The Committee of the Society for Theatre Research
President – Mr Timothy West CBE
Vice-Presidents – Mrs Eileen Cottis, Mr Ian Herbert, Dr Neville Hunnings, Dr Pieter van der Merwe MBE, DL
(The late Barry Sheppard was also a Vice President until his death in 2022. To read our obituary, please click here)
Trustees – Mrs Eileen Cottis, Mr Michael Ostler, Ms Francesca Franchi
Chair – Professor Michael Burden
Vice-Chair – Professor Trevor Griffiths
Honorary Treasurer – Mr Mark Fox
Honorary Secretary and Minutes Clerk – Dr Brianna Robinson-Kirkland
Finance Officer – Dr Irena Cholij
Annual Events Co-ordinator – Dr Valerie Kaneko-Lucas
Communications Officer – Ms Harriet Reed
Website and Membership Officer – Kate Quartano Brown
Legal Advisor – Mr Nick Breen
Independent Examiner – Mr Paul Barron
Mrs Jennie Bisset; Mr Nick Bromley; Dr Gabriela Curpan; Ms Diana Fraser; Mr Howard Loxton; Ms Laura Milburn; Professor Katherine Newey; Ms Kate Quartano Brown; Dr Michael Read; Miss Susan Solomon.
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: 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: 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.
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.
Honorary Treasurer: Mr Mark Fox
Honorary Secretary: Dr Brianna Robertson-Kirkland
Brianna Robertson-Kirkland is Lecturer of Historical Musicology at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and she has a particular interest in historically informed performance practice, opera singers and singing, historical education and eighteenth-century studies. Her book, Venanzio Rauzzini and the Birth of a New Style in English Singing: Scandalous Lessons was published in 2022. She has been a visiting researcher at the University of Sydney and at Chawton House.
She is the Principal Investigator for the Royal Society of Edinburgh-funded project, Scotland’s Singing for Health Network. Brianna is also the Research Associate and Co-Editor of the Tea-Table Miscellany for the AHRC-funded project ‘The Edited Collection of Allan Ramsay’. She is on the board of the British Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies and is the Music Editor for BSECS Criticks.
Past projects include establishing the Royal Society of Edinburgh-funded network, the Eighteenth-century Arts Education Research Network and working as Research Assistant for the Romantic National Song Network, also funded by Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Finance Officer: Dr Irena Cholij
Born in South London of Ukrainian parents, Irena read Music at Girton College, Cambridge. She became interested in theatre music whilst studying for an MMus at King’s College, London with Curtis Price and subsequently completed a doctoral thesis on the music used in 18th-century London Shakespeare productions. Irena was a Lecturer in Music at the University of Birmingham for a number of years and now teaches mathematics in a North London comprehensive school.
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).
Website and Membership Officer: 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)
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.
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.
Ms Diana Fraser
Diana was brought up in New Zealand and has an M.A in French from the University of Auckland. She because involved in theatre while a student, went to Grenoble in France as a “stagiaire” at the Comedie 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. Simultaneously she worked on many trade shows and product launches, and subsequently moved into the education sector as Registrar and pastoral officer for Drama Centre London, ultimately stepping sideways into the position of Supervising Stage Manager working on the school’s 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, workin on small scale productions variously as a stage manager, dresser and props person, alongside a new career as a film extra.
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.
Ms Laura Milburn
I am a PhD student in the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Following on from my MMus degree at the University of Sheffield, I am continuing my research into Noel Coward’s musicals and British musical theatre.
I have presented my research at conferences both in the UK and USA, as well as given several public talks on my research.
I regularly write articles for the Noel Coward Estate’s magazine, ‘Home Chat’ and sit on the committees for the Noel Coward Society and the New Researcher’s Network (sub-commitee of the Society of Theatre Research) where I am Co-Chair.
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.
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.
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.