SSWR Presents Nancy Selleck: The Audience in Female “Personation”

Thursday, February 16, 2023

6:00 pm — 7:30 pm


Open to the Public

Actors on a stage
Admission Price



All attendees must register online prior to the event

Event Details:

The Center for the Study of Women and Society and the Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance are pleased to present Nancy Selleck, "The Audience in Female “Personation”: Centering Women through Interplay on the All-Male Stage" on Zoom.

This talk will explore how the all-male playing companies of Shakespeare’s London could work to resist their own maleness by enlisting the playgoer as direct addressee of the cross-dressed “boy-heroine.” Arguing that early modern conceptions of “personation” entail the character rather than the player addressing the audience, my claim in the case of many cross-dressed female roles is for the authority of the character’s voice, as opposed to the frequent critical view of its erasure via the perceived presence of the boy player “beneath.” I suggest that the English convention of the boy-actress creates its own distinct form of audience interplay, making the representation of female character a collaborative process. Engaging playgoers directly with the voice, action, & consciousness of the cross-dressed heroine works to re-center authority away from subjective masculinity and toward the exciting interpersonal complexity typical of cross-gendered perspectives.

About the Speaker:

Nancy Selleck is the author of a book on Shakespeare and the language of identity in the Renaissance, The Interpersonal Idiom in Shakespeare, Donne, and Early Modern Culture (Palgrave, 2008), as well as essays and articles appearing in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Modern Drama, Ballet Review, and John Donne in Context. Her teaching and scholarship blend her interests in theatrical texts, history, and performance. She has worked as a theatre director and dramaturg at Harvard and Boston Directors' Lab as well as at UMass Lowell; she was the founding Director of the University's Theatre Arts Program. Recent directing credits include Shakespeare's As You Like It, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Twelfth Night as well as Webster's Duchess of Malfi, Behn's The Rover, Brecht’s Galileo, and Stoppard’s Arcadia. Her current book project, Actor and Audience: Shakespeare's Theatre of Recognition, explores early modern performance practices and the relationship between stage and audience in the Renaissance theatre.

Co-sponsored with the Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance (SSWR) and the CUNY Academy for Humanities and Sciences.