I am a scholar of theatre, performance, and dance.

My research focuses on bodies, casting, and identity in Broadway musicals.

Photo by Paula Vlodkowsky


I recently completed my PhD in Theatre and Performance at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. My dissertation, "Broadway Bodies: Casting Stigma and Difference in Broadway Musicals Since A Chorus Line," examines the intersection of casting and multiple kinds of social stigma. For example, how does the use of fat suits in a fat-positive musical like Hairspray actually stigmatize fatness? What are the political implications of casting two heterosexual actors as the gay couple in La Cage aux Folles? How do Deaf actors change the sound of musicals in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening?

My research focuses on casting as a labor practice upholding a system of aesthetic disqualification determining which bodies and identities are valued and which are cast aside: casting reveals the limits of Broadway’s tolerance of difference.

I am co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Musical Theatre (with Laura MacDonald and William Everett, forthcoming 2021). Along with Joanna Dee Das, I co-edited the special issue of Studies in Musical Theatre (13.1, March 2019) on dance and musical theatre. My article on casting and fat stigma in Broadway musicals appears in the American Theatre and Drama Society special issue of The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. Other writing appears in Studies in Musical Theatre, Theatre Survey, and the forthcoming Routledge Companion to the Contemporary Musical.

I teach theatre history, musical theatre, dance history, arts appreciation, and public speaking variously at Baruch College, Hunter College, Queens College, Saint Mary's College of California, and The New School. I am currently a fellow at the Teaching and Learning Center at the CUNY Graduate Center. I danced professionally on stages across the country prior to my academic career.

Here’s a 3 minute talk about my research delivered at the CUNY Graduate Center's 2019 Dissertation Showcase.

Photo by Paula Vlodkowsky

Contact me:

rmdonovan at gmail.com


Upcoming and Recent Events:

Return engagement of Grief Bacon, Joe’s Pub, August 20, 2019.

Inside The Graduate Center: A Dissertation Showcase” at The Graduate Center, CUNY, May 13, 2019 (The event will be live-streamed).

Balancing Teaching and Research as a Graduate Student” workshop for the Teaching and Learning Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY, April 3, 2019.

La Cage aux Folles and the Invention of Pride” at the Mid-America Theatre Conference, Cleveland, March 7, 2019.

Direction/Dramaturgy for Grief Bacon, written and performed by Jeff Hiller, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, January 29, 2019.