Dr Aoife Monks, BA PhD (Trinity College Dublin)
Reader in Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies
Born in Ireland, I did my BA and PhD at Trinity College Dublin. I’ve been based in the UK since 2003, as a Lecturer at the University of Reading, and then Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London, where I established and directed the BA Theatre and Drama Studies and the MA Text and Performance (with RADA). I joined Queen Mary in 2014 and founded the QMUL Artist Research Fellowship scheme in 2015. I am Co-Director of Research for Drama, and am the QMUL Arts and Culture academic lead.
2019-2020 Curator of the ‘Costume at the National Theatre’ exhibition, Wolfson Galleries, NT London.
I began collaborating with the Costume Department of the National Theatre in May 2018, to develop an exhibition (October 2019 - July 2020) and a book on their work. Taking an ethnographic approach, this project focuses on the values that inform the practices of the forty-six members of the Costume Department. Drawing on my interviews with the department’s staff, along with actors, designers, costume supervisors and directors, I have used this material to frame the costumes and objects on display, in order to emphasise the cultures of work that helped to produce them. The exhibition and accompanying book were supported by a series of public events, talks and tours over the following nine months, which will brought costume makers together to discuss their work, along with two immersive tours that form part of the Being Human festival.
Arts and Culture
Since 2020 I have been the QMUL Arts and Culture academic lead, responsible for implementing the Arts and Culture Strategy and facilitating initiatives and partnerships with the Arts and Cultural sectors. https://www.qmul.ac.uk/artsandculture/
Editorship of Journals
2014-2019 Consulting Editor, Contemporary Theatre Review Journal (Routledge).
2010-2014 Co-Editor (with Prof. Maria Delgado and Dr. Dominic Johnson, QMUL), Contemporary Theatre Review Journal, Routledge: http://www.contemporarytheatrereview.org/interventions/
2020-present, board member, Theatre Survey journal
2010-2014 Member of the Advisory Editorial board for Journeys Across Media postgraduate journal at the University of Reading. Roles have included attending the annual conference and responding to conference papers and peer review of journal articles;
Working Group Convenorship
From 2014-2019 I convened the Feminist Research Working Group for the International Federation of Theatre Research with Professor Charlotte Canning.
2014-2019 Judge for book, public engagement and student publication prizes for the Theatre and Performance Research Association and The International Federation of Theatre Research.
2016-present Judge for small and large QMUL Public Engagement Grants
2015-present Member of QMUL Ethics Committee (Deputy Chair of Panel D since 2019)
PhD: Trinity College, Dublin; University of Prague; Roehampton University, Royal Holloway University of London; Queen Mary University of London
2013-2016 MA Theatre Making, University of Kent
2013-2016 MA Theatre and Performance, Kings College, London.
2019-present, BA Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin
2017-present, BA Theatre, Brunel University
2012-2014 Theatre and Drama Studies BA, NUI Galway
2009-2013 Theatre BA, University of Surrey
2017-present Co-Director of Research, Department of Drama
2014-present Director of Public Engagement and Impact, Department of Drama, Queen Mary University of London
My teaching focuses on the histories and cultures of theatre, engaging with questions of identity, ideology, and materiality through reading, talking, and doing. To me, a classroom should be a space in which students learn how to develop their voices, both in writing and aloud, able to articulate their views or ask questions, so that they can later practice these voices confidently in the world. Learning how to express ourselves with clarity and conviction is a life skill that lasts long beyond the classroom.
I have taught on:
- DRA122 Spectatorship: Time, Place, Performance
- DRA121 Popular Theatre and Performance
- DRA223: Naturalism
- DRA252: Acting Theory
- DRA259: Cultural Politics and Performance
- DRA341: Performance and Celebrity
My research falls into three main areas – critical approaches to theatre costume, virtuosity and stage Irishness, and advocacy for arts workers.
Critical Approaches to Theatre Costume
I have written on the question of costume since my PhD, which analysed performances where women played men onstage – during which I was amazed to discover that very little critical material had been written on theatre costume. The work of designing, making and wearing costume that goes on backstage in the rehearsal room, the wardrobe and the dressing-room has remained mysterious in theatre scholarship, often unacknowledged, and given far less status by critics and scholars than the work of actors, writers, directors and sometimes scenographers onstage.
My scholarship and practice based work has sought to remedy this through curatorial projects and publications. Most recently, in 2019/20 I launched ‘Costume at the National Theatre – a public exhibition and book in collaboration with the NT’s costume department. (https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/your-visit/exhibitions/costume-at-the-national-theatre). This project aimed to reveal what the theatre event means to costume-workers – makers, textile artists, dressers, buyers, supervisors, managers, wardrobe and hire assistants. I spent a year with the department, watching them work and interviewing all 47 members of staff, along with designers and actors, which also contributed to the book of photographs which accompanied the exhibition (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Costume-at-National-Theatre/dp/1786829754).
My most recent book, Costume: Readings in Theatre Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Costume-Readings-Practice-Ali-Maclaurin/dp/113702948X) is co-authored with the costume designer Ali Maclaurin and approaches costume from a range of perspectives: historical pictorialism, modern dress, cultures of practice, backstage labour, stereotypes and identity, and modernism and experiment. The book is interspersed with interviews with a range of artists who work with costume: designers, directors, performers, and photographers.
This book follows on from my monograph, The Actor in Costume (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Actor-Costume-Aoife-Monks/dp/0230217001/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1589296207&refinements=p_27%3AAoife+Monks&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Aoife+Monks), which examined the ways in which costume can be understood critically, examining its uncanny state in rehearsal, in the dressing room, in performance, and in the archive. I have also written a ‘Manifesto on Craft’ for Scene journal, arguing for the re-evaluation of backstage work, and collaborate with colleagues nationally and internationally to develop the ongoing critical examination of costume’s role in the theatre event. I have also worked on costume and the law, and published an interview and article, ‘Dressing the Law’ on the work of Chris Allen at Ede and Ravenscroft with the International Journal of Law in Context (2018).
Virtuosity and Popular Irish Performance
I am currently working on a project on virtuosity and Stage Irishness and in 2020 was awarded an AHRC Network grant to fund three events examining the relationship between entrepreneurialism and virtuosity in the 19th century and now. These events build on a book project, currently in progress, that looks at popular performance in the 1860s and 1990s in London, New York, and Dublin. In particular, I examine the role of performance skill and entrepreneurialism in the work of Dion Boucicault and Michael. I have published work on the stage show Riverdance, and an article on Michael Flatley and historical method in Representations journal in 2015.
Advocacy for Arts Workers
Through my work as the Arts and Culture academic lead at QMUL, I am beginning some research investigating the affects of Covid 19 on the arts community. This work builds on my role in establishing the Artist Research Fellowship scheme at QMUL and connects to my previous research on the histories and cultures of professional identity at the theatre. I have published articles considering this question, one on the role of relics and remains in Stanislavskian acting practices with Theatre Journal and another on anecdotes, collections and backstage superstitions with Contemporary Theatre Review. This project aims to consider how the identities, values and ethics of the theatre profession emerge through its material cultures, and are maintained by a diverse and often marginal range of theatre workers.
Arts and Culture Publishing
Monks, A., Chapter Introductions and Interviews, Costume at the National Theatre (London: Oberon Books, 2019)
Monks, A. & Paul, R., Co-editors. Only Cheese Can Leave: The Universal Truths of Scene and Heard (London: Scene and Heard, 2019).
Monographs and Co-Authored Books
Monks, A. The Actor In Costume (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010): recipient of the TaPRA David Bradby Award for Research in International Theatre
Monks, A. & Maclaurin, A. Readings in Costume, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
Monks, A. ‘Costume At The National Theatre: A Curator’s Talk’, Issue 5.1, Studies in Costume and Performance, 2020 (Forthcoming)
Monks, A. ‘Bad Art, Quirky Modernism’, Representations Journal, Vol. 132, 2015.
Monks, A. ‘Collecting Ghosts: Actors, Anecdotes and Objects at the Theatre’, Contemporary Theatre Review 23: 2 (2013), 146-152.
Monks, A. ‘This Painful Chapter: Performing the Law in Bloody Sunday: Scenes From the Saville Inquiry’, part of ‘Performing The Peace Process in Northern Ireland’ special issue, co-edited with Caoimhe McAvinchey, Contemporary Theatre Review, 23: 3 (2013), 345-356.
Monks, A. ‘Objects’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 23: 1 (2013), 53-54.
Monks, A. ‘Human Remains: Acting, Objects, and Belief in Performance’, Theatre Journal, 64: 3 (2012), 355-371.
Monks, A. ‘Cross-Dressing, Eugene O’Neill, the Wooster Group and The Emperor Jones’, Modern Drama, XLVIII: 3 (2005), 540-565.
Monks, A. ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’: Performing The Diaspora and The St Patrick’s Day Parade’, ‘Special edition: the Diasporic Imagination’, New England Theatre Journal (2006), 117-129.
Monks, A. ‘‘The Souvenir From Foreign Parts’: Foreign Femininity In Deborah Warner’s Medea’, ‘Performing Ireland special edition’, Australasian Drama Studies, 43 (2003), 32-46.
Chapters in Books/ Research Pamphlets
Monks, A. ‘Curating Costume: Reflection’, Performance Costume: New Perspectives and Methods, ed. By Sofia Pantouvaki and Peter McNeil (London: Bloomsbury, 2020) (forthcoming).
Monks A & Carriger M. ‘Genres and Repertoires: Redressing the Nation in Ireland and Japan’, A Cultural History of Theatre in the Modern Age, ed. By Kim Solga (London: Bloomsbury, 2019).
Monks A. ‘Virtuosity: Dance, Entrepreneurialism, and Nostalgia in Stage Irish Performance’, Performance, Feminism and Affect in Neoliberal Times, ed. by Diamond, Elin, Varney, Denise, Amich, Candice (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
Monks, A. 'Looking for Fiona: Gender and Nationality in the Work of Fiona Shaw', in Sihra, M. and Murphy, P., eds., The Dreaming Body: Contemporary Irish Theatre (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe: 2009), pp. 125-137.
Monks, A. ‘Comely Maidens and Celtic Tigers: Riverdance and Global Performance (London: Goldsmiths Pamphlet, 2007), pp. 1-20.
Monks, A. ‘Predicting the Past: The Work of Female Theatre Directors’, in Harris G & Aston E, eds., Feminist Theatre Futures? (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 88-105.
Monks, A. ‘Elizabeth LeCompte’ & ‘Deborah Warner’, in Shevtsova M. &
Mitter S., eds., Fifty Key Theatre Directors (Routledge, London & New York, 2005), pp.206-212 & 257-262.
Monks, A. 'The First Funny Medea, Deborah Warner's Medea', in Weitz E., ed., The Power Of Laughter (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2004), pp. 19-32.
Monks, A. ‘Interview with John Collins’, in Margherita Laera ed., Theatre and Adaptation: Return, Repeat, Rewrite and Revisit (Bloomsbury: forthcoming in 2014).
Monks, A. ‘Interview with Fiona Shaw’, in Worthen W.B. ed., The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama, (Wadsworth, 2003), pp 120-122.
Monks, Aoife, ‘Review of Costuming The Shakespearean Stage’, Theatre Notebook, 67:1 (2013)
Monks, Aoife, ‘Review of Crossroads: Performance Studies and Irish Culture’, TDR, 56:2 (2012), 205-206.
Monks, Aoife, ‘Review of Theatre & The Body by Collette Conroy’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 21:1 (2011), 71-2
Monks, Aoife, ‘Review of Theatres Of The Troubles: Theatre, Resistance and Liberation in Ireland’, TDR, 55:3 (2011), 184-185.
Monks, Aoife, 'Review of Cool Britannia, eds. Graham Sauders and Rebecca D'Monte', Contemporary Theatre Review, 19:1 (2009), 120-1.
Journalism and Minor Publications
Monks, A. et al. ‘Top Tips on How To Make Your Lectures Interesting’, Times Higher Education (London: 2018).
Monks, A. ‘A Tale of Two Presidents: Tracing Michael Flatley’s Steps from Mary Robinson To Trump’, The Irish Times (Dublin: 2017)
Monks, A & Monks, K. ‘Do Academics Interfere in Their Children’s Higher Education?’, Times Higher Education (London: 2017).
Monks, A. ‘Programme Note’, An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre Richmond, (London, 2017).
Monks, A. ‘Emotional Labours’, Times Higher Education (London: 2015).
Monks, A. ‘Programme Note’, The Colleen Bawn, Druid Theatre Company (Galway and Dublin 2014).
Monks, A. ‘Programme Note’, Hamlet, The Wooster Group (Dublin Theatre Festival, 2012 and Edinburgh Festival, 2013).
Monks, A. ‘Virginia Woolf's play exposes the silly side of the Bloomsbury group’, Wednesday 23 May 2012, blogpost, Guardian Website, (http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2012/may/23/virginia-woolf-play-bloomsbury-group).
Monks, Aoife, ‘Programme Note’, Don Giovanni, English National Opera (London: 2010)
Monks, A. ‘Programme Note’ Twelfth Night, Cheek By Jowl Theatre Company (Dublin Theatre Festival, 2002 and Sydney Arts Festival, 2004)
Monks, A. LCACE funded report on volunteering for Scene and Heard (London: 2008)
I welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.
Postgraduate Support and Development
2007-Present Worked as an intercollegiate examiner for six students at the University of London and as an external examiner for one student at Trinity College, Dublin;
2013 Employed graduate students to assist on the ISTR conference, ‘The Irish And the City’ at Birkbeck College;
2013 Formed a committee of theatre PhD Students to advise on and participate in the organisation of public events for the Centre for Contemporary Theatre, and the instigation of a theatre studies reading group;
2008-present Delivered seminars as part of the teaching training programme for graduate teaching assistants on designing modules and vocal presentation;
2010 collaborated with colleagues in Creative Writing and Poetics to develop regulations and procedures for the examination of PhDs by practice at Birkbeck;
2009-present My work as an organiser of the Journal Editing Symposium for CTR included a public forum at the London Theatre Seminar aimed at PhD students, in order to enable doctoral students to discover the processes by which research is published in key journals in the area;
2009 Speaker at RESKIN, the Research Skills Intercollegiate Network for doctoral students in Fine Arts, History of Art and Performance Studies: I participated in a panel on the area of journal publishing, advising students on how to approach publishing their research;
2009-present Selection and mentorship for the Contemporary Theatre Review Studentship, which was co-funded by Queen Mary, Birkbeck and the University of London until 2012, and enables a PhD student to undertake funded research and work as an editorial assistant on the journal;
2008 responsible for writing the application for the AHRC block grant partnership in Theatre Studies and succeeded in winning three PhD studentships over the five year period;
2007-2011 Co-convenor of the London Theatre seminar, emphasising support for doctoral students in the University of London, who present their work termly in a supportive and critically engaged environment;
2007-2012 Encouraged and supported the development of a graduate Theatre Studies reading group at Birkbeck, which was established by current graduate students and was run as the ‘Theatre Salon’;
2005-present Contributed to the graduate training sessions at Birkbeck and graduate research methods sessions, including some tailored to Theatre Studies approaches;
2005-2013 Fostered supervisory collaborations with institutions such as RADA and have supported the collaborative doctoral relationship with the V&A, established by my colleague Helen Freshwater.
Talks, Keynotes, and Conference Contributions (selected)
2014 Performing Space Symposium, Dublin Theatre Festival, Ireland
2013 ‘Crafting the magical: Virtuosity, Expertise and the Work of Performance’, Keynote lecture at TaPRA conference, Glasgow
2013 ‘Costume at the Halfway Place’, Critical Costume symposium, Edgehill University – a two-day symposium held in response to the publication of my monograph, The Actor in Costume.
Invited Speaker (international events)
2019 ‘Thinking Through Costume’, Khio, Oslo National Academy of the Arts
2018 ‘Collecting Craft’, University of Texas at Austin
2018 ‘Actors Unmasked’, University of Milan
2018 ‘Material Remains’, Theatre Collection, University of Cologne
2016 ‘The Actor in Costume’, Khio, Oslo National Academy of the Arts
2014 ‘Bad Art, Quirky History’, Quirk Historicism Symposium, Berkeley University of California
2013 ‘Virtuosity, Craft and the Immaterials of Performance’, Histories of Labour and Class Conference, NUI Galway.
2013 ‘Performing Virtuosity and Nostalgia’, Voyage and Return Symposium, Dublin Theatre Festival.
2013 ‘Virtuosity, Mobility and Homesickness in Performance’, Performance, Nation and Globalisation Summer School, NUI Galway.
2013 ‘Costume’, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Jersey.
2012 ‘Globalization of Nothingness’, IETM conference, Zagreb.
2011 ‘Ghosts in Performance’, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland
2011 ‘Magical Properties’, Drama Department, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
2009 "Kiss Me, I'm Irish: Performing Gender in St Patrick's Day parades and Irish Dance Shows", Synge Summer School, Ireland
2007 ‘Comely Maidens and Celtic Tigers’, John Hewitt Summer School, Armagh, Northern Ireland
Invited Speaker (national events)
2018 ‘Collecting Virtuosity’, University of Lincoln
2017 ‘Bad Art’, Music and the Middlebrow Interdisciplinary Network event, Notre Dame, London
2017 ‘Objects of Virtuosity’, Birkbeck University of London Graduate Seminar
2016 ‘Bad Art’, London Theatre Seminar, Institute of English Studies.
2013 ‘Virtuosity and Stage Irishness in Performance’, University of Reading.
2013 ‘Eloquence and The Law’, Performing the Law Symposium, Birkbeck College.
2011 ‘The Secret Lives of Actors’, Quorum, Drama Department, Queen Mary, UL
2010 ‘Acting and Objects’, Dept. Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading
2008 ‘The Actor and The Audience at the Theatre’ public lecture series (a series of three lectures), European Institute of Philosophy, London School of Economics.
2008 ‘Appearing Invisible: Costume in Performance’, London Theatre Seminar, University of London
2007 ‘Playing Irish’, Research Seminar, Drama Department, Roehampton University
2007 ‘Comely Maidens and Celtic Tigers’, Research Seminar, Drama Department, Goldsmiths College, University of London
2006 ‘Blackface and White Vests’, Quorum, Drama Department, Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary Artist Research Fellows Scheme
In 2015-16 I established a new scheme in which the Department of Drama appointed twenty-seven artists as Artist Research Fellows. These prestigious artists are drawn from the fields of live art, applied theatre, new writing, lighting design, theatre producing, directing, choreography, sculpture, and from organisations such as Sadlers Wells, the Live Art Development Agency, Hackney Showroom, English National Opera, Fuel Theatre, and RADA. This fellowship scheme has built a properly resourced research infrastructure for artists at Queen Mary. Activities include termly meetings, an annual public symposium (working with the Arts Council England, Wellcome Trust, and a range of other artists and arts organisations), an annual writing retreat, studio space, mentoring and supervision and connections to research expertise taking place in the humanities, sciences and medicine across the College. Themes for these events have included ‘Backstage Utopias’, ‘Beauty and Failure’, ‘Care and Duty’, ‘What Do We Do With Aesthetics?’, and ‘Promoting Conversation’.
Scene and Heard
Since 2005 I have worked as a volunteer director, dramaturg, editor and fundraiser for Scene and Heard children’s theatre charity, London (https://www.sceneandheard.org/). Scene and Heard is a charity that uses playwrighting as a mentoring technique to work with children in Somerstown – which has one of the highest child poverty rates in Europe. I have directed professional actors in sixteen productions of the children’s plays, mentored seven children to write plays, edited the charity’s book to commemorate their twenty year anniversary, and raised over £15,000 in funds, and wrote a successful application to win the Queen’s Award for voluntary service (2011).
English National Opera
Since 2012, I have been a speaker for the pre-show talks at the English National Opera, and since 2018 have curated and chaired some of these events, giving talks to community groups and the general public on operas such as Faust, Iolanthe, The Merry Widow, Don Giovanni and La Traviata, as well as advising ENO more broadly on their educational events and approach.
Life is Shit
In 2016 in collaboration with Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto at the William Harvey Institute (now at the University of Roehampton), I initiated a research project called ‘Life is Shit: Shit is Life.’ The first event took place in June 2016 where scholars from Geography, Immunopharmacology, Theatre Studies, English Literature, Gastroenterology, History and Music gathered to investigate how the discoveries in the biomedical field have highlighted how fecal matter has a central role in shaping who we are in terms of social inequality, mental health, disease susceptibility and urban geographies. Further events took place at the Wellcome Trust in 2017 as part of the Sick of the Fringe Festival and future events are planned.
2003 Irish Arts Council funded internship in directing, the Wooster Group Theatre Company, New York.
2016 – 2019 Chair of the Programme Committee and Co-Chair of the Trustees, Bishopsgate Institute, London
2010-present Public speaker and advisor for arts organisations and events including the Live Art Development Agency, the English National Opera, The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Emergency Exit Arts (a street arts company in Greenwich), the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Irish Literary Society, London.
2000-2002 Reviewer of play-texts for the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
1994-present Facilitator, director and teacher, various community and applied theatre projects