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Current Students and Alumni – Theatre Studies

Published January 9, 2019

Current Students: MA Theatre Studies

Elaine (Hendriks) Smith is a master’s student at Florida State. She holds a BA in Theatre from Wayne State University. Her research centers on Trauma Theory and the effect theatre has on anxiety. Prior to Florida State University, Elaine was the Senior Director for The Berman Center for the Performing Arts (West Bloomfield, MI), the Artistic Director of The Historic Gem & Century Theatres (Detroit, MI), the Deputy Director of The Matrix Theatre Company (Detroit, MI), and the Production Stage Manager for The Second City (Detroit, MI). Elaine’s professional experience includes directing, lighting design, projection design, stage management, mentoring and production management. She has also done lighting design and management for dance and musical tours nationwide.

Recent Graduates: MA Theatre Studies

Marisa M. Andrews graduated with an MA in Theatre Studies in spring 2018 and is pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a B.A. in Drama (Stage Management) with a minor in Art History from Ithaca College. Her research interests include the performativity of contemporary death rituals, lesbian theatre in the early 20th century, and theatre historiography. Her work has been featured in the Arthur Miller Journal, and she has presented at ASTR, where she also serves as a graduate student committee member. She will be presenting at the upcoming 2018 MATC conference in Milwaukee, WI. Her stage management credits include working on teams at Syracuse Stage, Maine State Music Theatre, Interlakes Theatre, and Civic Ensemble.

Nick Richardson, graduated with an MA in Theatre Studies in spring 2019. A proud FSU alumnus, he previously earned a B.A. in Theatre and a minor in Spanish. His research interests include gender, race, and sexuality on stage; contemporary British theatre; and American musical theatre. As Southeastern Theatre Conference 2016 Undergraduate Young Scholar, he presented his research on race and sexuality in the musical Kinky Boots at their annual conference, and Southern Theatre magazine published his abstract. His performance credits include two musicals with Virginia Musical Theatre and ten productions (so far!) with Florida State Opera here at FSU.

Michael Valdez graduated with an MA in Spring 2018 and is pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. He received his BA in Literature/Theatre from New College of Florida in 2016. His research interests include site-specific performance, the works of Howard Barker, and the intersection of ecological concerns and gender in performance. Michael recently presented a current research project at Mid-America Theatre Conference in Houston. A founding member of the Windmill Theatre Company in Sarasota, FL, his recent directorial credits include Howard Barker’s 13 Objects (2015), Lucas Hnath’s nightnight (2015), and Caryl Churchill’s Softcops (2016).

Current Students: PhD Theatre Studies

Rebecca Curran is a doctoral student at Florida State. She holds a BA in Theatre from Florida State and a Master of Liberal Arts in Dramaturgy and Theater Studies from the ART/MXAT Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. Her current research looks at Irish identity through audience reception to the Abbey Theatre’s productions of The Plough and the Stars and feminism in Northern Irish theatre. Production dramaturgy work includes The Owl Answers at Harvard University (dir. David R. Gammons) and the world premiere of Claudia Rankine’s The White Card at ART/ArtsEmerson (dir. Diane Paulus). She is a member of ATHE, LAMDA, ASTR, MATC, and IFTR and a script reader for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

Merritt Denman is a doctoral student in Theatre Studies. She received her BA from Baylor University’s University Scholars program in 2013. She taught high school and middle school theatre, speech, mock trial, and French at a classical school in Waco, TX for four years, and directed a total of eleven productions during her time there. She received her MA in Theatre Studies from Baylor University in 2016. She completed her thesis, entitled In an Ideal World: American Identity and Cultural Othering in the Little Theatre Movement, under the direction of Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard. Her research interests include nineteenth and twentieth century American Theatre, nineteenth century French Theatre, issues of Orientalism and cultural othering, and comedy throughout history.

Aaron Ellis is a doctoral student at Florida State, and is currently ABD. He holds a BA from Baylor University’s Great Texts Honors program, with focuses on Philosophy and on Film, and an MA in Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy, from Florida State. His research centers on the intersections between Performance, Continental Philosophy, Religion, and Radical Ethics. His academic work is forthcoming in the Journal for Jewish Ethics, and has been featured at the inaugural conference, Performance Philosophy: Staging a New Field, the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the Mid-America Theatre Conference, the Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Symposium, and University of Iowa’s Craft Critique Culture conference. Aaron taught Poetry and Performance at Gadsden Women’s Correctional Facility, and does performance and event organizing work in the Tallahassee community. Aaron has done performance work, and now does administrative work, with The Mickee Faust Club, an LGBTQ++/Dis-Ability theatre in Tallahassee.

Aaron was recently invited to guest-teach a Performance Anthropology class at New College of Florida focused on his ethnographic, dissertation fieldwork. His dissertation focuses on the history, practices and politics of the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. Mario Biagini founded and directs the performance work of the Open Program. The Open Program operates as a “shuttle” between the Workcenter and the “world in crisis.” Drawing upon the cross-cultural legacy of Grotowski, the Open Program not only utilizes upon a diverse selection of “traditional” songs and movements, they also travel and engage, using performance to bridge gaps across, boundaries of ‘difference.’ His dissertation research engages the political dimensions of what Aaron calls the Open Program’s “total work,” its multi-valent, embodied engagement with diverse communities, intentionally grounded in ethical and political research and performative inquiry. This research involves ethnographic engagement with the Open Program and their collaborators in the Bronx Borough of New York City.

Michael Franz is a doctoral student at Florida State. He holds a BA in Theatre: Acting/Directing from DeSales University and an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. His research centers on Molière in contemporary and modern American theatre. Mike is a member of both the American Society for Theatre and Research and the American Theatre and Drama Society. Mike also works as a teacher and director during the summertime at Moorestown Theatre Company in Moorestown, NJ, and is a certified Indoor Cycling Instructor.

Christina Rodriguez de Conte is a long-time Artist/Educator/Activist and currently a Doctoral candidate at Florida State University. She holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Florida and a Masters in Theatre Education and Community, with a focus on Theatre of the Oppressed, from Emerson College. Her research and artistry focus on the evolution of Lesbian and Latina Performance spaces as Activism. Her work has been featured in Basta: 100+ Latinas Against Gender Violence and Acting for the Stage and at the American Association for Theatre Educators, Philadelphia Theatre Research Symposium, and the NYU Forum on Educational Theatre. Christina Rodriguez de Conte has received fellowships such as the National Endowment for the Arts Immigrant Experience in California through Literature & Theatre, London’s Globe Theatre Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance grant and the Freedom Summer Collegiate teaching fellowship that have helped to bridge her artistic training and pedagogical approach. Artistic roles range between actor, writer, director, and producer. She is a proud fausketeers at the Mickee Faust Club House for the Dramatic where a staged reading of her original lesbian super-shero play, Shero: Femme Fatale, written and performed by Rodriguez de Conte. Directing projects include: La Nona, Cuban Swimmer, Fences, The Lovers N Friends Show. Memorable roles are: Eddie/Dr. Scott in “Rocky Horror Picture Show Live”, Marty in “Grease”, Dracula in “Dracula”, Winnie in “Annie Get Your Gun” and many more. Her alter ego, King Chris Rod, has been performing as a male impersonator and spoken word artist along the East Coast; Emceeing events such as the 2014 Boston Pride Event and 2016 & 2017 Tallahassee Pride Women’s Event. Both identities collide on a stage in, Other, her original one-woman show that takes a comedic look at gender identity vs. perception, and the empowerment that can come from being an “other.”

Kate Pierson is a doctoral candidate at Florida State University. She holds a BA in Theatre from Florida State University and a MA in Theatre Studies from Central Washington University. Her research interests include performance studies, community theatre, and 20th century British and American theatre, with a particular focus on historiographical concerns relating to representations of race, gender, and identity. She has presented her research at the annual conference for the American Society for Theatre Research, the Mid-American Theatre Conference, and the Gulf Coast Creative Writing Teachers Conference. Kate’s dissertation, “’When All The Town’s A Stage’: Ann Jellicoe’s Community Play Process,” seeks to revive Jellicoe’s larger body of work and presence to British theatre through an extended discussion of her community plays. The dissertation examines Jellicoe’s evolving creative process and explores the tension between amateur and professional theatre, the struggle to legitimize the significance of community plays within British theatre history, and the ways theatre can begin to address hidden histories of marginalized groups and practitioners.

Laura London Waringer is a doctoral student in the School of Theatre at Florida State University, originally hailing from New York City. She earned her MFA in music theatre from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. An accomplished actress, writer, and producer, she also holds a dual BFA in drama (musical theatre) and journalism from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. As a scholar-practitioner, Laura continues to perform, produce, dramaturg, and to train private vocal students. She is in the early stages of founding an immersive musical theatre company. Her research interests include race and gender representations in musical theatre, musical interpretations of historic events, and the evolution of American musical theatre training. Laura is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, Actors Equity, British Actors Equity, and SAG-AFTRA. She has presented her work at the Comparative Drama, ATHE, and Song, Stage and Screen conferences. Laura is a contributing scholar for the books Hamilton, History and Hip-Hop: Essays on an American Musical, Queen Mothers: Articulating the Spirit of Black Women Teacher-Leaders, and Musicals at the Margins, all slated for publication in 2018.

Cassandra White is a doctoral student at Florida State University. She received her BA in Theatre from Truman State University and her MA in Theatre Studies from Central Washington University. Ms. White’s master’s thesis revolved around the Irish Theatre at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Her current research focus is sex positive theatre and the ways that we understand sexual acts and discussion of sex on stage. She has presented papers at the Comparative Drama Conference twice. Ms. White has worked as a dramaturg on FSU’s productions of Cloud 9 and How I Became a Pirate and CWU’s productions of The Duchess of Malfi and Two Radio Shows for the Price of One.

Recent Graduates: PhD Theatre Studies

Sean Bartley graduated with his Doctorate in Theatre Studies in Spring 2018. He holds a BA in Theatre Arts Management from American University and an MFA in Dramaturgy from the American Repertory Theatre/Moscow Art Theatre School Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. His research centers on contemporary American site-specific, ambulatory, and immersive theatre practices. His work has been featured in Theatre Journal and Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation and at the annual conferences of ASTR, ATHE, MATC, and MLA. Dramaturgy credits include work with American Repertory Theatre (Julius Caesar, Romance), New Repertory Theatre (BOOM), and Company One (Learn to be Latina).

Sean’s dissertation project, “The Performance of Site: Contemporary American Ambulatory Theatre and Audience Agency,” explores large-scale ambulatory performances in the United States where audience members travel miles, constructing narratives and developing a sense of personal agency through their navigation of space. Four performances serve as the central sites of research: Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With, Street Corner Society’s Subway Orpheus, and David Levine’s Private Moment. The project explores how these productions might serve as laboratories for understanding audience agency and how them might connect to other theoretical discourses and traditions of writing about performance.

Devair Jeffries defended her dissertation in Fall 2018 and is a Presidential Pathways Teaching Fellow in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech. She received her Master of Arts in Theatre History and Criticism from the University of South Carolina and Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance with a minor in Studio Art from Winthrop University. Her research focuses on contemporary African American theatre, specifically representation and racial violence in which she implements critical race and Black feminist theories. Her work has been featured in TRAUE, Spectrum, Western Journal of Black Studies, Multicultural Perspectives and Multicultural Learning and Teaching. She has presented at national conferences Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Comparative Drama, Mid-America Theatre Conference, National Association for Multicultural Education, as well as international conferences including the Conference of the International Association for Media and History. She recently collaborated with working partner Deb Kochman to stage their original production One Hundred Years of Hope, which is composed of real interviews addressing topics of racial tension and police brutality in the United States.

Her dissertation analyzes the mammy, mulatta, and mistress stereotypes of Black women which are articulated and challenged in contemporary US plays, television shows, and films. Her study merges scholarship that critiques dramatic representation, mass media that disseminates those representations, and social media that reveals popular perceptions of race. Black feminism critiques the stereotypical representation of Black women in dramatic works, critical race theory considers the social and political environment that allows these representations to proliferate, and critical literacy evaluates the impact of derogatory characterization as it manifests in popular culture and effects perceptions of real Black women. Essentially, she investigates the mythical depictions of Black women that permeate dramatic works and popular culture and poses strategies to positively change their representation.

Allison Gibbes is a Spring 2019 graduate of the program. She received her MA in English Literature at the University of South Florida and her BA in Theatre at Florida State. Her research focuses primarily on musical theatre and how music creates meaning in terms of identity, Otherness, and social issues. She published a review in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism and has participated in the annual conferences of the American Society for Theatre Research, the Mid-America Theatre Conference, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Comparative Drama, and Southern Atlantic Modern Language Association. She dramaturgs regularly with GLOW Lyric Theatre in Greenville, SC.

Allison’s dissertation focuses on the role of musical theatre in the formulation of US/American national identity and the creation of the Other. Her project proposes that music is performative, in that it does rather than describes, using neurological research on the tangible effects of music on the brain. Employing this concept of performative music, she uses case studies to ask how these effects of music merge with dramatic action and dramaturgy in musical theatre to create visceral responses in relation to the social Other.

Tony Gunn is a Spring 2018 graduate of the program and held a Post-doctoral appointment for the academic year 2018-2019 in the School of Theatre at Florida State. He holds a BA in Theatre Studies with an emphasis in directing and an MA in Theatre History from Brigham Young University. His current research is centered on the theatre work of author and illustrator Edward Gorey and the intersection of performance and public history. He is also interested in the literature of Thornton Wilder and aspects of performance within sports punditry. His writing has been published in Theatre Symposium and he has presented papers at the Mid-America Theatre Conference, The Thornton Wilder International Conference, and to working groups at the American Society for Theatre Research’s annual conference. He has directed for Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University, and has written for stage, screen and television.

His dissertation, “The Disembodied Theatre of Edward Gorey”, delves into the theatrical and literary art of Gorey, and seeks to bring his Cape Cod theatre work into the spotlight as it is largely unknown to scholarship to date. Just as importantly, Gorey will also serve as a case study for an exploration of the ontological nature of performance, especially as performance merges with public history. Gorey is an ideal case study for this exploration because, while his plays are unpublished at this time, his work in the theatre can still be accessed through various public history sites. This work will bring needed attention Gorey’s tremendous artistic talent as well as contribute to the way we conceive of the potential of performance to endure beyond the liveness of the theatrical encounter.

Deborah Kochman is a Summer 2019 graduate of the program. She holds a BA in English and MA in Literature from the University of South Florida. Her research centers on the intersection of theatre studies, age studies, and trauma theory. Deborah served as co-convener for the Traumatic Structures working group for ASTR 2015 and 2016; she has also presented her work at annual conferences, such as ATHE, MATC, and the Comparative Drama Conference. As a theatre practitioner, Deborah worked as a dramaturg for FSU’s 2014 production of Romeo and Juliet and more recently collaborated with her colleague, Devair Jeffries on One Hundred Years of Hope – a project and production composed of real interviews addressing topics age, racial tension, and violence in the United States. Deborah also served as co-chair for the College of Fine Arts College Leadership Counsel (2016-2017) and editor of the council’s annual publication, SIX Magazine.