The Committee of the Society for Theatre Research
President – Mr Timothy West CBE
Vice-Presidents – Mrs Eileen Cottis, Dr Neville Hunnings, Mr Barry Sheppard
(The late Derek Forbes was also a Vice President until his death this January. To read our obituary, please click here)
Chair – Mr Simon Sladen
Vice-Chairs – Dr Marion O’Connor, Professor Trevor Griffiths
Hon. Treasurer – Mr Geoff Davidson
Hon. Secretary – Ms Diana Fraser
Hon. Archivist – Ms Francesca Franchi
Dr Christopher Abbott; Professor Christopher Baugh; Mrs Jennie Bisset; Mr Mark Fox; Mr Ian Herbert; Mr Howard Loxton; Professor Steve Nicholson; Ms Kate Quartano Brown; Dr Michael Read; Ms Harriet Reed; Miss Sue Solomon; Dr Pieter van der Merwe MBE, DL.
a representative of the New Researchers’ Network
Mr Tom Stickland Theatres Trust
Mr Robin Cave Theatre Notebook
Ms Moira Goff Garrick Club Librarian
Dr Anselm Heinrich
For more about each member of the committee, click on their name below.
President: Mr Timothy West CBE
Vice-President: 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 Derek Forbes
Derek Forbes was schoolmaster, County Drama Organiser, and drama lecturer, retiring as Head of Department at Middlesex Polytechnic (now Middlesex University London). He was jointly or solely Hon. Secretary of the Society for Theatre Research 1982-90, and in 2006 was elected one of the Society’s Vice-Presidents. He was a frequent contributor to Theatre Notebook and his most recent books are Illustrated Playbills and The Artist and the Organist: The Luppinos of Hertford and Ware. He died in January 2020, to read his obituary please click here.
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 and with the Southern Arts Association, 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.
Chair: Mr Simon Sladen
Simon Sladen 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: Dr Marion O'Connor
Marion O’Connor is Vice-Chair of the STR Committee and 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.
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.
Hon. Treasurer: Mr Geoff Davidson
Geoff Davidson took over as Hon.Treasurer on 1st October 2017. 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, with Geoff being Chairman from 2007 to 2009. His principal interests are in set design and theatre buildings. In earlier years he designed and stage-managed productions at Ilford Little Theatre and in his onetime home village of Wickham Bishops.
Hon 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.
Hon Archivist: 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.
Dr Christopher Abbott
Chris Abbott is a retired teacher and academic whose previous career involved the use of assistive technology by children with special educational needs. His PhD examined the use of the Internet by young people to create an identity. He was the founding Editor of the Journal of Assistive Technologies, wrote numerous articles and books on this and allied topics, and is now Emeritus Reader, King’s College London. His current theatre research interests relate to pantomime, puppets and circus and he is the author of a history of the Da Silva puppet company and of Putting on Panto to pay for the Pinter (2012, Hobnob Press). He writes reviews of amateur and professional performances for Sardines theatre magazine, and is a Committee Member of the Frank Matcham Society and of Action for Children’s Arts.
Professor Christopher Baugh
Christopher Baugh is Emeritus Professor of Performance and Technology at the University of Leeds. He was a student of Hugh Hunt, Peter Thomson and Stephen Joseph at Manchester University and then went to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. As scenographer he has worked in Bristol, California, Oregon, Manchester, London, and with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin winning a New York Drama Critics Tony award for The Borstal Boy (1969). He has taught at Manchester, London Goldsmiths’ and the University of Kent. His many publications include Theatre, Performance and Technology: the development of scenography in the 20th century (Palgrave, 2005). He curated the exhibition ‘Exploding Tradition: Edward Gordon Craig and the birth of 20th Century Theatre Design’ (1997) for the V&A Theatre Museum and has been consulted by the BBC on numerous occasions as a historian of 18th and 19th century theatre practice. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.