On Theatre & Performance:
Casting & Fat Studies
The casting of Broadway musicals reproduces aesthetic values from the dominant culture, especially the notion that thin bodies—ones that conform to these values—are superior to other bodies, especially fat ones. The aesthetic values placed on bodies are gendered, especially relative to size. Apart from a few roles (including Tracy), fat women are almost never cast in roles beyond the comedic sidekick or best friend in commercial theatre. Musicals embody how and where Broadway (and, by extension, U.S. society) expects fat women to sound, to move, to behave, and to labor; class, gender, race, and sexuality further impact these expectations.
Casting & Disability
What is at stake when disability in the text doesn’t match disability in the actor’s body? This is the question that came to mind after seeing the 2017 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and then reading the critical responses to it. Though Menagerie remains one of theatre’s most famous memory plays, many critics had trouble with the re-membering (some would argue dis-membering) of Sam Gold’s production and revealed themselves to be more comfortable with the playwright’s incorporation of disability than the director’s. Gold’s bold interpretation of the play seemed to get under the skin of critics in a way that few productions do, as much as for his directorial vision as for his casting of an actor with a disability in a leading role. The vehement responses from critics admit their predisposition to privilege the supremacy of text above all else.
Dance & National Identity
Through both her dances and writings Agnes de Mille explored what it means to be American. I argue that, in addition to the explicitly America-themed material de Mille chose, her choreography performs national identity through its use of gesture – informed by de Mille’s interest in folk dance and the collective unconscious. When looking at much of de Mille’s choreography, one is visually struck by its Americanness. It is this act of recognition that begins this enquiry: how does one see de Mille’s choreography and recognize its intrinsic Americanness? How did de Mille’s choreographic process allow for the expression of national identity through gesture? These questions are explored through an analysis of de Mille’s ‘Civil War Ballet’ from Bloomer Girl (1944).
Pedagogy and Ethics
I almost quit my PhD program to become a dog trainer. Spoiler alert: I didn’t become a pro dog trainer, but I did learn a lot about the ethics of pedagogy as a result of learning how to work with dogs and their humans. It all starts with the idea that learning shouldn’t hurt.
This is a reflection on implementing strategies and tools I learned as a student in the inaugural course offered by the Futures Initiative in Spring 2015 at The Graduate Center/CUNY, co-taught by Distinguished Professors Cathy Davidson and William Kelly. Creating a community in the classroom makes the learning environment more productive and empowering, and this blog describes how I consciously set out to achieve these goals.
This interdisciplinary dialogue took place after Environmental Psychology PhD student Kristen Hackett and I visited each other's class in order to observe and exchange ideas about teaching, equity, and the benefits and challenges of structuring active learning pedagogies.