Performance as Research


Para1Performance as Research (PAR) is a term that has only fairly recently come into scholarly parlance. It has its origins in the field of Performance Studies that emerged in 1990s New York under the leadership of Kate Taylor and Richard Schechner but is also closely related to the more recent initiative in Practice as Research led by Baz Kershaw in the UK. The defining ideas behind this emerging field are as follows. The embodied processes and procedures performance practice can be a means of research in and of themselves that offer insight equal to more traditional modes of research such as cultural theory and textual analysis. Given this premise, in PAR work, a performance itself is the research product and makes a valuable contribution to academic knowledge-building.
Para2In keeping with the editorial introduction to PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research’s introduction to the subject of PAR, we believe the different modes of research are complementary. The Queen’s Men Editions is the result of a series of PAR projects that integrate textual editing and records-based theatre history with the procedural and embodied knowledges generated by rehearsal and performance.
Para3In Toronto where the Queen’s Men Editions project originated, there is in fact a much longer tradition of using performance to explore theatre history. The Poculi Ludique Societas began performing medieval plays in 1965 and has been operating continuously at the University of Toronto since that time. The Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men Project that staged the first productions of the Queen’s Men plays featured on this site grew out of the work of this company. The project was funded by a research-creation grant newly instituted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in 2005 and expressly designed to encourage the integration of research and artistic practice. Since that time the research team have developed more rigorous PAR methodologies that were the focal point of a major international conference and website: Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context. The conference was organized by Melinda Gough and Helen Ostovich, with Peter Cockett and Jennifer Roberts-Smith. The website was created by Jessica Dell and edited by Erin Julian and Helen Ostovich.

QME Video Records and Performance Annotations

Para4It is not a coincidence that PAR as a discipline as emerged at the same time as the academy’s growing distrust of epistemological fixity and objective analysis. In PAR work the emphasis falls on meanings generated through process and through embodied experiences that can be hard or even impossible to translate in words. The videos featured on this site are a witness to the PAR experiments but are not identical to the experience of the scholars, artists, or audiences participating in them. Videos of theatre fix the performative moments. This offers the advantage of repeated viewing and detailed study but moves the emphasis away from the process that created the performances: the playful, explorative, procedures of the rehearsal rooms and the creative discoveries that occurred in collaboration with our audiences. The performance annotations in Queen’s Men Editions are designed to give insight into the processes that created the performances captured on video. Audiences witness the final choices made by the creative team, but these choices are the result of an extended collaboration between scholars, texts, historical records, creative artists and audiences. None of the choices witnessed by the video are definitive, some of them were not even conscious choices, and the performance annotations are intended to open up the creative and scholarly process that created them for further exploration and analysis.

Performance as Research Essays

Para5The following essays, of which the abstracts appear below, linked to the full essays, were written for Performance as Research in Early English Studies conference using The Three Ladies of London as the point of reference in the Queen’s Men plays, and working back to medieval drama and forward to presentist problems that PAR can help to resolve. The first two essays (Billing and Conkie) examine the large issues of PAR in very different ways. The third (Jenkins) compares PAR to Practice based Research [PbR], using a medieval play as her example. Andy Kesson, in the fourth paper, sees PAR as a tool for understanding textual problems and interrogating genre: what kind of comedy includes deaths? Finally, Kevin Quarmby wonders at the general slowness to accept PAR as a working principle, suggesting that collaboration between textual specialists and theatre specialists will arrive at a more legitimate consensus on meanings based on experiments that respect the embodied skills of the actor.


Abstract: Taking any written text through rehearsal towards performance requires diligence, patience, and incremental iteration. In the case of historically distant drama, the process is more difficult because the text was first performed in architectural and scenographic environments that no longer survive, by playing companies that bear little resemblance to modern actors and directors; moreover, literary and dramaturgical aspects of authorship are frequently figurative, allegorical, and embedded within sets of cultural understanding, theatrical practice, individual imagination, and collective experience that are difficult adequately to reconstruct. So how can we attempt to re-stage historical drama today? This essay triangulates three research areas—historiographical examination of early modern plays in performance; modern systems of rehearsal; and translation theory—in order to consider how concepts of linguistic hospitality, thick translation, and translational and performative community can aid theatre professionals in developing work fine-tuned for historically distant material.
Citation: Billing, Christian M., Historiography, Rehearsal Processes, and Performance as Translation; or, How to Stage Early Modern English Drama Today?, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,


Abstract: This argument focuses on intersections between performance as research, publication, and pedagogy. It argues for innovative approaches to form in order to represent and articulate the complexities of such intersections. Further, it argues for a mode of practice that seeks actively to exploit such intersections and interactions. Finally, the address considers each of the points of this triangle as potential and (potent) origin points for creative and critical enquiry and practice.
Citation: Conkie, Rob, “Fain would I dwell on form”: Performance / Publication / Pedagogy, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,


Abstract: This paper examines Practice-based Research (PbR) as a tool for early period theatre history, arguing for a distinction between PbR and its near relation, Practice as Research (PAR) in terms of the relationship of practice to knowledge-dissemination. In the first part of the paper, I consider the role PbR has played in my own work, and present a preliminary methodology for the application of performance workshops in the study of medieval performance literature. In the second half of the paper, I describe the outcomes of a recent workshop focused on the Northampton Abraham and Isaac and demonstrate the value of PbR for early performance history.
Citation: Jenkins, Jacqueline, Practice-based Research and Early Period Theatre Histories: A Performance Methodology, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,
Bio: Jenkins, Jacqueline ( is associate professor and head of the department of English at the University of Calgary. She is an accomplished scholar in Performance as Research and an experienced play editor, combining that work when possible with women’s voices in early theatre. Her recent publications include The Circulation and Compilation of Devotional Books: Assessing the Material Evidence of Women’s Reading, R. Demaria, Jr., H. Chang and S. Zacher (eds), The Blackwell Companion to British Literature, Volume 1: Medieval Literature, 700-1450 (Malden MA, 2014), 337-54; with J. Sanders (eds), Editing, Performance, Texts: New Practices in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama (New York, 2014); and with M. Polito (eds), The Humorous Magistrate (Osborne): University of Calgary, Osborne MsC 132.27 (The Malone Society Publications, 2011).


Abstract: This essay considers The Three Ladies of London from a Performance or Practice as Research point of view. It introduces the concept of Practice-as-Research, highlighting its use as a mode of discovery of productive textual problems that are not usually spotted in the course of a more traditional close reading. It then considers some of the textual problems in The Three Ladies of London, especially its characters’ relationships with their own identities, with the play’s plot and with its audience. It also considers the play’s lack of the kind of deictic language usually endemic to the early modern script-writing process and its status as a comedy in which somebody dies, reminding us that the 1580s lacked the kind of genre practice we now associate with the period because of the influential demarcations made on the title page of Shakespeare’s 1623 play collection. Using these considerations, the essay charts the scope for actorly choice written into the heart of this play script.
Citation: Kesson, Andy, Acting out of Character: a Performance-as-Research Approach to The Three Ladies of London, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,
Bio: Kesson, Andy ( is senior lecturer in Renaissance Literature in the department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton. He is currently involved in a project on the theatre of the 1580s, with a focus on boy companies (for whom John Lyly wrote many plays) and the influence of boy actors on the playing of adult roles in other companies. His recent publications include John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship (Manchester, 2014); and with Emma Smith (eds), The Elizabethan Top Ten: Defining Print Popularity in Early Modern England (Farnham, 2013). He is founder of Before Shakespeare | The Beginnings of London Commercial Theatre, 1565-1595.


Abstract: McMaster University’s The Three Ladies of London production engages with Wilson’s early modern dramatic text through Performance as Research (PAR). The archival recordings that make up this PAR moment reside in, and are accessed from, their digital home on the Queen’s Men Editions website (QME). Within the wider academic community, however, PAR has yet to achieve its full potential or acceptance. This essay considers the reason for this lessening of PAR’s scholarly status, associated, as it seems, with the hierarchical superiority of more traditional print-based exegesis, which is invariably prioritized and valorized as the sole means to validate PAR’s academic potential. Such valorization denies the collaborative model PAR offers as a laboratory for innovative scholarly inquiry. In addition, this essay questions the prevailing hegemony, and inherent presentism, of recent reconstructional original practice scholarship, while offering an argument for recontextualizing, reviving, and re-enlivening the dramatic text through the embodied skill of the PAR actor.
Citation: Quarmby, Kevin, Enactment and Exegesis: Recontextualizing Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London through Performance as Research, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,
Bio: Quarmby, Kevin A. ( is associate professor and Rose Warner Professor of English at The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth MN. His PhD was awarded by Kingʼs College London. His monograph, The Disguised Ruler in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Ashgate, 2012), was shortlisted for the 2014 Globe Theatre Book Award. Quarmbyʼs journal publications include Shakespeare Survey, Shakespeare, Shakespearean International Yearbook, Multicultural Shakespeare, Cahiers Élisabéthains, and Shakespeare Bulletin. Other essays appear in Women Making Shakespeare (Bloomsbury, 2013), Shakespeare Beyond English: A Global Experiment (Cambridge, 2013), Macbeth: The State of Play (Bloomsbury, 2014), The Revenger’s Tragedy: The State of Play (Bloomsbury 2017), Global and Local Myths in Shakespearean Performance (Palgrave, 2018), and The Arden Research Handbook of Shakespeare and Social Justice (Bloomsbury, 2020).


Erin Julian

Erin Julian (Three Ladies of London, performance) completed her SSHRC-funded dissertation (Laughing Matters: Sexual Violence in Jacobean and Caroline Comedy) in English and Cultural Studies in 2014 at McMaster. She currently holds a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at Western University (Rape Under Erasure in Early/Modern Shakespeare). Her recent publications include Review Essay: New Directions in Jonson Criticism for Early Theatre 17.1 (2014) and (co-authored with Helen Ostovich) Pedagogical and Web Resources in Julian and Ostovich (eds), The Alchemist: A Critical Reader(Bloomsbury, 2013). She is also co-editor of The Dutch Courtesan for the Complete Works of John Marston (OUP, forthcoming) and editor of the website associated with the performance of the play in March 2019. Her essay on performance, Our hurtless mirth: Whatʼs Funny about The Dutch Courtesan? appears in Early Theatre 23.1 (2000), the special issue on Marstonʼs play. She can be contacted at

Helen Ostovich

Helen Ostovich, professor emerita of English at McMaster University, is the founder and general editor of Queen’s Men Editions. She is a general editor of The Revels Plays (Manchester University Press); Series Editor of Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama (Ashgate, now Routledge), and series co-editor of Late Tudor and Stuart Drama (MIP); play-editor of several works by Ben Jonson, in Four Comedies: Ben Jonson (1997); Every Man Out of his Humour (Revels 2001); and The Magnetic Lady (Cambridge 2012). She has also edited the Norton Shakespeare 3 The Merry Wives of Windsor Q1602 and F1623 (2015); The Late Lancashire Witches and A Jovial Crew for Richard Brome Online, revised for a 4-volume set from OUP 2021; The Ball, for the Oxford Complete Works of James Shirley (2021); The Merry Wives of Windsor for Internet Shakespeare Editions, and The Dutch Courtesan (with Erin Julian) for the Complete Works of John Marston, OUP 2022. She has published many articles and book chapters on Jonson, Shakespeare, and others, and several book collections, most recently Magical Transformations of the Early Modern English Stage with Lisa Hopkins (2014), and the equivalent to book website, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context containing scripts, glossary, almost fifty conference papers edited and updated to essays; video; link to Queenʼs Mens Ediitons and YouTube:, 2015. Recently, she was guest editor of Strangers and Aliens in London ca 1605, Special Issue on Marston, Early Theatre 23.1 (June 2020). She can be contacted at

Janelle Jenstad

Janelle Jenstad is a Professor of English at the University of Victoria, Director of The Map of Early Modern London, and Director of Linked Early Modern Drama Online. With Jennifer Roberts-Smith and Mark Kaethler, she co-edited Shakespeare’s Language in Digital Media: Old Words, New Tools (Routledge). She has edited John Stow’s A Survey of London (1598 text) for MoEML and is currently editing The Merchant of Venice (with Stephen Wittek) and Heywood’s 2 If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody for DRE. Her articles have appeared in Digital Humanities Quarterly, Elizabethan Theatre, Early Modern Literary Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, Renaissance and Reformation, and The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. She contributed chapters to Approaches to Teaching Othello (MLA); Teaching Early Modern Literature from the Archives (MLA); Institutional Culture in Early Modern England (Brill); Shakespeare, Language, and the Stage (Arden); Performing Maternity in Early Modern England (Ashgate); New Directions in the Geohumanities (Routledge); Early Modern Studies and the Digital Turn (Iter); Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers (Indiana); Making Things and Drawing Boundaries (Minnesota); Rethinking Shakespeare Source Study: Audiences, Authors, and Digital Technologies (Routledge); and Civic Performance: Pageantry and Entertainments in Early Modern London (Routledge). For more details, see

Jennifer Roberts-Smith

Jennifer Roberts-Smith is an associate professor of theatre and performance at the University of Waterloo. Her interdisciplinary work in early modern performance editing combines textual scholarship, performance as research, archival theatre history, and design in the development of live and virtual renderings of early modern performance texts, venues, and practices. With Janelle Jenstad and Mark Kaethler, she is co-editor of Shakespeare’s Language in Digital Media: Old Words New Tools (2018). Her most recent work has focused on methods for design research that deepen interdisciplinary understanding and take a relational approach. She is currently managing director of the qCollaborative (the critical feminist design research lab housed in the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute, and leads the SSHRC-funded Theatre for Relationality and Design for Peace projects. She is also creative director and virtual reality development cluster lead for the Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation (DOHR) project. She can be contacted at

Jessica Dell

Jessica Dell (Three Ladies of London, Q1 1584) defended her doctoral dissertation, Vanishing Acts: Absence, Gender, and Magic in Early Modern Drama, 1558–1642, in September 2014 at McMaster University. In 2016, she became a full-time instructor at Aurora College (NWT) in the Bachelor of Education program which partners with the University of Saskatchewan and the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP). Recent publications include A witch, a quean, an old cozening quean!: Image Magic and Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage (2014) and, with David Klausner and Helen Ostovich, co-edited The Chester Cycle in Context, 1555–1575: Religion, Drama, and the Impact of Change (2012). She can be contacted at

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is LEMDO’s Consulting Programmer and Designer, a role he assumed in 2020 after three years as the Lead Developer on LEMDO.

Martin Holmes

Martin Holmes has worked as a developer in the UVicʼs Humanities Computing and Media Centre for over two decades, and has been involved with dozens of Digital Humanities projects. He has served on the TEI Technical Council and as Managing Editor of the Journal of the TEI. He took over from Joey Takeda as lead developer on LEMDO in 2020. He is a collaborator on the SSHRC Partnership Grant led by Janelle Jenstad.

Melinda Gough

Peter Cockett

Peter Cockett is an associate professor in the Theatre and Film Studies at McMaster University. He is the general editor (performance), and technical co-ordinating editor of Queen’s Men Editions. He was the stage director for the Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men project (SQM), directing King Leir, The Famous Victories of Henry V, and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (2006) and he is the performance editor for our editions of those plays. The process behind those productions is documented in depth on his website Performing the Queen’s Men. Also featured on this site are his PAR productions of Clyomon and Clamydes (2009) and Three Ladies of London (2014). For the PLS, the University of Toronto’s Medieval and Renaissance Players, he has directed the Digby Mary Magdalene (2003) and the double bill of George Peele’s The Old Wives Tale and the Chester Antichrist (2004). He also directed An Experiment in Elizabethan Comedy (2005) for the SQM project and Inside Out: The Persistence of Allegory (2008) in collaboration with Alan Dessen. Peter is a professional actor and director with numerous stage and screen credits. He can be contacted at



The LEMDO Team is based at the University of Victoria and normally comprises the project director, the lead developer, project manager, junior developers(s), remediators, encoders, and remediating editors.

QME Editorial Board (QMEB1)

The QME Editorial Board consists of Helen Ostovich, General Editor; Peter Cockett, General Editor (Performance); and Andrew Griffin, General Editor (Text), with the support of an Advisory Board.

Queenʼs Men Editions (QME1)

The Queen’s Men Editions anthology is led by Helen Ostovich, General Editor; Peter Cockett, General Editor (Performance); and Andrew Griffin, General Editor (Text).