Sir Noël Pierce Coward (1899-1973) stands as a singular example of theatrical polymath, a distinction that has earned him the title of “The Master.” One of Coward’s greatest joys was found in sharing the love of theatre and education with others. His role as champion as president of The Actor’s Orphanage (now the Actors’ Children’s Trust) is proof of this, as are his many works that illuminate the light and the dark of human nature. This year we not only Coward’s life and work, but we celebrate the opening of the “Noël Coward: Art and Style” exhibition at the Guildhall (opening in Summer 2021), skillfully curated by my colleague Brad Rosenstein – (https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/attractions-museums-entertainment/guildhall-galleries/guildhall-art-gallery/noel-coward)
In this spirit of education and love of theatre, several undergraduate students in the Honors Program at the Florida State University have partnered with us to explore aspects of The Master’s life and works, specifically drawing on the exhibition, and utilizing digital surrogates of several of the many archival holdings of the Noël Coward Archive Trust. Callista Payne (History and Theatre, ‘23) has written about the material style of some of Coward’s favourite designers. Rheanne Walton (Theatre and Marketing, ’24) sets the background through an investigation of the “Bright Young Things,” the glittering young bohemians that so influenced Coward’s formative years. Emily McGinn (Religion, ‘22) examines Coward’s writing process, and the painstaking care with which he approached lyric creation in one of his most well-known songs. Finally, Alyssa Sharp (International Affairs, ’22) illuminates the connections between Coward’s writing and strains of British nationalism in the 1930s and 40s. Assistant editor and blog design has been provided by Alexander Chang (Cyber-Criminology, ’23).
This project has been a joy to supervise and coordinate, and we look forward to continuing educational engagement in the future.
Special thanks to Robert Hazle (Cultural Development Officer, Noël Coward Archive Trust) for his assistance.
Dr. Arianne Johnson Quinn
Honors Program Faculty, The Florida State University
Digital Archivist and Research Associate, the Noël Coward Archive Trust
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