Patrick McKelvey

  • Assistant Professor

Patrick McKelvey is Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in performance studies, theatre history, and disability studies. Before joining the faculty at Pitt, he received his PhD from Brown University in 2017 and taught at Florida State University’s School of Theatre from 2016 to 2018. He has published essays in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings (ed. Clare Croft; Oxford, 2017). His reviews appear in Modern Drama, TDR, and the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, among other venues. In 2019, he delivered a plenary at the American Society for Theatre Research annual meeting drawn from this very book project, Disability Works. He is a core member of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institutes’ “Equitable US Arts Infrastructures” Cross-Campus Consortium convened by Sarah Wilbur (Duke University).

McKelvey’s first book, Disability Works: US Performance After Rehabilitation is under contract with NYU Press. Disability Works offers a new history of disability and performance in the postwar United States. The book’s argument is twofold. First, it shows how theatrical practices and institutions profoundly shaped the form and substance of vocational rehabilitation (VR) as a political and cultural paradigm. Focused on disabled Americans’ realization of economic independence through wage labor, VR would come to dominate both disability policy and disability performance in the second half of the twentieth century. Disability Works shows how a seemingly unlikely ensemble of rehabilitation professionals, deaf schoolteachers, policy makers, disability activists, queer artists, and religious leaders championed performance’s rehabilitative promise across these decades. Second, it demonstrates how disabled artists and activists mobilized theatre to critique, refuse, and otherwise imagine worlds beyond the demands of productive citizenship. Drawing upon previously unexplored archives of art, activism, and policy, Disability Works focuses on dramaturgical, aesthetic, and infrastructural developments between 1950 and 1990. It features critical examinations of renowned companies, such as the National Theatre of the Deaf and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, as well artists and organizations that have previously garnered little scholarly attention, including playwright Ron Whyte, the National Task Force for Disability and the Arts, the CETA New York Artists Project, and the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped. 

McKelvey’s 2016 essay, “Ron Whyte’s ‘Disemployment’ Prosthetic Performance and Theatrical Labor” (Theatre Survey) received three “best article” awards: from the American Society for Theatre Research, the American Theatre and Drama Society, and the Committee for LGBT History. OnTAP: A Theatre and Performance Studies Podcast dedicated a segment to his 2019 article, “A Disabled Actor Prepares” (Theatre Journal), which the Drama League includes in its bank of “Anti-Oppression Resources” for theatre and systemic change. McKelvey will spend the 2022–23 academic year as a Visiting Scholar in residence at Pennsylvania State University’s Humanities Institute, where he will complete Disability Works and launch his second book project, Supporting Actors: A Disability History of Theatrical Welfare in the United States.



Representative Publications

“Ron Whyte’s ‘Disemployment’: Prosthetic Performance and Theatrical Labor” (Theatre Survey, 2016)

“Choreographing the Chronic,” in Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings (Oxford University Press), edited by Clare Croft

Reviews in Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, TDR, and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre

Research Interests

U.S. Theatre and Performance
Disability Culture, Politics, and Aesthetics
Queer and Feminist Studies
Histories and Theories of Performance Labor

Education & Training

  • PhD, Theatre and Performance Studies, Brown University, 2017
  • MA, Anthropology, Brown University, 2017
  • BA, English and Theatre/Dance, University of Texas-Austin, 2008