I’m very happy to be working with John Wyver on Screen Plays, a project which resonates strongly with my interests in broadcasting history and theatre history. In this post my aim is to give a sense of the kind of research questions I will explore in the initial stages of the project by offering a bit of background about myself.
I am currently completing the book Greece on Air: Engagements with Ancient Greek Culture on BBC Radio, 1920s-1960s for Oxford University Press (2013), which is an expanded version of my PhD thesis (‘Engagements with Greek drama and Homeric epic on BBC Radio in the 1940s and 1950s’, Open University, 2009). This work examines the changing contexts for cultural broadcasting before, during and after the Second World War, considering the origins and aims of the BBC’s cultural broadcasting policy, and also departmental, literary-historical and creative contexts for broadcasts which draw on the theatrical and literary canon. These discussions are brought into focus in five case study chapters, some of which have already been published (most recently, ‘A Wartime Radio Odyssey: Edward Sackville-West and Benjamin Britten’s The Rescue (1943)’, The Radio Journal 8.2 (2010)). Also for Oxford University Press I’m co-editing Louis MacNeice: The Classical Radio Plays with Stephen Harrison (2012).
I have an active interest in nineteenth- and twentieth-century theatre history, especially Greek drama produced in educational contexts and by touring companies in the UK. On this I’ve published a book―Performing Greek Drama in Oxford (2011)―and several essays. I have also served as guest editor for a special issue of Comparative Drama on ‘Translation, Performance and Reception of Greek Drama, 1900-1960: International Dialogues’, and co-editor for Dionysus since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (2004) and Aristophanes in Performance, 421 BC-AD 2007 (2007). (For more information see http://amandawrigley.wordpress.com.)
A heavy use of archival and contemporary documentary sources characterises my research in both broadcasting history and theatre history. Also, I shy away from writing ‘grand narratives’, preferring instead to focus on overlooked areas which nevertheless almost always contribute fascinating insights and sometimes even suggest revisions to larger cultural histories.
This methodological approach is influenced by my early work as a librarian working in special collections and archives contexts (1996-2000); this experience led to the post of Researcher at the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, University of Oxford (2001-09), where I worked on a database documenting nearly 10,000 productions of Greek and Roman drama performed internationally on stage, film, television and radio from the Renaissance to the present day.
I am naturally very excited about starting work on data gathering for the Screen Plays database which promises to be an important and fascinating resource for British cultural history. As for my own research questions, first I’ll be investigating Greek plays on television from the 1950s, with reference to their long radio production history. I also plan to explore what was designed as ‘educational’ theatre on television―from BBC Schools Broadcasting to co-productions between the Open University and the BBC.
I am looking forward to sharing my discoveries and thoughts with you on the Screen Plays blog over the coming months! Your comments and thoughts will be very welcome.