My research investigates the history of theatrical creativity, which I study through design.
Theatre design history is an ideal location for studying the ways artists make things, because theatre design blends the knowledge and skills of many fields, from art and literary history to psychology, engineering, and physics.
Conference Roundtable: “Theories of Design, Theories for Design,” Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Orlando, FL, August 7-11, 2019
Lecture: “The Show Must Go On: Disciplining Theatre Professionals,” Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Binghamton University, Fall 2019 (date TBA)
Peer-Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters
“The New Stagecraft,” The Routledge Companion to Scenography, ed. Arnold Aronson. Abingdon, New York: Routledge, 2018. pp. 420-425.
Narrative history of New Stagecraft: The New Stagecraft was a scenographic movement that adapted European modernist practices for the American theatre, beginning in 1915 and ending after World War II. Surveys work of Robert Edmond Jones, Lee Simonson, Norman Bel Geddes, and others, and argues that New Stagecraft "introduced and institutionalized the designing workman-artist."
“Robert Edmond Jones’ Scenic Renderings as Design Artifact and Professional Tool.” Theatre & Performance Design 1.3 (January 2016). pp.220-235.
This article argues that Robert Edmond Jones adopted European scenic rendering techniques during the first five years of his career. While use of the perspective drawing (rendering) was uncommon among Jones’ predecessors, after Jones, New Stagecraft designers readily accepted the rendering as a key element of professional practice. By comparing Jones’ early style to that of Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater, especially the work of art director Ernst Stern, the article suggests that Jones adapted Reinhardt and Stern's representational techniques for use in the US-based New Stagecraft movement. Jones’ particular developments included the inclusion of lighting and shadow, the presentation of a posed, costumed figure alongside scenic architecture and the compositional use of figures to illustrate moments of high drama. Viewing renderings as artifacts within a design process, rather than as evidence of the production itself, clarifies the instrumental value of such perspective drawing. Renderings’ depiction of composed dramatic moments afforded designers greater control and autonomy over the completed stage picture at the beginning of the New Stagecraft movement.
“Audience Participation as Consumption and Citizenship in Contemporary Storytelling Performances of The Iliad.” Etudes: An Online Theatre & Performance Studies Journal for Emerging Scholars. (June 2015)
As American military actions in the Middle East continue, the Trojan War has become a useful text for exploring the emotional landscape of war. In this article I contrast audience engagement strategies in two storytelling performances of The Iliad, 2012’s An Iliad and 2013’s Measure Back. Both productions use the Homeric epic to link ancient and modern war, yet their methods for framing audience agency differ sharply. An Iliad attempts to create shared responses of ritualized mourning through realistic, individualizing techniques, while Measure Back cultivates independent spectator-citizens by provoking immediate, emotionally uncomfortable reactions and encouraging judgment of fellow audience members. By applying Gareth White’s concept of “horizons of participation,” developed in his study of immersive and participatory performance, I argue that the style of audience engagement offers an opportunity to reflect on the agency of the individual citizen. Interactive audience strategies highlight the performativity of citizenship—you are shaped by what you do—whereas a realism-based mode tends to reduce citizenship to consumption: the spectator as consumer of the actor’s emotional labor rather than co-participant in historical meaning-making. While neither production fully develops viable political interventions outside the theater, the participatory techniques of Measure Back constitute a strategy for developing individual agency through dissensus, and uncover implicit assumptions of passivity and affective consumption on which An Iliad is based.
“Visualizing Postmemory on Documentary Stages: Postmemorial Dramaturgies in Annulla: An Autobiography and I Am My Own Wife.” Text and Presentation, 2013. (2014) pp. 184-200.
Writing about the special relationship children of Holocaust survivors bear to their parents, Marianne Hirsch theorizes postmemory, the ability of a second generation to remember the trauma of the first. This paper compares the visual worlds of two plays about Holocaust survivors: Emily Mann’s first play, 1985’s Annulla: An Autobiography and Doug Wright’s 2004 Pulitzer-Prize winning I Am My Own Wife. Both plays employ postmemorial dramaturgies: the narrative presence of the playwright/creator and the constructed life of their subject are interwoven, staging a memory that the author cannot possibly recollect. Such dramaturgies invent, imagine, and reconfigure by leading an audience through the process of memorial re/construction, aided by the presence of playwright-narrators and theatrical stage objects.
Performance and Book Reviews
“Off-Sites: Contemporary Performance Beyond the Site-Specific,” By Bertie Ferdman. Theatre and Performance Design 4.4, January 2019.
“Ghost Light, by Zach Morris.” Performance Review, Theatre Journal 70.2, June 2018.
“Working in the Wings: New Perspectives on Theatre History and Labor. Ed. Elizabeth A. Osborne and Christine Woodworth.” Theatre Annual 70, 2017.
“Blue Collar Broadway: The Craft and Industry of American Theater. By Timothy R. White.” The Journal of American Drama and Theatre (JADT) 28.2, Spring 2016.
“Christin Essin. Stage Designers in Early Twentieth Century America.” Theatre Journal 67.3, October 2015.
“Measure Back, by Christopher McElroen and T. Ryder Smith.” Performance Review, Theatre Journal 66.3, October 2014.
“Michael Y. Bennett. Words, Space, and the Audience: The Theatrical Tension Between Rationalism and Empiricism.” Theatre Survey 55.2, May 2014.
“Tobin Nellhaus. Theatre, Communication, Critical Realism.” Theatre Journal 64.2, May 2012.