Title: Catalysts for Change and Collaborations in New Writing for the Stage: Theatre Underground, University of Essex and Mercury Theatre 1979-96
Funding: Full time Home/EU and international fees and a stipend at AHRC rates for the current academic year 2023-24, of £19,172
Application deadline: 16 February 2024
Start date: October 2024
Duration: 3 years (full time) Part-time students also accepted.
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, in collaboration with the Mercury Theatre, Colchester
This project explores the history of Theatre Underground (1979-96), University of Essex campus theatre, and the relationships it forged between ‘town and gown’. New writing for the stage brought to life significant events in local history and new drama in translation brought world theatre to Essex.
The research will focus on the Theatre Underground archive at the University of Essex. At the Mercury Theatre Colchester, interpretations of the production materials will be explored with theatre practitioners; and public engagement workshops, led by the student, will seek interviews with alumni and audience members of Theatre Underground.
Applicants with backgrounds in literature, drama, theatre, modern languages (especially German), experience of interviewing and/or archival research (although training will be provided) will be especially suited to this research.
This collaborative studentship is open to both UK Students and International Students. The award covers PhD fees for the standard period and a stipend at AHRC rates (for the current academic year 2023-24, the stipend rate is £19,172. This includes enhanced stipend to cover additional travel costs relating to the project. Please note: this funding amount typically increases with inflation each academic year.
Deadline for studentship applications: Friday 16 February 2024, 12pm
Studies of theatre in education have tended to overlook university campus theatres. The seven ‘plate glass’ universities of the 1960s, four of which are in the CHASE consortium (the University of Essex, Kent, Sussex, UEA), had missions to extend higher education to a wider constituency and push through the boundaries of traditional disciplines, and in this regard they had the arts and humanities at their heart. Some research on the architectural design of these new university campuses has emerged but the ways in which they foregrounded campus theatres has not yet been considered. At the University of Essex, the campus theatre known as ‘Theatre Underground’, has subsequently been overlooked. The new Theatre Underground archive deposited at the Special Collections, Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, therefore prompts this project’s consideration of the activities of the university’s campus theatre in the 1980s. This project is timely since University of Essex, like several other ‘plate glass’ universities approaches its sixtieth anniversary in 2024.
This studentship will focus on the ways in which Theatre Underground was involved in:
Three specific plays were produced at the Mercury Theatre. The first play, by Roger Howard, predated Theatre Underground:
Theatre Underground’s new drama included plays produced in translation and brought insights into world drama, often with a focus on revolutionary politics (in USSR, People’s Republic of China, and German Democratic Republic). The works of East German dramatist, Heine Muller, in particular, could be a potential focus of research for this studentship.
The student’s approach to archival research, theatre history, and public engagement will be supported especially by Professor Katharine Cockin, University of Essex, who is Principal Investigator of the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database (2006-08). Professor Cockin’s online database scholarly catalogue of this theatre archive of over 20,000 documents has been extensively used internationally, led to an impact case study for REF 2014 and was funded in the follow-on for impact scheme, as AHRC project, Searching for Theatrical Ancestors (2015-17).
The student’s research on writers in residence and the use of interviews in research will greatly benefit from the extensive experience of Dr Annecy Lax, University of Essex, whose Co-Investigator role in the AHRC GCRF project, Ariadne: Women Making Theatre for Social Change project (2017) in the field of theatre and human rights, involved residencies for international women theatre makers working in conflict and post-conflict zones.
Several plays in the Theatre Underground archive were staged at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. The student will therefore benefit greatly from supervision by Ryan McBryde, Creative Director at the Mercury Theatre Colchester, who brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the creative and artistic ambitions and business context of theatre-making. Research supervisory meetings, on a monthly basis, will draw on the three supervisors’ combined expertise in archival theatre history and theatre practice to support the student in interpretation, analysis, and contextualization of the research findings.
Following training and guidance in seeking ethical approval, the student will interview former audience members and participants in Theatre Underground. This group will be invited through the first workshop at Mercury Theatre and the University of Essex alumni advertisements. One alumnus has already been involved in an interview about their central role in Theatre Underground conducted by Professor Katharine Cockin, following ethical approval (2019). Oral history and ethnographic methodologies will therefore inform the use of interviews and records of experiences of Theatre Underground’s activities.
Please email your application to the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre studies PGR Administrator firstname.lastname@example.org (with a copy to email@example.com) . The title of your email should read CHASE CDA Application – <YOUR NAME>.
The deadline for applications is 12pm (midday) on 16 February 2024.
The following three criteria will be used to assess the applications for the CDA studentships:
Shortlisting will take place during the week commencing 19 February 2024 and shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview with at least one weeks’ notice. Interviews will be conducted via Zoom and are likely to take place in the week commencing 26 February 2024.
Informal enquiries about this collaborative project can be sent to Professor Katharine Cockin at firstname.lastname@example.org
PhD Project SupervisorLiterature, Film, and Theatre Studies, University of Essex
My research focuses on the lives and work of Ellen Terry (1847-1928), the nineteenth-century actor and her daughter, Edith Craig (1869-1947) who was an influential theatre director and activist in the women's suffrage movement. My publications include three books on her life and work: Edith Craig: Dramatic Lives (1998); Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage: The Pioneer Players 1911-25 (2001) and Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art (2017). For more information about my research and current supervision areas, please visit my staff profile.