Katharine Cockin

Katharine Cockin
Panel 2: People and Processes

Paper title: Edith Craig (1869–1947): Innovations and Improvisations

Abstract: Edith Craig (1869–1947) was one of the most versatile and influential theatre directors of the early twentieth century. Her mother, Ellen Terry, and her brother, Edward Gordon Craig, have received more attention. She was the leading director of women’s suffrage drama. In 1911 she founded the Pioneer Players theatre society, which produced topical plays on social reforms and from 1915 became an international art theatre, introducing London audiences to expressionist and feminist drama from Nikolai Evreinov to Susan Glaspell. This paper will explore the importance Craig placed on lighting in her innovative productions, beginning with the influence she had on W. B. Yeats and then her productions for women’s suffrage, the Pioneer Players, the Leeds Art Theatre and the Barn Theatre. Craig’s innovations were influenced by improvisation and resourcefulness. Her experiments were shaped by her expertise as a costumier and performer; they were also usually achieved with very slender means.

Biog: Katharine Cockin is Professor of English at the University of Hull. She is editor of The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry (8 vols; 6 in print so far, 2010–) and Ellen Terry: Lives of the Shakespearean Actors (2012). In 2008 she launched the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database online guide to the National Trust’s archive of over 20,000 documents. In 2015–16 she led a project to enhance that online resource as AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors. Her new book is Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2017).