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The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195365870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365870.001.0001

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From Diva to Drama Queen

From Diva to Drama Queen

(p.252) Chapter 12 From Diva to Drama Queen
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Tracy C. Davis

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates Beerbohm Tree’s production of W. Graham Robertson’s and Frederic Norton’s Pinkie and the Fairies (1908) which starred two very different “prima donnas”: the doyenne of London’s theatrical world Ellen Terry, a woman who had already reached the highest levels of celebrity in late-nineteenth-century British society, and the diminutive child prodigy Elsie Craven whose career had just begun when she took on the role of Queen of the Fairies. Although Terry and Craven were both received positively in this production, it was the girl who stole the show. The chapter analyses this unanticipated outcome in terms of the ephemeral nature of celebrity and the mutability of the “diva” concept. Davis then draws lessons from Terry’s and Craven’s experiences to develop taxonomies of “diva” and “drama queen” and to document their role in a new social poetics and a diversification of histrionic identities.

Keywords:   Ellen Terry, Elsie Craven, Frederic Norton, Beerbohm Tree, girl, diva, drama queen, celebrity, social poetics

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