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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

The Actor in Costume

ISBN 9780230216990
Publication Date January 2010
Formats Hardcover Ebook Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave

How do audiences look at actors in costume onstage? How does costume shape theatrical identity and form bodies? What do audiences wear to the theatre? This lively and cutting-edge book explores these questions, and engages with the various theoretical approaches to the study of actors in performance. Aoife Monks focuses in particular on the uncanny ways in which costume and the actor's body are indistinguishable in the audience's experience of a performance.

From the role of costume in Modernist theatre to the actor's position in the fashion system, from nudity to stage ghosts, this wide-ranging exploration of costume, and its histories, argues for the centrality of costume to the spectator's experience at the theatre. Drawing on examples from paintings, photographs, live performances, novels, reviews, blogs and plays, Monks presents a vibrant analysis of the very peculiar work that actors and costumes do on the stage.

AOIFE MONKS is Lecturer in Theatre Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, UK. She has published on the work of the Wooster Group and Deborah Warner and global performances of Irishness.

Introduction: The Dress Rehearsal
Dressing-Up: The Actor's Body and Costume
Dressing the Audience: A History of Fashion at the Theatre
Re-dressing the Actor: Modernist Costume
Cross-dressing: Authenticity and Identity
Undressing: The Disappointments of Nudity
Dressing the Immaterial: The Problem of Ghosts
After-Effects: Costume and the Memory of Performance.


This lively, ambitious, and readable book frames costume as an essential element in the understanding and imagination of theatrical embodiment; much more than a treatment of costume design and history, The Actor in Costume makes an immediate difference to our thinking about performance today.'- W. B. Worthen, Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts, Barnard College, Columbia University, USA
'The Actor in Costume achieves its aim in…offering fresh ways to think about theatre through the fundamental process of costuming.' - TLS
'...an exploration of theatrical signification that takes costuming as its point of reference...the book is a very engaging conversation-starter that proposes a new and vital way of talking about theatrical costuming, an approach that accords to stage wear the theoretical and historical weight it surely deserves.' - Contemporary Theatre Review
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