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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Theatre Studies Research Grant Awarded to ETSU Assistant Professor

August 11, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Dr. Robert Sawyer, associate professor and assistant chair for graduate studies in the Department of English at East Tennessee State University, has received a research grant from the prestigious Society for Theatre Research, a London-based organization.

Founded in 1948, the Society fosters research into historical and current theatre practice, has an international membership, and is the oldest society of its type in the English-speaking world.

The grant will allow Sawyer to conduct research at the British Museum Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Shakespeare Institute Library in Stratford. The journey will complete Sawyer's efforts begun at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., this past January.

Sawyer is investigating the work of Charles Kean for an extended monograph in the Lives of Shakespearean Actors series published by Pickering & Chatto (London). Kean, who produced the plays of Shakespeare in the mid-1800s and was the son of the notorious actor Edmund Kean, endeavored to create historically accurate versions of Shakespeare's works. By doing so, Kean attempted to further the decorum of the Victorian stage, and he also hoped to become the first actor to be knighted by the Queen, one goal he failed to achieve.

Sawyer's book will re-write the standard account of Kean's contributions to Shakespearean dramatic production. Instead of labeling him, as Punch magazine did, as an "upholster of Shakespeare" or as a disgrace for his "smothering" of Shakespeare's text to accommodate his vision, Sawyer hopes to prove that Kean paved the way for contemporary versions of Shakespearean plays.

In addition, Sawyer will examine Kean's engagement in the debate between "Shakespeare on the page and Shakespeare on the stage," an ongoing dispute in Victorian England. Finally, he will trace Kean's contributions to current notions of the role of the director as the all-powerful unifying force in any staged event.

Sawyer's other works include Shakespeare and Appropriation, Harold Bloom's Shakespeare, and Victorian Appropriations of Shakespeare.

For more information, contact Sawyer at (423) 439-6670 or via

A! ExtraTopics: Awards, Theatre