2021 Stevens Award for Best New Essay

Martin Stevens Award
Award Year: 

Winner: Rice, Nicole R. “Artisan Drama, Patronage, and Fellowship Reconfigured: The Chester Shepherds in 1578.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 49, no. 2 (2019): 319–45.

The judges wish to congratulate Rice on this model of scholarship, which demonstrates the complex negotiations involved in staging traditional religious drama in a post-Reformation era, and explores the ways that such drama continues to signify to its producing communities and beyond. This wonderfully written article reads like a well-told story, and incorporates the stakes that fellowship and livery bear in relation to community performance traditions and Cestrian identity. The use of "informed speculation" to fill in the numerous gaps in performance history is managed with skill and balance, with Rice presenting readers with a solid case for who brought the Shepherds play out of retirement and how masculinity and fellowship might substantiate an identification of the Latin Terence play staged within the same festive occasion. Rice’s expertise in Cestrian dramatic culture and its long-term reliance on artisans in producing civic performances is brought to bear in the fruitful marrying of contexts for drama and their textual forms, a balance that is maintained beautifully throughout.
Award Committee: Sarah Brazil (chair), Matthew Sergi, and Christina Fitzgerald. Awards announcement and presentation took place during the MRDS business meeting in May, held online by way of Zoom due to the COVID19 global pandemic.