- In the Elizabethan theater, a member of a company who heldshares in the prompt books, costumes, and properties. Thefinancial risks were divided among the sharers, as were the profits.The evening's take was split up after each performance on a sharingtable marked out like a draughtboard with the sharers' initialschalked inside the squares.
Sharers normally made up less than half the employees. Importantactors were encouraged to put up the money necessary to become shareholders,as this would ensure their loyalty. The sharers formed a self-governingbody that chose and produced plays. Members usually had other duties,such as acting, writing plays, or supervising props or costumes.
In 1635 a witness in a court case stated that sharers in theKing's Men earned about £180 annually, although others claimedthe figure was nearer £50. A nonsharing member, or hired man,worked under contract for very little money. By 1690 the sharing systemhad been dropped in London as theaters declined and actors demandedfixed salaries.
Those who had shares in the theater building but not in thescripts and costumes were known as housekeepers. They paidthe building's rent and maintained it, receiving an agreed percentageof the admission receipts. Shakespeare was a housekeeper at the GlobeTheatre.
Other countries also had sharing troupes. In 16th and 17thcentury Spain they were called compañias de parte, whilein early 17th-century France all companies were organized in thisway.