Professor’s article on race in early modern theater earns award

Emily MacLeod’s work was recognized by the journal Early Theatre
Headshot photo of Emily MacLeod

Emily MacLeod, assistant teaching professor of English, theatre, and humanities at Penn State Harrisburg

Credit: Emily MacLeod

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Emily MacLeod, assistant teaching professor of English, theatre, and humanities at Penn State Harrisburg, received an award from the journal Early Theatre for her work exploring the performance of race by children’s theater companies in 1600s England.

MacLeod’s piece, “‘You shall see me do the Moor’: The Blackfriars Children and the Performance of Race in Poetaster” was published in a special “Issues in Review” edition of Early Theatre in 2022. It was awarded the 2023 Prize for Best Notes or Issues in Review Essay.

The article stems from MacLeod’s doctoral dissertation, which focused on performance of race in the plays staged by children’s companies at the Blackfriars playhouse in the early 1600s.

The companies were made up of children and teenage boys, and the plays they performed featured very few characters who were not white. MacLeod explored the reasons in her article about “Poetaster,” a 1601 play by Ben Jonson, including how ideas about race may have influenced which plays the boys performed.

The citation for the award notes that MacLeod’s article makes an important point about the overlapping of race and performance: “The stage constructed early modern race, and race constructed the early modern stage.”

Receiving the award “feels very encouraging for my future research and this project,” MacLeod said. “I am interested in turning the dissertation into a book, and I’m working on the proposal right now, so getting this award at this stage gives me motivation to keep working on this topic.”

MacLeod was selected to be part of NextGenPlen, a session featuring early career scholars and their work, at the 2023 Shakespeare Association of America Conference in April. At the same event, it was announced that her dissertation was a finalist for the organization’s J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize.

MacLeod earned her doctorate in English from George Washington University in 2022. She also holds a master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe.