Winifred Dolan worked as an actress, theatre administrator, teacher and producer. She outlined her early work in West End theatre in her memoir, A Chronicle of Small Beer, but this narrative does not cover her subsequent work as a drama teacher and producer of amateur theatre. This chapter examines Dolan’s West End practice as her formative experience and focuses on her subsequent career: teaching drama and designing suitable spaces for that teaching and for amateur productions. An analysis of the range of evidence left by Dolan reveals the rich and complex links between professional theatre work, the teaching profession and the amateur theatre movement in the first half of the twentieth century.
There are an extraordinary number of autobiographies written by British female theatre professionals working during the period. This generation of actresses and female performers were concerned, in part, with locating themselves in a public culture of self-affirmation and reflection. Their autobiographic writing evidences an awareness of the growing interest in their activities as public figures and practitioners, in a labour market where women were now becoming firmly professionalised. The chapter explores how their ‘autobiographic confessional histories’ can be read as a body of work, as cultural interventions that make an explicit contribution to our understandings of the development of professional theatre practice more generally, during the era.