Miss Cara Gray

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Research interests

'A Study of Amateur Theatre: Making and Making-Do'

My PhD thesis is an ethnographic study of an amateur theatre company's backstage workers. It offers an analysis of the affective communities of amateur theatre by investigating the spaces and processes of theatre-making that are often hidden from public view. The study was motivated by the need to seriously engage with amateur dramatics, an activity deeply valued by its participants yet one that has been long overlooked by the academy. 

Drawing on (visual) ethnographic research conducted whilst an apprentice set builder with the Settlement Players, an amateur theatre group in Letchworth Garden City, my thesis analyses amateur dramatics as craft and creative practice. It places focus on the people involved in backstage roles as set builders, set designers and costume-makers, and explores the spatial, material, embodied and technical dimensions of their theatre-making.  

Thinking about amateur dramatics as a process rather than a product, my thesis 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 (as re-making), repurposing, DIY and creative camaraderie characterise the amateur theatre-makers’ craft. 

My PhD contributed to the wider AHRC funded project 'Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space': http://amateurdramaresearch.com/. 

Personal profile

My research broadly explores the geographies of amateur creativity and sits across the fields of cultural geography and drama and theatre studies. Specifically, I work with amateur theatre-makers to investigate the spaces and processes of their craft. I have an MA in Cultural Geography from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a BA in Geography from the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus). I was supervised by Professor Helen Nicholson (Drama and Theatre) and advised by Professor David Gilbert (Geography).


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