Elizabeth Kurtzman is a current PhD Candidate.
What are you studying at Pitt?
I'm a third year PhD student in the performance and theatre arts department at Pitt. My work centers upon the performance of fear, particularly in live events like Halloween haunted attractions or escape rooms, but also in new digital platforms such as apps or podcasts. I spend a lot of time watching horror movies and telling myself that it is research for my dissertation.
How has the PhD program helped you move towards your personal and professional goals?
I was drawn to Pitt because of the increased opportunities for teaching within the theatre and performance arts department. I have had the chance to teach a variety of courses about theatre history and performance theory, which has helped me to grow as a teacher and to expand my own knowledge base. I was also able to design my own course on a subject that I felt passionate about. That course, Performing Fear: Technology and the Changing Face of Horror, was an experience that taught me a great deal about scaffolding and building assignments, but also gave me the opportunity to see my students make some really cool and creative work.
Is there a research opportunity, production, internship, class, etc. that has been instrumental to your time at Pitt or in helping you form your post-graduation goals? If so, please tell us about the experience.
I think the Faculty Development seminar really prepared us to be better teachers and scholars, while also presenting an honest look at the job market and pushing us to consider career options. Not all grad students are getting that kind of preparation or training. I also believe that the immersive practice credential (mine is playwriting) has been instrumental in pushing me to work outside the classroom to hone my practical skills and consider what my strengths are. Though the pandemic has disrupted some opportunities for performance, I was still able to participate in productions and to shape my own practice. It forced me to make time for my creative work instead of completely immersing myself in theory, which has led to other opportunities onstage and off.