"Danny, Misty, and I were reacting to the ways that 18th century plays are too often taught, as texts to be silently read," said Straub, "rather than as the lively and socially charged performances that they were in rowdy, fully lit playhouses where the audience performed just as much as the actors."
"Plays drew diverse crowds who brought with them the politics and social buzz of the day. We came as close as we could to giving our readers samplings of the print and visual culture that an audience would have brought with them into the playhouse on a specific night."
Each of the 20 plays featured in the collection is accompanied by an array of print and online supplementary materials, including primary critical sources, commentaries, illustrations, and reviews of productions, from Restoration tragedy and comedies of manners, to ballad opera and gothic pieces.
One of Straub’s works earlier in her career, Sexual Suspects explores actors and ideologies of sexuality in 18th-century Britain: that work helped to direct theater and feminist studies of the early modern period toward a now-burgeoning interest in sexuality in performance and popular culture. Recent work also includes an exhibit curated with Janine Barchas at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity), and multiple articles on cultural as well as aesthetic performances, particularly of Shakespeare plays, in the 18th-century playhouse.
This collection follows Kristina Straub, Misty G. Anderson, and Daniel O’Quinn’s 2017 Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama. "In fact," said Straub, "the current book grew out of our work on this first."
This most recent anthology shifts the reader’s focus to the event. In doing so, the collection not only reimagines and makes immediate the theater of the 18th century — it vibrantly reminds modern readers and students how their own experiences of entertainment (and, even now, live performances) are still directly shaped by the contemporary moment in which they are performed, as ever.