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Boy Actors in Early Modern England: Skill and Stagecraft in the Theatre provides a new approach to the study of early modern boy actors, offering a historical re-appraisal of these performers' physical skills in order to reassess their wide-reaching contribution to early modern theatrical culture. Ranging across drama performed from the 1580s to the 1630s by all-boy and adult companies alike, the book argues that the exuberant physicality fostered in boy performers across the early modern repertory shaped not only their own performances, but how and why plays were written for them in the first place. Harry R. McCarthy's ground-breaking approach to boy performance draws on detailed analysis of a wide range of plays, thorough interrogation of the cultural contexts in which they were written and performed, and present-day practice-based research, offering a critical reimagining of this important and unique facet of early modern theatrical culture.
As well as being, in all likelihood, ‘Shakespeare’s School’, King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon has another long-lasting connection to the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. For over a decade, ‘K. E. S.’ has been home to Edward’s Boys, an all-boy acting troupe whose productions of plays by Francis Beaumont, Thomas Dekker and John Webster, John Ford, Ben Jonson, John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, John Marston, Charles May, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Nashe and John Redford constitute the largest corpus of early modern drama in present-day performance.
This Element provides the first in-depth study of the present-day all-boy company, Edward's Boys, who are based at King Edward VI School ('Shakespeare's School') in Stratford-upon-Avon. Since 2005, the company has produced a wide array of early modern plays, providing the most substantial repertory of early modern drama available for examination by scholars. The Element provides a comprehensive account of the company's practices, drawing on extensive rehearsal and performance observation, evidence from the company's archive, and interviews with actors and key company personnel. The Element takes account of the company's particular educational and strongly interpersonal environment, suggesting that these factors have a distinctive shaping force on their performance practice. In the hands of Edward's Boys, the Element argues, early modern drama becomes the source of company creation, ensemble practice, and virtuosic physical play, inviting us to reimagine what it means – and takes – to perform these plays today.
This essay traces the careers of thirty-two early modern actors, recorded as having begun as boy players, who transferred from one acting company to the other at least once, considering how the arrival of star players such as Nathan Field and Stephen Hammerton might have affected a company’s repertory.