The SQM Process

Master Actors

In our experiment we created a hierarchy in the company that reflected the structure of Elizabethan theatre companies. Three actors were employed on full equity contracts as master actors, eight non-union professionals were employed as journeymen actors, and three students as apprentices. Our decision-making here was determined by financial considerations as much as our theatre history research goals. The distribution of roles did not reflect Elizabethan practice as we felt it would be unwise, in a modern context, to cast inexperienced students in the female roles. Furthermore, the Queen's Men were formed by amalgamating two established companies, Leicester's Men and Sussex's Men, and had an unusual predominance of master actors in their ranks; especially in their original composition, they may be thought of as a company entirely made up of masters and apprentices. Our company structure therefore was only a very loose approximation of the structure of the original troupe. Establishing a hierarchy in the SQM company allowed us to explore the rehearsal dynamics that are created when one actor is given authority over another. Since this is extremely uncommon in modern theatre, but was unexceptional in Elizabethan ensembles, it was a fruitful avenue for exploring historical difference, as the actors' responses to the experience make clear.


Don Allison Master actor Don Allison talks in depth about the role of the master actor and some of the techniques he used to influence the performance of less experienced members of the company. Watch the Video.
Paul Hopkins Master actor Paul Hopkins sees the role as an initiator in the collaborative process. Watch the Video.
Peter Higginson Peter Higginson describes how the role the master actors played in the company changed as they gained confidence and took more initiative. Watch the Video. 
David David Kynaston sees the process developing in the opposite way with the company initially veering towards hierarchy but eventually developing into a collaborative collective. Watch the Video. 
Scott Scott Clarkson talks about how the master actor role contravenes the modern actors' code of conduct and speaks of problems he faced working with numerous masters and directors Watch the Video. 
Derek Derek Genova appreciated the experience that the master actors brought to their process and their helpful and nurturing attitudes. Watch the Video.