Carla Kelly/Touring Shakespeare

Carla Kelly's Miss Billings treads the Boards

In Carla Kelly's Miss Billings Treads the Boards, the actress novel takes a tour in the provinces as Kate Billings joins a travelling theatrical troupe after missing her stop on the stage. Rather than go to work for a lecherous employer, she agrees to play the widow in the troupe's production of The Taming of the Shrew. Her adventures with the troupe and the Earl whom they adopt take up most of the novel; although The Taming of the Shrew is one of the plays in which she participates, Kelly bucks the trend of insisting on Shakespeare and in fact has a character write a play entitled Well-Married which takes up the final and most important production that the troupe stages. Kelly's references to Shakespeare provide context rather than plot, even though Kate seems at first to be connected by name to The Taming of the Shrew, she is occasionally called "my super dainty Kate" (63), and one characters announces that "'we performed to The Taming of the Shrew last night in that village. The natives are receptive to Shakespeare, my good man'" (88). The historical aspects of this particular novel are tied up in the life of the touring theatrical group and its alternative reliance on Shakespeare and on newer fare. However, the plot and its disguises have little if anything to do with character or narrative development.

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