Vice-President and Trustee: Mrs Eileen Cottis
Eileen Cottis joined the Society in 1956, wrote the Committee Minutes from 1959, and was Hon Secretary for some twenty years until 2014. She is one of the Society’s Vice-Presidents, and also a Trustee. She graduated in French from St Anne’s College, Oxford, and then began research on late 19th century English and French theatre, on which she still writes occasional articles. She taught first at St Anne’s, then at the Polytechnic of North London (now London Metropolitan University), where she taught a part-time MA in Modern Drama Studies, which meant that for some years she met ex-students almost every time she went to the theatre. She also completed an MA in Film Studies, and a postgraduate diploma in Computing; she constructed the Society’s first ever web site (four pages of text, no pictures). She married Peter Cottis in 1957, and has two children and three granddaughters, all theatre practitioners.
Vice-President: Mr Ian Herbert
Ian Herbert, past Chairman of the Society for Theatre Research, is now a trustee and consultant editor of Theatre Record, which he edited and published from 1981-2003. He edited the technical journal Sightline, 1984-91. He writes regularly for theatre journals worldwide, including The Stage newspaper. President from 2001-2008 of the International Association of Theatre Critics, he is now an Honorary President. He is a board member of the Europe Theatre Prize, and a trustee of the Critics’ Circle. A former visiting professor of several US universities, he has lectured in many countries of the world.
Vice-President: Dr Neville Hunnings
Vice-President: Mr Barry Sheppard
Barry Sheppard is a graduate of Bristol University’s Drama Department. His career has been in theatre management and production, notably at the University Theatre Manchester (where he worked alongside what is now the Royal Exchange Theatre Company and founded Contact Theatre) and at the Oxford Playhouse. During this time he held honorary posts as an advisor with the Arts Council, the Southern Arts Association, South West Arts and Cornwall County Council, and various committee posts with the Theatrical Management Association (now UK Theatre), including that of Chairman of its Resident Managers Committee. He later worked with WSG Productions as Administrative Producer of Whirligig Theatre, their touring children’s theatre arm. He was for fifteen years (1998-2013) Treasurer and Membership Secretary of the Society for Theatre Research, was Acting Chair 2016/17 and is now one of its Vice-Presidents.
Vice President: Dr Pieter van der Merwe MBE, DL
Pieter van der Merwe joined the STR in 1969, has been a Committee member since 1981 and was the Society’s Chairman, 1997-2001. A Drama graduate of the Universities of Manchester (1967-71) and Bristol (Ph.D 1979), he was on the staff of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich from 1974 to 2018 (part time from 2015), and – combined with other roles – its General Editor from 1992 onward. He is now its Greenwich Curator Emeritus. His principal theatre interest is in the painting of stage scenery and panoramic spectacles in the late 18th and 19th centuries, but he has also written on subjects including naval history and exploration, landscape and marine art and the architecture and history of Greenwich. He is also Chairman of the Turner Society and a Vice-President and Fellow of the Society for Nautical Research.
Trustee: Mr Michael Ostler
Trustee: Ms Francesca Franchi
Following a degree in Italian and a postgraduate qualification in Performing Arts Archives from Manchester University, Francesca worked at the Royal Opera House for 35 years, as Archivist and Head of Collections. Since leaving the ROH, she has undertaken projects for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal National Theatre and the Montserrat National Trust. Francesca is currently working on the archive of Kenneth MacMillan, former dancer, Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer of The Royal Ballet.
Francesca was a Committee Member of the STR for many years, and is currently a Trustee and member of the Publications Sub-Committee.
Chair: Mr Simon Sladen
Simon has been Chair of the Society for Theatre Research since July 2017. He is Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Senior Tutor for Performance on the MA History of Design at the Royal College of Art. Recent research projects have focused on cross-dressed performance, costume, iconography and training in contemporary British Pantomime. Recent displays and exhibitions at the V&A include ‘Tommy Cooper; Just Like That!’, ‘Censored: Stage, Screen, Society at 50’, ‘Ivan Kyncl: In the Minute’ and ‘Carry On Laughing? The State of a Nation’. Simon is Co-Convenor of the Popular Entertainment Working Group at the Theatre and Performance Research Association, on the editorial board of the British Theatre Guide, a member of the Shakespeare North Museum panel and chairs the Academic Advisory Board of Blackpool Museum. In 2011, he founded Panto Day and in 2012 created the National Database of Pantomime Performance with support from the Society for Theatre Research.
Vice-Chair: Professor Trevor Griffiths
Trevor R. Griffiths is a Vice Chair of the STR. He is Co-ordinating Editor of Theatre Notebook and chairs the judging panel for the New Scholars Prize. He is an Honorary Visiting Professor of Humanities at the University of Exeter and was previously Professor of Theatre Studies at London Metropolitan University (formerly the Polytechnic and University of North London). He also taught at the University of Strathclyde and served as Chair of Foco Novo Theatre Company.
Trevor’s research interests include Shakespeare in performance and British drama since 1945.His publications include Stagecraft, studies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, British and Irish Women Dramatists since 1958, The Theatre Guide and editions of eleven classic plays for Nick Hern Books.
Finance and Membership Officer: Ms Yona Lesger
Yona Lesger returned to her role as a Collections Move Officer working on the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Object Decant, after a role as curator of Modern & Contemporary Performance in the Theatre & Performance department, V&A. She was previously the Research Assistant on Fashioned from Nature. She holds an undergraduate degree in Performance Costume from the Edinburgh College of Art and a postgraduate degree in fashion history from the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Honorary Treasurer: Mr Mark Fox
Mark Fox graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury but began working professionally as a performer whilst still at school. As an actor he supplemented income with various marketing and PR roles regionally and in the West End. For the last 30 years he has worked in the West End, mainly from The London Palladium and Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Initially employed as Assistant Manager at Drury Lane, in 1994 he was appointed as Advertising Manager for Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd. Since 2000, when Andrew Lloyd Webber bought Stoll Moss, Mark has worked directly for him both on theatre management (Andrew currently owns 7 theatres) and productions. His personal interests mainly lie in Music Hall, Variety and Musical Theatre. His passion for theatre buildings has led to him becoming Chairman of The Frank Matcham Society.
Honorary Secretary: Ms Diana Fraser
Diana was brought up in New Zealand and has an M.A in French from the University of Auckland. She became involved in theatre while a student, went to Grenoble in France as a “stagiaire” at the Comedy des Alpes, and then in 1973 arrived in the U.K. plunging headfirst into the world of professional British crewing and stage management. She has worked in old fashioned fortnightly and three weekly provincial repertory theatre, toured abroad with Prospect Theatre Company and round the U.K. with major British touring managements, spent two seasons at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, worked at the Mermaid Theatre under Sir Bernard Miles and was on the teams for a number of West End runs. She subsequently worked on many trade shows and product launches, and then moved into the education sector as Registrar and pastoral officer for Drama Centre London, ultimately stepping sideways into the position of Supervising Stage Manager at the school for its public performances with the final year acting students, tutoring the first years in the gentle arts of stage management on these productions. She is still a practitioner, both at the school and on other professional productions as a dresser and props person, alongside a new career as a film extra.
Annual Events Co-ordinator: Dr Valerie Kaneko-Lucas
Dr. Valerie Kaneko-Lucas is a scholar-practitioner, connecting theatre-making and performance theories. Her research interests include representations of race, gender and culture in the post-Empire diaspora. As a director and scenographer, her work explores the interface between text and scenographic practices. She is a contributor to the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Theatre and Performance, Alternatives Within the Mainstream: British Black and British Asian Theatre, Reconstructing Hybridity, ‘Black’ British Aesthetics Today and Design and the Postmodern Stage.
Dr. Kaneko-Lucas created the BA Acting and World Theatre at Regent’s University, She is currently Academic Leader of Performance Preparation Academy and Annual Events Coordinator for the Society for Theatre Research.
Communications Officer: Ms Harriet Reed
Harriet Reed is Assistant Curator of Theatre and Performance at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. She is Chair of the STR Annual Lecture Series and a member of the Council for SIBMAS (International Association for Performing Arts Collections).
Mrs Jennie Bisset
Born London, trained as a dancer then worked in shows, musicals, tv & films 1957-1971 under her maiden name Jennie Walton. On the Equity Council representing Chorus Dancers in the 1960s. Joined the STR 1966 and later member of the Committee for many years. 1969 joined Drury Lane Theatrical Fund (founded by Garrick 1766) becoming first female Director, then Secretary (1984-2004), currently a Director and Honorary Archivist. Photographed ballet in London for 50 years, specialising in the Royal Ballet and Russian companies, with short visits to Leningrad and Moscow 1967-1971. For over 50 years has researched mainly Victorian actors and dancers, especially those not yet fully documented. Now researching the locations of theatrical graves generally, and those buried in Brookwood Cemetery and its Actors’ Acre in particular. Currently on the Committee of the Irving Society. Founder member (2001) and Senior Research Officer to the Museum of Music History.
Mr Nick Bromley
Studied at the University of Neuchatel and trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in Stage Management. He has worked professionally since 1965 and became a West End Company Manager in 1971. Since then his career has alternated between managing plays and musicals. Pre Covid, some recent engagements have included Life and Fate, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters for the Maly Drama Theatre, the Christopher Hampton adaptation of Tartuffe for Wild Yak and the commissioned writing and directing of two children’s plays, Meet the Teaspoons and Lotte Moore – a Child’s War. Nick is the author of Theatre Lore and Stage Ghosts and Haunted Theatres and is the current Master of the Drury Lane Theatrical Fund founded by David Garrick.
Professor Michael Burden
Michael Burden, FAHA, is Professor of Opera Studies at Oxford University; he is also Fellow in Music at New College, where he is Dean. His published research is on the stage music of Henry Purcell, and on aspects of London dance and theatre in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Publications include a collection of opera documents, the five-volumed London Opera Observed 1711-1843, a study of the London years of the soprano Regina Mingotti, and volumes edited with Jennifer Thorp (The Works of Monsieur Noverre, The Ballet de la Nuit, and With a Grace Not to be Captured: Representing the Georgian Theatrical Dancer, 1760-1830). Among his recent articles are those on the Opera House activities of Biagio Rebecca and Henry Tresham. He was one of the curators of the Bodleian Library’s exhibition ‘Staging History’, and the associated edited volume, Staging History 1740-1840. His current project with Jonathan Hicks is the online calendar, The London Stage 1800-1844, https://londonstage.bodleian.ox.ac.uk, and its associated conference ‘The London Stage in the 19th-century World’. He is a past President of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, and together with Jennifer Thorp, founded the Oxford Dance Symposium in 1999. He is director of productions for New Chamber Opera.
Dr Gabriela Curpan
Gabriela is currently a Senior Lecturer and Researcher in acting techniques at the University of Wolverhampton, also teaching acting at Staffordshire University. Since 2018, she is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and, in 2019, was successfully awarded her PhD practice as research in Konstantin Stanislavsky’s system of acting from Goldsmiths, University of London. List of publications:
- (book, 2021) – In Search of Stanislavsky’s Creative State on the Stage with a practice as research case study, London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis
- (book review, 2021) – “The Russian Artistic Genius through the Ages”, Dance Chronicles, Taylor and Francis
- (journal article, 2020) – “Stanislavski’s creative state on the stage, A spiritual approach to the ‘system’ through practice as research”, Stanislavski Studies, Taylor & Francis
- (journal article, 2019) – “The Influence of Christian Orthodox Thought on Stanislavski’s Theatrical Legacy”, Stanislavski Studies, Taylor & Francis.
Gabriela is also a professional female actor, trained both in Romania and in Britain, with over 20 years of stage and screen experience. For nine years, she was contracted by Bulandra Theatre, the only Romanian theatre member of L’Union de Theatres de L’Europe and one of the most prestigious in the country. There, Gabriela had the unique opportunity of working with internationally renowned and awarded directors, such as Alexandru Darie (LIFT nomination), Liviu Ciulei (Crystal Globe, Palme d’Or, and Tony Award), Christian Mungiu (Palme d’Or winner) and Andrei Serban (Peter Brook’s assistant in the 70s plus Tony Award) as well as the opportunity of playing on some of the most famous stages in the world as, for example, Piccolo Teatro Strehler di Milano and Maly Theatre in Sankt Petersburg. Other TV and film credits: (2014) Mrs Petri in DCI Banks (Season 2), directed by James Hawes, Left Bank Picture Ltd., ITV UK; (2002) Bella in Callas Forever, featuring Jeremy Irons and directed by Franco Zeffirelli; (1994) Dana in Un Unforgettable Summer, featuring Kristin Scott Thomas and directed by Lucian Pintilie.
Mr Geoff Davidson
Geoff Davidson was Hon. Treasurer of the STR from October 2017 until handing over to Yona Lesger and Mark Fox in 2019/2020. He was Editorial Manager of Theatre Notebook from 1992 to 2008 and contributed a number of articles, some based on his extensive collection of theatre programmes. Since 2009 Geoff has been one of the journal’s Board of Advisors and wrote 70 Years of Theatre Notebook for the 70th anniversary edition in 2015. His working life was mainly in central and local government, with the last eight years as Head of Essex County Council’s public relations department. He was a partner in his late wife’s antique business and they were both involved in the Bishop’s Stortford Decorative and Fine Arts Society – Geoff was Chair from 2007-2009.
Ms Rebecca Infield
Rebecca has recently submitted her PhD at the University of Warwick. Her research investigates the links between censorship and decolonisation in British and French theatre between 1950 and 1969. Her thesis examined playwrights such as Barry Reckord, Mona Brand, Michel Vinaver and Kateb Yacine, using archive materials and interviews to track the reactions of censors to plays which dealt with decolonisation as it was taking place but also work which took on a ‘decolonising’ form. Currently, Rebecca is working on a publication which considers the legacy of colonial-era censorship on theatre dealing with 9/11.
She has taught French, English and theatre studies at a number of French and British universities such as Warwick, Nanterre, Nouvelle Sorbonne, Lancaster and Nottingham. Before beginning her research she worked at the Institut français in London, organising book-related events for adults and children. She has a keen interest in theatre in translation and how this can be promoted in British theatres.
Dr Eilidh Innes
Eilidh recently completed her PhD at Anglia Ruskin University, alongside a corporate role outside academia. Her research centres around the life and career of the nineteenth century journalist and theatrical impresario John Hollingshead, and the ‘lost’ Gaiety Theatre which was originally in the Strand, before being demolished in a Victorian road-building scheme and rebuilt on a different site. She is particularly interested in the role of bohemian networks in shaping popular culture in London’s West End and the links between print and the stage in this period. As the founder and manager of the Gaiety, Hollingshead was responsible for creating the glamorous chorus girls known as ‘Gaiety Girls’, where women were romanticised as showgirls. Eilidh’s research examines the lives of Hollingshead’s female performers, with particular attention paid to those who played the role of ‘principal boys’ in the Gaiety’s burlesque productions. Her work also encompasses the issue of theatre censorship, as Hollingshead fought against censorship of the stage throughout his career, without a great deal of success.
Eilidh has published on the role of actresses in Hollingshead’s success in the Women’s History Network Journal and on the links between Hollingshead and the writers Charles and Mary Lamb in The Charles Lamb Bulletin.
Mr Howard Loxton
Howard Loxton is a writer, editor and critic and a Life Member of the Society He has been responsible for the administration of the STR Theatre Book Prize since 2000 and chairs the panel of judges. He worked in the theatre as actor and stage manager in repertory and the West End before occasional journalism led to a switch into publishing as an editor with Paul Hamlyn, William Collins, Elsevier Inernational and as Editorial Director of Jonathan Cape’s Jackdaw imprint. He is also the author of numerous books, mainly on history, natural history and theatre. He regularly reviews London theatre both in print and on line. He has served on the Committee for some years. Never having held an academic post, though with an MA in Modern Drama, he is a voice for those members outside academia.
Professor Kate Newey
Kate Newey is Professor of Theatre History at the University of Exeter, and Chair of SCUDD, 2018-21. She has been a member of the Society for Theatre Research since the mid-1980s, when she started her PhD on English melodrama. Kate was a judge for the STR Theatre Book Award in 2008, and now chairs the Research Grants sub-committee for the STR. Kate is a nineteenth-century historian who has published widely on melodrama, tragedy, popular culture, the theatre of the nineteenth century, and women’s writing.
Her books include John Ruskin and the Victorian Theatre (Palgrave, 2010) and Women’s Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain (Palgrave, 2005), as well as the edited collections Politics, Performance and Popular Culture, and Ruskin, the Theatre and Victorian Visual Culture (with Jeffrey Richards). She has held many research grants and fellowships, including the AHRC-funded projects, ‘Women’s Playwriting in the Nineteenth Century,’ ‘A Cultural History of English Pantomime, 1837-1901’ with Jeffrey Richards and Peter Yeandle. Kate is currently is Co-Investigator on ‘Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth-Century,’ with Jim Davis, Kate Holmes, and Pat Smyth. In her spare time she likes walking the Cumbrian high fells, lifting weights at the gym, and taking ballet class.
Professor Steve Nicholson
Steve Nicholson is Chair of Twentieth Century and Contemporary Theatre at the University of Sheffield, where his research has focused on British theatre in relation to politics and history during the 20th Century. He has published a four volume history of theatre censorship in Britain during the twentieth century, the final volume winning the annual STR book prize. Other recent publications include Modern British Playwriting: the 1960s, as well as chapters on Theatre and War in 1914, Stage portrayals of Hitler and the Nazis during the 1930s, the political dramas of W.H. Auden, representations of Africa in British theatre, David Hare’s treatment of history and memory, and the film adaptation of Look Back in Anger. He has also written a guide to Alan Bennett’s The History Boys for GCSE students, and is currently completing a study of the plays of Howard Barker, a number of whose plays he has also directed.
Dr Marion O'Connor
Marion O’Connor is Chair of the STR Publications Subcommittee. She has been General Editor of Society for Theatre Research Publications since 2009, after a dozen years as an Editor of Theatre Notebook. She currently serves on that journal’s editorial advisory board and on the editorial board of Early Theatre, the journal associated with Records of Early English Drama. She is a contributor to gold-standard collected editions of Early Modern English drama by professional playwrights — Thomas Middleton (2007), Richard Brome (online 2010, print in preparation), and Thomas Heywood (in preparation) — as well the amateur work of Rachel Fane (2006, 2016). Fascinated by translations and adaptations across time and/or space, by dramatic revivals and theatrical reconstructions, and by the staging of classical texts, O’Connor has published extensively in Shakespeare reception studies, particularly the directorial career of William Poel.
Ms Kate Quartano Brown
Kate Quartano Brown read English at Oxford and studied singing in Austria before becoming a director. She has worked with most of the major British opera companies, and across Europe and the US. She was the first woman to direct Handel operas at the festivals of Göttingen (Riccardo Primo) and Halle (Flavio). In Glasgow she directed the first modern productions of the operas of Rospigliosi (Pope Clement IX). Modern opera productions include the premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel. In addition, she has written and produced numerous smaller-scale pieces based around the music of Purcell (An Elegy for Mr Purcell) , Hildegard of Bingen (A Conversation with Angels), Haydn (Lady Hamilton’s Attitudes), and ancient Scottish and Galician chant and songs (Celtic Voyages). She is very interested in how practising contemporary acting techniques can illuminate the performance of early opera, and was given an STR award for her Passions Project (in association with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama)
Dr Michael Read
Michael Read BA (Manc), PhD (Lond), FRSA, FHEA has been an STR member since 1974. He also belongs to the Irving Society. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic, acted with the RSC and in rep, taught theatre history for a generation at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and his writings on actors and acting contribute to several publications including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Professor Fiona Ritchie
Fiona Ritchie is Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre in the Department of English at McGill University, Montreal. Her research interests are in the reception of Shakespeare and the intersections of gender and theatre history. More broadly, she is keen to promote the study of theatre history through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Fiona is the author of Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and the co-editor, with Peter Sabor, of Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2012). She is currently completing a study of Sarah Siddons and John Philip Kemble as Shakespearean actors. Fiona is also working on a project that explores women’s involvement in regional theatre in Britain in the long eighteenth century.
Ms Sue Solomon
Sue Solomon is an independent scholar with interests in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century theatre. Believing that a number of plays of this period can be brought to life for modern audiences, she has directed many of them. Her productions include Mrs Inchbald’s “A Mogul Tale” and “Lovers’ Vows”. For the STR in 2017 she directed Richard Brinsley Peake’s “The Bridge Which Carries Us Safe Over” in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the opening of the original Waterloo Bridge. As part of the STR’s 2018-2019 lecture series, on 7th March 2019 she is directing a rehearsed reading of the first stage adaptation of “Frankenstein”, again by R.B. Peake. Her other interests include plays about ballooning and lawyers.