Spotlight on Graduate Student Scholars, Teachers, and Artists: December/January

Christiana Molldrem Harkulich, PhD Candidate, Theatre and Performance Studies

When visiting the New York Public Library Billy Rose Theatre Collection, Christiana Molldrem Harkulich discovered a picture filed under “Princess White Deer.” The picture depicted Princess White Deer on the beach with another Broadway star, Peppy de Albrew. Princess White Deer, also known as Esther Deer, was a third generation Mohawk entertainer, who’s performance history is scantly recorded. Through an examination of Princess White Deer’s beach costume, Harkulich investigates how White Deer challenges native stereotypes while performing through them. As a performer, White Deer traversed Atlantic City wearing gorgeous ball gowns and dancing the Charleston. Living on the border of native and white cultures, Princess White Deer shifted how native women were represented.  

Princess White Deer

Harkulich refers to her experience in the archive as a “treasure hunt.” She considers archival sites as spaces for discovery and interrogation. Currently Harkulich is working on her dissertation project entitled, “Standing between the Reservation and the Nation: Indigenous Performance in North America after the end of the Indian Wars,” which received the 2015 American Theatre and Drama Society Graduate Student Research Award. Her scholarly project is centered on indigenous performance at the nexus of white and native cultures. It is in the border that Harkulich is able to illuminate the relationships of power, narrative, and history. Unconventional archival sites only begin the journey to understand the past. As Harkulich states, “the archive only hints” at past events.

Her interest in indigenous performance traces back to when she was an undergraduate student at Wellesley College over a decade ago. At Wellesley, Harkulich argued, through performance and a close interrogation of the character Pocahontas, the myth of Pocahontas is directly connected to the development of narratives about the formation of the colonies. This project ignited Harkulich’s interest in the research archives. The archives, as Harkulich refers to them, are exciting spaces of mystery where clues from the past are put together.

For Harkulich, the University of Pittsburgh’s Theatre and Performance Studies program is the ideal location to merge her praxis as a researcher and practitioner. During her years in the M.A. and PhD programs at Pitt, Harkulich has found the graduate student community supportive and congenial. At the university, she has explored multiple teaching opportunities across her interests in theatre and performance, gender, and history. Before attending graduate studies, Harkulich founded a theatre company: To the Wall Productions. In addition to producing several site-specific performances, Harkulich developed an extensive resume as a lighting designer. She recently served as lighting designer on the University of Pittsburgh Stages production of Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith.

After she completes her dissertation, Harkulich’s next project is going to focus on professional wrestling. Shifting from analyzing staged performance, she is interested in examining how wrestling intersects with fan culture and live entertainment, while negotiating identity politics and performances of nation.

To learn more about Harkulich’s research and theatre practice, check out her website, and her most recent article, Harkulich, Christiana. “Why a Mascot Matters: A Listicle History of Redface.”, Fall 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. 

Congratulations to

Vicki Hoskins for completing her PhD coursework in Fall 2015.

Graduate Student News

During Fall 2015, José Pérez IV fight-choreographed UPitt Stages Water by the Spoonful and Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Upcoming Events

Nic Barilar will be presenting a paper at the Comparative Drama Conference at the end of March.

Vicki Hoskins is currently directing Gruesome Playground Injuries, which runs from February 3-7, 2016.