The image of the actress as prostitute has haunted the theatrical profession since women first went on the stage. Kirsten Pullen explores the history of this connection both in the cultural imagination and in real life. She shows, through case studies of women working in Britain and the United States between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, that some women have drawn on the dual tradition of 'whore' as radical and victim to carve out a space for female sexual agency. Female performers from Elizabeth Boutell and Charlotte Charke to Mae West redefined gender identity and appropriate female sexuality. Pullen integrates substantial archival research and interviews with working prostitutes with a consideration of feminist and cultural perspectives on the myth and reality of the actress/whore. This highly original study offers many new insights to theatre historians and scholars of cultural, social and gender studies.
'In her riveting study of the interplay between the two professions, Kirsten Pullen places actresses and whores firmly on the ever-present stage of society - and reminds us that it is not only prostitutes we remain ambivalent about, but theatre and film workers too.' New Statesman '... riveting study.' Fiona Shaw, New Stateman '... interesting study'. The Guardian '... Pullen's close attention to both contemporary and current accounts of each of her studied figures ensures this book is authoritative and successful in its exploration of this subject. Actresses and Whores is a comprehensive study of the questions surrounding the prostitute/performer dynamic which is both illuminating and intriguing.' Theatre Notebook