Top Ten Tuesday: Characters with theatrical jobs

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is “Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had”. As Jana says we can put our own unique spin on each topic and as I wanted to join in with Lory’s Reading the Theatre month, I have chosen ten characters who have jobs connected with acting and the theatre. These are not all jobs I would like to have myself, but some of them sound fun!

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1. Commedia dell’Arte actor
In one of my favourite books, Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, Andre-Louis Moreau takes the role of Scaramouche the clown in a Commedia dell’Arte troupe as part of an elaborate plan to avenge his murdered friend.

2. Puppeteer
Adelaide Culver, the heroine of Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp, finds a collection of wonderful hand-made puppets created by her late husband and opens a successful Puppet Theatre in an old coach-house.

3. Theatre manager
In Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, meets the famous Shakespearean actor Sir Henry Irving and becomes manager of his Lyceum Theatre.

4. 6th century actress
Theodora by Stella Duffy is a novel based on the life of Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire. Before marrying the Emperor Justinian, Theodora receives training as an actress, dancer and acrobat.

5. Music hall star
Becoming Belle by Nuala O’Connor is a fictional retelling of the life of Belle Bilton, a star of the Victorian music hall who becomes the Countess of Clancarty through marriage and finds herself involved in a controversial court case.

6. Aspiring actor and con artist
The wonderfully entertaining The Way to the Lantern by Audrey Erskine Lindop follows the story of a young actor, pickpocket and con man whose various fake identities lead him into serious trouble during the French Revolution.

7. One of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men
In Fools and Mortals, Bernard Cornwell creates a fictional story for Shakespeare’s brother Richard, imagining that he is an actor with The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and must prevent rival London acting companies from stealing William’s plays.

8. A member of an acting family
The Savage Brood by Martha Rofheart is a multi-generational family saga taking us from Tudor England to 20th century Hollywood and encompassing just about every type of acting you can think of!

9. Pantomime Cat
Who Killed Dick Whittington? by E and MA Radford is a Golden Age crime novel in which a murder takes place on stage during a traditional British pantomime. Suspicion falls on the actor in the Cat costume!

10. Drama teacher
In Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, Felix Phillips loses his position as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival and gets a new job teaching drama and literacy to the prisoners at Fletcher Correctional, directing them in a production of The Tempest.

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Have you read any of these? Can you think of any other books you’ve read with characters who work in the theatre? There were a few more I could have included on my list, but I had to limit myself to ten!

37 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Characters with theatrical jobs

  1. Calmgrove says:

    I read about Theodora in Procopius’ The Secret History and she and Justinian sound to have been thoroughly unpleasant characters, according to the author’s personal testimony! https://wp.me/s2oNj1-secret But I do like the range of theatrical themes and roles you’ve included here, so I’m very tempted to borrow your approach — I can think of a few titles featuring puppets, for example!

    • Helen says:

      The Stella Duffy novel is the only book I’ve read about Theodora – I thought she was a great character, but certainly not very likeable!

  2. Karen K. says:

    I also loved Brittania Mews, the puppets were so interesting and the story didn’t turn out at all as I expected. Dodie Smith wrote a couple of books with theater characters, The Town in Bloom and It Ends With Revelations, but they’re not her best. (The Town in Bloom is the better of the two and has more theater settings). Also, Station Eleven has the beginning set in a theater, but that’s just a small part of it. And it’s a pandemic novel which might not be a great reading choice right now, though it’s a wonderful book.

    And of course there’s the whole theatrical sub-plot in Mansfield Park, classic!

    • Calmgrove says:

      I agree that It Ends with Revelations isn’t a patch on her better known novels, but as I think I’ve got The Town in Bloom still to read that’ll be something to look forward to. I’d forgotten the Austen sub-plot but you’re right, it’s classic and, for me, a reminder of her own obsession with amateur dramatics.

  3. Fran Laniado- Author says:

    I love this idea. The only one I’ve read on this list is “Hag-seed” which I loved, though I don’t think I’d really like to teach in a prison IRL. But I’ll definitely check out the others on the list: I’m a major theater geek, Other books include:
    At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald- Set in a theatrical school that has some working students
    The Mermaids Daughter by Ann Claycomb- Set in the world of opera
    The New Moon with the Old by Dodie Smith- I see @Karen K. above me mentioned Dodie Smith’s work but not this book. It’s about a family and the youngest child dreams of a career onstage. It’s not a huge part of the book but it’s there.
    The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis – Set in NYC theater during the McCarthy era

    • Helen says:

      No, I wouldn’t want to teach in a prison either, but it’s great that people do. I’ll have to investigate the other books you’ve mentioned as I’m not familiar with any of them. Thanks for the suggestions.

  4. readingrecluses says:

    I love these choices! So much more creative than my TTT for the week. 6th century actress does seem super fun.

  5. Con says:

    These all sound good. My mother had a book by Martha Rofhart, Fortune Made His Sword (I could almost see it in my mind’s eye but had to look it up), which I remember enjoying and I am surprised I didn’t read others by her.

    Have you read Broome Stages by Clemence Dane? That is a favorite of my mother’s and someone thoughtfully sent me a copy from London but I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I should try again as there is a Theatre Challenge at https://enterenchanted.com.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve read three books by Martha Rofheart so far – The Savage Brood was the weakest, but I enjoyed Burning Sappho and Lionheart. I will have to try Fortune Made His Sword next. No, I haven’t read Broome Stages or even heard of it until now. Sorry you couldn’t get into it, but I hope you have better luck if you do try it again!

  6. Lory says:

    Love this list, I’m adding so many books to my TBR! You start off with three I absolutely loved so that bodes well for the rest. 😀

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