Spotlight on Graduate Student Scholars, Teachers, and Artists: March

March Graduate Student Spotlight Profile:

Diego Villada, PhD Student, Theatre and Performance Studies

Diego Villada is a third-year PhD student in Theatre and Performance Studies and a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. Villada’s life began to be significantly influenced by theatre as a young person, when he used his talent to attend a magnet arts middle school in Miami. As an undergrad at the University of Evansville in Indiana, Villada continued to study acting, as well psychology. From there he earned an MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he specialized in fight directing. Highly physical acting, as opposed to its more cerebral branches, is something that makes Villada “come alive,” and his professional practical work, especially as a fight director, continues. However, his time at the University of Pittsburgh has shifted Villada’s priorities. Considering theatre as just one mode in a spectrum of performance, his work at the University of Pittsburgh focuses on thinking “with theatre, through theatre, with performance in mind” in order “to make commentaries about the world that we live in, or the past, or the future.” In summary of his work, Villada explains, “I am becoming an expert in understanding, unpacking and making arguments related to theatre or performance with a high level of reflexivity.”

Villada’s research examines sites in Colombia and Brazil, where he has traveled for research, and performance related to tourism, especially the staging of heritage. These interests raise questions of transnational subject-hood, “essentializing” identities, and the role of performances of “authenticity” for audiences, performers and cultures at large. His explorations include “finding discrepancies between what is presented as ‘authentic’ heritage and who really is in the geography.” Studying such sites “can tell us something about ourselves- wherever your position is.”

More broadly, Villada’s work is pushing toward different modes of what he calls “knowledge production” by “challenging inaccessibility.” “I’m very dedicated to the idea of the public humanities, the public intellectual,” he explains, “I filter my language through my experience to make it understandable, because I have a dedication to the idea that knowledge does not belong to a select group of people.”

Villada’s creative work continues to inform his thinking and his philosophies inform his approach to the practical. Both impact how he works as a teacher. As an instructor of “Intro to Performance” classes, he strives to teach students “how to have open minds and how to engage with art… how to be an engaged citizen that thinks critically and can articulate themselves well in writing and speaking.” His ongoing evolution from theatre student to performance teacher and communicator is no accident. Villada states, “I knew I wanted to be a college professor when I was 21 years old.” Always receptive to new ideas and the next challenge, he adds, “the specifics of that are more and more open everyday.”


Congratulations to

Christiana Molldrem Harkulich for winning a 2016-2017 University of Pittsburgh Pre-Doctoral Mellon Fellowship.

Vicki Hoskins, Julian Stetkevych, and José Pérez IV for winning the 2016 University of Pittsburgh Baranger Teaching Award. Recognizing only seven students this year, the award acknowledges excellence in graduate student teaching across the Arts & Sciences.

Diego Villada for winning an outstanding presenter award for his paper “Heartwarming Stories Make Refugees the Object of Spectacle,” presented at the Grad Expo in March.


Graduate Student News

Shelby Brewster directed two staged readings as a part the series "Borderlands of History: Gender, Violence, Memory:" Witches Vanish by Claudia Barnett, and Woman on Fire by Marisela Traviño Orta. Both playwrights visited campus and participated in conversations about theatre's role in representing and exploring issues of gender violence.

Christiana Molldrem Harkulich presented her paper “Protest/Performance: Strategic Protest and Decolonial Action in the American Indian Movement” at the Grad Expo in March. She was selected as one of the participants for the History of Art and Architecture’s “Race-ing the Museum” weeklong workshop in May.

Kristin O’Malley presented her paper, "Presidential Performances and the Crusades in Post-­‐9/11 Culture" at the Mid-American Theatre Conference in Minneapolis at the Grad Expo in March.


Upcoming Events

In August, Christiana Molldrem Harkulich will chair and present during the session "Protest as Performance: Political Bodies in Action" at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education annual conference in Chicago.