Theatre Ph.D. Dissertations

Playing (with) Space in The Author on the Wheel

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Theatre and Film

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Shields (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Dr. Lesa Lockford (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott Magelssen (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Marilyn Shrude (Committee Member)


On April 18, 1785, Theatre Royal Drury Lane produced a short play entitled The Author on the Wheel, or a Piece Cut in the Green Room. In this dissertation, I explore the play in terms of space: fictional space, factual space, and flying space. I argue that theatre spaces continually shift in definition while transforming both places and identities. After the introduction, I include an annotated version of this never-before-published piece. Using Gay McAuley's taxonomy of spatial function, I analyze The Author on the Wheel both textually and historically. In the first section of analysis, I examine the fictional spaces created in the play; these spaces utilize both backstage theatre spaces as well as theatre audience spaces. In the second section, I describe the factual spaces of Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1785. Through archival evidence, I create a picture of the theatre during this time period and present extant evidence regarding the play and the performance of the play. Finally, I investigate the flying space of The Author on the Wheel. In the play, characters (portraying actors) discuss the act of pelting, the phenomenon of spectators throwing objects (usually fruit) at actors performing on a stage to show disapproval. Using the theory of Ric Knowles and Stuart Hall and building on my first two chapters, I argue that the thrown object effectively moves through both the fictional space and the factual space of The Author on the Wheel and in doing so changes the course of both production and reception. Throughout this study, I argue that though the fictional and factual spaces of the theatre continually shift in identity, it is the audience space that holds the most weight in late eighteenth-century London theatre and in The Author on the Wheel. In both of these instances, the most dramatic performances take place not on the stage but in the house. Using The Author on the Wheel as a case study, I aim to call attention to the ways in which spectators both receive and create meaning in the theatre through the manipulation of space.