Graduate Student News

Winter 2024

Congratulations to Liz Kurtzman for successfully defending her comprehensive exams and dissertation prospectus during the Fall 2023 semester!

Congratulations to Patrick Mullen for finishing his graduate seminar coursework in the fall!

Payne Banister is currently Assistant Directing Cheating Fate at PittStages, which opens in February. In November, Payne had the pleasure of attending the American Society for Theatre Research. They presented their paper “The Work of Werking It: Drag Entertainers’ (Precarious) Labors of Love.” As part of their work with the American Theatre Archives Project, Payne co-convened a working group entitled “Theatre Archives as a Site of Hope.”

Alison Mahoney has a forthcoming article in Theatre Research International entitled, “'Severe’ Sensory Theatre: Building Relational Disability Politics During UK Covid Lockdowns.” They presented their paper “Building Cultures of Access in University Theatre: Reflections on Corsicana at the University of Pittsburgh” in ASTR’s Disability Performance Cultures working group. Alison also presented a paper virtually in IFTR’s Performance and Disability Working group entitled, “Staging Freak Performers in a New Disability Theatre: John Belluso's Traveling Skin.” Alison traveled to the American Philosophical Society archives in Philadelphia, the UIC archives in Chicago for research on the Century of Progress Worlds’ Fair Midget City (1933-34), and New York for immersive theatre research.

Frederick Miller recently served as the production dramaturg for University of Pittsburgh’s regional premiere of John Proctor is the Villain by Kimberly Belflower. This coming spring, he will serve as the production dramaturg for the Off-Broadway revivals of Do Re Mi and Lucky Stiff with the J2 Spotlight Musical Theatre Company. Additionally, Miller will present his paper, “Corn Off the Cob: The Dramaturgy of Shucked” at the 2024 Mid-America Theatre Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also serves on the conference planning committee.

Summer 2023

This summer we had three PhD students who defended their dissertations. Le’Mil Eiland defended his dissertation, “"The Black Archives: Fugitive Histories on the Run" and this year, he is an Assistant Professor of Theatre History at Illinois State University. Andrea Gunoe defended her dissertation, "March of Militarism: Contemporary Nationalism Through Military Spectacle" and is a limited term Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University. Chris Staley defended his dissertation, ““What’s the Point? Multipodal Orbits in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training” and he is starting a position as Assistant Professor of Movement at Texas Tech University.  Congratulations to Le’Mil, Andrea, and Chris!

This year, we are welcoming two new PhD students:

Natasha Cole is a first-year graduate student in Theater and Performance Studies. She received an A.M in Theater and Performance Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and a BFA in Theatre Arts (Performance) from Hofstra University. Her work explores the intersections of devised theater, disability studies, and queer and feminist studies.

Guilherme Meletti Yazbek (he/him) is a Brazilian theatre artist and scholar with a diverse range of professional experiences. He has worked in various roles in the theatre field, including directing, acting, and producing. Additionally, he has expertise in facilitating pedagogical and creative processes in improvisation/composition, movement-based, and devised theatre.

Yazbek's current research interest revolves around exploring the relationship between movement (body) and architecture (space) in both artistic and daily life situations. In the field of performance studies, he is particularly interested in the relationship between queer bodies and urban space. In terms of education, Yazbek completed his MA in the Performing Arts program at the University of São Paulo (ECA-USP) in 2022. His interdisciplinary research, which incorporated elements from both performing and visual arts, focused on the theatre production of Brazilian visual artist Laura Vinci. Prior to his MA, he obtained a BA in Performing Arts with a concentration in Theater Direction from USP in 2010. During his undergraduate studies, he had the privilege of learning from esteemed figures such as Antônio Araújo, Cibele Forjaz, and Maria Thais, among others.

Continuing Student News

Karim Chebli's summer in Lebanon was filled with a flurry of creative projects that showcased his talents in various roles. He successfully executed two shows that highlighted his skills both on and off the stage. The first production, titled "Fled," was staged at Zoukak's Theater Company. Karim co-wrote and co-directed the piece, in addition to taking on an acting role.

The second project, "In the Blink of an Eye," Karim not only co-wrote and co-directed but also played a significant role as a producer. He meticulously designed the set and wardrobe, contributing to the overall visual and thematic elements of the piece. 5000 audience members experienced the performance. In addition to his work on the stage, Karim also shared his expertise through workshops at the American University of Beirut and Zoukak Theater Company. These workshops focused on Devising and Ethnodrama, areas that aligned closely with his academic pursuits at the University of Pittsburgh.

Frederick Miller enjoyed a busy summer working as a freelance dramaturg on musicals at various theaters, including Music Theatre Wichita, Allenberry Playhouse, the Forestburgh Playhouse, and the Legacy Theatre. Highlights include Ragtime, Cats, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Sound of Music, Young Frankenstein, The Addams Family, and Bullets Over Broadway. Additionally, he was the script writer for the Wonderful Town 70th Anniversary Concert at 54 Below in New York City. In July, Frederick produced and starred in his play Headspace at the inaugural Harrisburg Fringe Festival in Harrisburg, PA to rave reviews.

Payne Bannister had their proposal for their article “Masquerading Resistance: The Parasitic Tactics of the Mandrake Balls” accepted to a special section called “Drag v. The Law” in Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. They were a recipient of the Humanities Engage Summer Immersive Fellowship and able to work with the Pittsburgh Queer History Project. They helped with metadata on archival materials, research grants and funding opportunities, and their ongoing MS89 screening series. They also performed in drag at one of the events, so they infused their research with praxis in a fun and public-facing way. They are currently on the steering committee with the American Theatre Archive Project and their proposed working session for the upcoming ASTR conference was approved, so they are collaborating with Ken Cerniglia to co-convene a working group titled “Theatre Archives as a Site of Hope: American Theatre Archive Project Workshop”.

Alison Mahoney presented a paper “Staging Freak Performers in a New Disability Theatre: John Belluso’s Traveling Skin” at the IFTR conference. They also moderated a virtual panel “The Praxis of Care: Performing Access Intimacy and Asserting Aesthetic Agency in Intersectional Dance Communities” at ATHE. She visited the UIC Century of Progress World’s Fair Archives to conduct research on the Midget Village. They also completed a Humanities Engage Summer Immersive Fellowship with Film Pittsburgh working on their ReelAbilities Disability Film Festival 

Victoria LaFave defended her dissertation prospectus this past May and began archival research for the project at Harvard's Houghton Library with the support of a visiting research fellowship. She was also elected American Theatre and Drama Society Graduate Student Representative.

Liz Kurtzman taught the summer Intro to Performance class and worked as a graduate student assistant for the American Theatre and Drama Society’s virtual First Book Bootcamp in July. This year she holds a Pre-Doctoral Mellon Fellowship in support of her dissertation research.

Spring 2023

Congratulations to Alison Mahoney for finishing course work and Victoria LaFave for passing her comprehensive exams!

Victoria LaFave served as the dramaturg for Pitt Stages’ production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars and shared her experience as part of the "Encounters in the August Wilson Archive" panel at the 2023 August Wilson Society Colloquium. She was awarded a Humanities Center Graduate Student Summer Research Fellowship to begin archival research for her dissertation. She currently serves as the Graduate Student Representative for the Performance Studies Focus Group at ATHE and is organizing the Performance Studies Emerging Scholars Panel.

Alison Mahoney will be presenting their paper "Staging Freak Performers in New Disability Theatre: John Belluso's Traveling Skin" virtually at this summer's IFTR conference as part of the Disability and Performance working group. Alison also will be directing Will Arbery's Corsicana for Pitt Stages in the fall.

Frederick Miller recently presented his paper “Enter the Mouse: How Disney ‘Transformed’ Broadway with a Beauty and a Beast” at the 2023 Mid-America Theatre Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in addition to serving on the conference’s planning committee. His play Charley/Nik/Charlie/Nick will receive its world premiere at the Harrisburg Area Community College in April 2023.

This spring, Chris Staley returned to Toga Mura, Japan, for more training and field work with the Suzuki Company of Toga. He also produced a new play, West of Jesus, with students and faculty at Juniata College, which will premiere at Teatro Uno Mas in Nuevo Vallarta in May. 

Hansel Tan is honored to have been named in Chatham Life & Style's 2022 "Outstanding Performance" Category for his turn as DHH in David Henry Hwang's Yellowface at Theatre Raleigh and was recently featured in award-winning composer Andrew Gerle's new immersive Electro-Swing concept album Whisper Darkly, to be released by Broadway Records later this year. In the summer, he also appears as a vocalist in Andrew Lippa's (The Addams Family, Big Fish) Oratorio I Am Harvey Milk with Mr Lippa conducting the Princeton Symphone Orchestra and has been selected to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities' Summer Institute for Higher Education on "Preserving and Transmitting American-Based Ensemble Devised Theatre," hosted by the OBIE-Award winning Pig Iron Theatre Company. In July, Hansel is thrilled to join the faculty for Juilliard's Summer Performing Arts program at the Nord Anglia schools (Orlando, FL) as a director-instructor, sharing his love of the craft with young artists from all over the country.

Summer 2022

Congratulations to Courtney Colligan and Shea Hwang who defended their dissertations in July and graduated in August 2002! Courtney Colligan defended her dissertation, “Freedom is a Practice: The Praxis of Postcarceral Performance in the United Kingdom and the United States” This year she will be a Visiting Instructor in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies program at Pitt and is also an adjunct instructor for Theatre teaching Intro to Dramatic Art. Shea Hwang defended her dissertation ‘An Island of Death’: Crumpled Childhood, Performance, and the Jeju Massacre (1948). Starting this week, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

Victoria LaFave won the American Theatre and Drama Society’s Graduate Student Research/Travel Grant and a Pitt Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for the 2022-3 academic year. She was also recognized as a Performance Studies Focus Group Emerging Scholar at the Association for Higher Education’s 2022 conference where she presented her award-winning paper on the Performance Studies Focus Group’s Debut Panel.

Alison Mahoney presented their paper "Devising Access Intimacy: Lessons from Oily Cart's 'Uncancellable' Season" on the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Directing Focus Group panel, "Covid-Era Devising: Toward a New Canon." She also organized the ATHE Performance Studies Focus Group’s Emerging Scholars Panel as the Performance Studies Focus Group’s Graduate Student Representative. She also joined the Disability Justice Education Project working group, hosted by the Museum, Arts, and Culture Access Consortium.

Chris Staley recently finished his third summer training with the Suzuki Company of Toga. In 2022 his chapter contributions were published in Theatre and the Macabre and Teaching Performance Practices in Remote and Hybrid Spaces. Over the last year, Chris worked in courthouse operations for the anti-incarceration non-profit, Bronx Community Solutions, a borough project of the Center for Court Innovation.  

Theatre Arts is excited to welcome two MFA students and three PhD students to the department.

Karim S. Chebli is a first year MFA Student in the Performance Pedagogy program. Born and raised in Mount Lebanon, the actual country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Karim just left his homeland to join the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a BA in Business Administration, a BA in theater, and an MA in Education Administration and Policy Studies, where his thesis focused on the development of pedagogic content knowledge of theater educators. Alongside his studies, he taught theater, trained with non-governmental organizations and launched a local artistic career, writing, directing and acting in staged productions. Karim's current research focuses on the intersections of Civil War History in Lebanon, performances and conflict resolution.

Hansel Tan is a first year MFA Student in the Performance Pedagogy program. Originally from Singapore, Hansel earned his bachelor's at Wesleyan University researching issues in late Medieval Musicology before establishing a career as an actor in NYC and the regional circuit, appearing on stage, film, and TV. Besides performing, Hansel has conducted workshops at Yale-NUS, the Haque Center of Acting and Creativity (Singapore), and Sightlines Actors Studio (Manila, Philippines), is a Designated Meisner Teacher (The Meisner Institute), and is motivated to investigate extended notions of theatricality, vitality, and the kinesthetic imagination through experimental and experiential pedagogies. Union affiliations: Actor's Equity Association & Screen Actors Guild.

Payne Banister is a first year PhD Student in the Theatre and Performance Studies program. They earned their MA in Theatre and Performance Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where they explored the precarious working conditions of drag performers in the St. Louis area. Payne researches at the intersections of theater and performance studies, queer and feminist studies, and U.S. cultural history. As a drag performer and scholar, Payne is particularly interested in the cultural, historical, and social contexts of nightlife and queer performance cultures.

Patrick Mullen earned his bachelor’s degree in History and English Writing (fiction, poetry) from the University of Pittsburgh, and he earned an MFA in Writing (fiction) from Columbia University. His research attempts to understand why contemporary artists sometimes adhere to classical forms of performance, and sometimes diverge from these forms, in order to engage with recent national memory, especially trauma born from the violence of twentieth and twenty first century conflicts. Currently, he researches international collaborations of artists who adapt classical Noh to tell contemporary stories, particularly stories that challenge the hegemonic state power of repressive governments and/or right-wing extremist movements. 

Frederick D. Miller is a musical theatre dramaturg and playwright. He is the dramaturg for the J2 Spotlight Musical Theatre Company in New York City, and recently worked on the Off-Broadway revivals of The Baker's Wife and A Class Act. He is a recent graduate of Penn State University where his play Headspace received its world premiere in 2021. Although a Nittany Lion through and through, he is excited to join the Pitt Panthers!

Summer/Fall 2021

Congratulations to

Liz Kurtzman and Victoria LaFave for completing their department coursework!

Victoria LaFave received an honorable mention for the 2021 Tamara Horowitz Graduate Student Paper Prize from Pitt’s Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program.

Alison Mahoney published a piece in Theatre Survey's Notes from the Field entitled, "Oily Cart's Space to Be: Exploring the Carer's Role in Sensory Theatre for Neurodiverse Audiences during COVID-19."  Alison also won the Dick Thornburgh Disability Service Award.

Chris Staley presented papers at ATHE 2021, the European Shakespeare Research Association, International Symposium on Olympic and Paralympic Research hosted by the International Centre for Olympic Studies (“Staging Olympism in the Classroom: Teaching Theatre and Performance Studies for Contemporary Global Stages”), and the Comparative Drama Conference (on TMT and Antigone). This summer, he also participated in intensives with Theatre Nohgaku and SITI. He has forthcoming chapters in Theatre and the Macabre and Teaching Performance Practices in Remote and Hybrid Spaces. This fall, he started work at the Bronx Community Solutions and Center for Court Innovation. He also worked as a performance collaborator with the visual artist, Jia-Jen Lin in November, on her video sculpture “Treading on Thin Ice”, which will be installed as a solo exhibition at Locust Projects in Miami April 23-June 18, 2022.

Winter 2020-21

Congratulations to

Courtney Colligan, who was selected as a 2021 National Humanities Without Walls Pre-Doctoral Career Diversity Workshop Fellow.

Emma Squire, who was awarded the 2020 American Society for Theatre Research’s Helen Chinoy Dissertation Fellowship.

Graduate Student News

In mid-February, several Pitt graduate students will be presenting their work at UCLA’s TAPS Graduate Student Conference, “Contact: Performing Proximity”: Victoria LaFave, "Touched by History: Senti-Mental Embodiment in the Titanic Musuem Attraction;" Alison Mahoney, "Sensory Theatre during COVID-19;" and Chris Staley, “The Traditional Antinomy of Suzuki Tadashi’s Theatre: Globalism and Interculturalism as Multipodal Performance.” For more information on the upcoming conference (co-organized by Pitt MA alum Clara Wilch) see the UCLA TAPS conference site.

Chris Staley will present his paper “Active Analysis in Immersive Classrooms: Language Acquisition, Acting, and ‘Performing Japanese Culture’” at the American Association of Teachers of Japanese Conference in March.

Chris Staley also is working on an ongoing series of movement collaborations with musicians Devon Osamu Tipp, a Ph.D. candidate in Pitt’s Music Department, and Sarah Alice Steranka of Kamratōn Ensemble. Check out Tipp’s website , which includes videos and more information on Tipp’s development of Sonic Cartography.

Summer 2020

Graduate Student News Update

Graduate Student Alumni News Update

Spring 2020

Sean Cook (MFA) and Christopher Staley (PhD)
UP Stages production of Appropriate
Photo by Samantha Saunders Studio


Congratulations to

Nic Barilar (PhD), who was awarded a 2020-1 Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and European Studies Center Klinzing Dissertation Grant.

Shelby Brewster (PhD), who was awarded a 2020-1 Cultural Studies Graduate Student Fellowship.

Sean Cook (MFA), for successfully defending his thesis, "Stage to Screen: Pivoting from Traditional Theatrical Education Using Selected Techniques of Michael Chekhov." Sean also was awarded the 2020 MFA Teaching Award.

Vicki Hoskins (PhD),  for successfully defending her dissertation, “Playbill Takes the Stage: The Rise of America’s Foremost Theatrical Program.”

Meg Pryor (MFA), for successfully defending her thesis, “Connection in Chaos: Creating and Embodying Your Story Through Movement.”

Emma Squire (PhD), who received a Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, European Studies Center Klinzing Dissertation Grant, and Jewish Studies Gilboa Research Grant.

Chris Staley (PhD), who was awarded the 2020 PhD Teaching Award.

Shelby Brewster (PhD), published “Slow Violence and the Youth Climate Movement” as part of the Editor’s Forum: Theorizing the Contemporary for the Society of Cultural Anthropology.

Sean Cook (MFA), directed UP Stages lab production, Oblivion, and performed in UP Stages mainstage production, Appropriate. He also worked for Pittsburgh Playhouse as their Spring 2020 Intimacy Coach.

Andrea Gunoe (PhD), directed UP Stages mainstage production, The Verge.

Chris Staley (PhD), performed in the UP Stages mainstage production, Appropriate. He also appeared in the Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s PlayTime reading series.