The GEES Project (Girls on Early English Stages) is devoted to the history of the girl actor in England, from the Middle Ages to the Restoration Stage.  

Traditionally, it was believed that women and girls appeared as actresses on the English stage only after 1660. When the public theatres re-opened after the Restoration of the monarchy, they featured professional actresses for the first time. More recently, scholarship has shown that women performed in court masques on private stages in early modern England, before the Civil Wars shut down the theatres in 1642.  

The GEES Project demonstrates that the girl actor was a key participant on early English stages, from medieval religious drama, to Tudor civic pageants and royal entries, Elizabethan country house entertainments, and Jacobean court and household masques. From toddlers to teenagers, girl actors took active, speaking parts on stage during one of the most exciting and transformative periods in England’s history.  

The GEES Project moves beyond the male-dominated commercial stage, and it reveals just how much theatre was happening at that time beyond the confines of the public playhouse. It affirms that the early English stage was a place that took girls on board and took them seriously. 

The GEES Project brings together archival records of girl performers in early modern England. 

This includes: payments to girl actors, payments for girls’ costumes and props, eyewitness accounts of girl performers, stage directions that call for girls, plays and masques composed for girl performers, and plays written by girl playwrights.  

Unlike the works of Shakespeare for example, plays authored and performed by girls do not have a long history and tradition of live presentation. Without the experience of these plays in production, this hidden history of girls’ performance remains largely inaccessible.  

The GEES Project also makes available readings and recordings of early English plays by and for girls. 

We invite academics, actors, and all readers and audiences to explore these plays together. Our performance archive makes it possible to experience girls’ plays as performances, in many cases, for the very first time. The GEES Project website and database is open access to support further academic research and to serve as a resource for educators and theatre practitioners.