Diego Villada (PhD 2018) is currently an Assistant Professor and Director of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) at New College of Florida. He is also Co-Artistic Director of the adjacent collegiate theatre company [performance @ new college].
Behind-the-scenes pictures from SUS
Why did you decide to go to graduate school? Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Pitt?
My goal was to be a professor of theatre since I was 20 years old. To achieve that goal I trained in a specialized MFA program for Acting, Voice, and Movement Pedagogy at Virginia Commonwealth University and augmented that with practical work in the field, which I call my "artist time," in NYC. Both set me up for having the training and educational background to reach my goal. That said, my dream was also to be the Chair of a theatre department someday and I knew I also wanted to be a utility player that could teach a variety of courses for whichever university hired me. Part of that was getting additional training in theatre theory and history. That is where PITT fits in. In the story of my life, it was a big decision not to go on the market immediately after my time in NYC and instead take 5-yrs to earn a Ph.D. It was not a decision I made lightly. After considering programs around the country, I settled on PITT because of one line on the website at the time of my application. It said: "We train philosophers of theatre." I was like, "that's me!" The curriculum had both depth of subject matter engagement and breadth of having to read widely. I also chose PITT because teaching is how I earned my stipend, this was very important to me.
How did the degree program help prepare you for your career?
In those 5-yrs, I took classes in all sorts of theory-related subjects. I also earned three graduate certificates to augment my Ph.D. and was privileged to make theatre with PITT undergrads along the way. In my job interviews, I could speak to a wide variety of areas of our field. Having landed at a small liberal arts college on Florida's Gulf Coast, I lead a very small program where it is "all hands on deck.". I am literally the only professor on campus that is solely dedicated to theatre. Everyone else on my team splits their time with other programs, such as Sociology, Philosophy, Literature, etc. For that reason, I draw upon the wide variety of experiences and training at PITT to help my students develop as artists. For example, never in a million years did I think I would teach theatre history. Yet, as the need arose, I was like, "Yeah, I can teach that." I took a combination of graduate and undergraduate courses in theatre history which totaled 6 different courses, some of which I was the TA for. This is just one example of how PITT got me ready to teach theatre at the post-secondary level in any scenario I might encounter.
What is your current position and what does it involve?
I am an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at New College of Florida, the honors college of the state. I also serve as the Director of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS). I lead a team of core faculty in making curriculum decisions as we create New College's first-ever major in TDPS. I am also Co-Artistic Director of the adjacent collegiate theatre company [performance @ new college]. I curate a 4-mainstage season and recruit adjuncts and affiliated faculty to augment the offerings of my program. I train generalists towards earning a degree that is equal parts theory and practice while offering a bespoke arts education for tomorrow's creatives. My students do not specialize in any one area, they must take classes in all areas and eventually settle on their chosen path as their undergraduate time comes to a close. My students enter the workforce in positions as artists and admins in traditional theatre and dance companies, governmental organizations, graduate schools, and other cultural organizations like museums and social justice non-profits. I teach classes such as: Theatre History, Latin American Performance, Heritage Tourism Performance, Acting I, Directing I, Voice and Speech, Movement, Armed Stage Combat, Audition Techniques, and Unarmed Stage Combat. I also direct shows.
A multimodal theatre experience, a devised piece focused on working on experimental multimodal theatre, at the New College of Florida.
Thoughts and Advice for Current Graduate Students?
- Listen to the DGS, do what they tell you all five years. That's how I got my job.
- Do the things at PITT you don't want to do. The reason you do not want to do them is that they are not your area(s) of strength. This is exactly why you need to work on them, no matter how tedious or "sucky" the assignment.
- Forget about learning "how" to write. Learn how to "think" and the writing will come.
- Help the teachers help you. They cannot give notes if they do not receive pages. Turn in pages.
- Start your job search a year before you actually go on the market. Follow the job postings and discuss them with the faculty. You need that practice to understand the process. Visualize and imagine those interviews and site visits. Practice your job talks and Zooms with mock interviews and practice scenarios. Get the opinion of trusted fellow Ph.D. students. Give each other notes.
- Go to as many symposiums and invited talks as you can across all disciplines at PITT. This will expand your thinking about interdisciplinary connections.
- If you almost quit once or twice a year, that means you are doing it right. It means you are super uncomfortable, which means you are growing.
- Ask for help. Do not suffer in silence.
Do not be afraid or embarrassed to cry in your advising meetings. It just means you are human and care about your job.
- Done is better than good. A finished dissertation is worth more than some idealized dream version of what you think your project should be.
- After you finish...live a life of service. Service to your students, your school, your community, your craft, and your field. A mindset of service will keep you humble and hungry. It will bring you longevity and purpose in what we do.