Michelle Granshaw

  • Associate Professor / Director of Graduate Studies

Michelle Granshaw’s research focuses on impoverished, disenfranchised, and migrant communities and how they shaped and were influenced by the embodied and imaginative practices within theatre and performance. As a theatre and cultural historian, her work explores how theatre and performance functions within poor and migrant communities in several ways: as strategies for practical and imaginative community building; cultural institutions that express group identity as well as reinforce dominant social and cultural expectations and prejudices; and methods of social and cultural resistance, adaptation, and survival. Her research interests include U.S. and Irish theatre, popular entertainment, and performance; performances of race, ethnicity, gender, and class; global and diasporic performance; historiography; and dramaturgy.

Her book, Irish on the Move: Performing Mobility in American Variety Theatre (University of Iowa Press, 2019) argues that nineteenth-century American variety theatre formed a crucial battleground for anxieties about mobility, immigration, and ethnic community in the United States. She analyzes how what she calls “dramaturgies of mobility” -- repeated narratives, types, images, strategies, and performative practices -- participated in systems of meaning pertaining to mobility and informed systematic oppression as well as served as strategies for survival. Irish on the Move was named a finalist for the 2019 Theatre Library Association George Freedley Memorial Book Award.

Her second book, The Fight for Desegregation: Race, Freedom, and the Theatre After the Civil War examines the protests and actions by Black activists to desegregate the theatre in the years after emancipation and their immediate and long-term impact on U.S. theatrical culture.

Other in-progress projects include a project examining the relationship between transatlantic Irish popular performance and the emergence of modern urban sectarian violence in nineteenth- century Belfast. Granshaw was delighted to share her research for this project in a recent Theatre Survey article (January 2020).

Granshaw recently published a book chapter on theatre and mobility in American Literature in Transition: The Long Nineteenth Century, Volume II: 1820-1860 and her articles have appeared in Theatre Survey, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, Popular Entertainment Studies, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Topics, and the New England Theatre Journal. Her reference articles have appeared in The Atlas of Boston History: The Making of a City and BlackPast.org. She has presented her research at the American Society for Theatre Research, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and Mid-America Theatre Conference.

Granshaw’s work has been recognized and supported through awards, grants, and fellowships. Irish on the Move received support through the Hibernian Research Award from the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, American Theatre and Drama Society Faculty Travel Award, and a Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship. In 2014, Granshaw was awarded the American Theatre and Drama Society Vera Mowry Roberts Award for Research and Publication for her Theatre Survey (January 2014) article “The Mysterious Victory of the Newsboys: The Grand Duke Theatre’s 1874 Challenge to the Theatre Licensing Law.” "Inventing the Tramp: The Early Tramp Comic on the Variety Stage,” part of Irish on the Move’s first chapter, also won the 2018 Robert A. Schanke Theatre Research Award at the Mid-America Theatre Conference. Her research on popular performance in Belfast was awarded a 2020 Pitt Momentum Fund Seed Grant and ESC Faculty Research Grant.

She teaches in the BA, MFA, and PhD programs and mentors student dramaturgs. She is affiliate faculty with the Global Studies Center, the European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center, Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies Program, and Cultural Studies. Granshaw was honored to receive the University of Pittsburgh’s 2021 Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Graduate Mentoring Award (tenured category).

Granshaw currently serves on the Executive Board for the American Theatre and Drama Society (term 2021-5) and co-organizes ATDS’s First Book Bootcamp and Career Conversations. She also has served as the Theatre History Symposium Co-Chair for the Mid-America Theatre Conference (2015-7).


Representative Publications

Research Interests

United States and Irish Drama and Theatre; Performances of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class; Popular Entertainment; Global and Diasporic Performance; Historiography; Dramaturgy  

Education & Training

  • PhD, Theatre History, Theory, and Criticism, University of Washington, 2012
  • MA, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Maryland, 2007
  • BA, History and Dramatic Literature, Theatre History, and Cinema, New York University, 2005