A Study of Amateur Theatre: Making and Making-Do

Cara Gray

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This doctoral thesis offers an analysis of the affective communities of amateur
theatre. This study is motivated by the need to engage seriously with amateur
dramatics as a subject of scholarly investigation, and pays particular attention to the
spaces and processes involved in amateur theatre-making that are often hidden
from public view. Drawing on research conducted with the Settlement Players, an
amateur dramatics group situated in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, this
thesis details empirical research with the group between the years 2014 and 2016.
Specifically, this thesis analyses amateur dramatics as a craft and creative practice. It
places focus on the people involved in backstage roles as set builders, set designers
and costume-makers, aspects of theatre-making that has often been neglected by
theatre and performance scholars. This interdisciplinary study foregrounds the
backstage work that happens before, after and around a performance rather than
the performance itself, and draws on theatre and performance studies, cultural
geography and design theory to analyse the amateur theatre-makers’ craft. Three
empirical chapters foreground amateur dramatics as a process rather than a
product, by paying particular attention to the spatial, material, embodied and
technical dimensions of the amateur theatre-making over the thing produced - the
play, the theatrical set, the costume. It explores how amateur theatre-makers have
the capacity to transform mundane, everyday spaces through the process of their
creative ‘doings’, and in doing so can become biographically bound to them; how
amateur theatre-makers fashion workspaces within their homes and in doing so
create a space in which they can perform their creative identities, outside of the
theatre space; and how processes such as repair and DIY characterise the amateur
theatre-makers’ craft. This research speaks to debates in amateur studies, to
scholars in the fields of cultural geography and design whose interests lie in the
processes and spaces of amateur creativity, and to the emerging field of scholarly
research into backstage work within theatre and performance.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Nicholson, Helen, Supervisor
  • Gilbert, David, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jun 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • amateur theatre
  • amateur dramatics
  • amateur craft
  • amateur creativity
  • set building
  • backstage work
  • making
  • making-do
  • apprenticeship
  • amateur theatre-makers
  • theatre studies
  • cultural geography
  • costume-makers
  • set builders
  • creative doings
  • process
  • visual ethnography

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