Skip to main content


Alex Baines

Alex Baines received a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and an MA in Text and Performance from Birkbeck, University of London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His research examines the community function of reconstructed, repurposed, and historically resonant aesthetic and performance spaces, particularly in contexts of Britain and empire. He has lived and worked as an educator and theatre maker in various places around the world including Cambridge (UK), Moscow, rural south-west England, and Shanghai. Alex is affiliated with the British Studies cluster and is the recipient of a Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowship.

Rebekah Bryer

Rebekah Bryer received her BA in History/Theatre and Dance Studies from Wheaton College (MA) and her MA in Public History from Northeastern University. Her research interests are focused on the various intersections of performance and public memory in American culture from the eighteenth century to the present day. Her dissertation project examines how memorials facilitated and helped construct contested performances of American national identity in the wake of the American Civil War. She has been published in The Washington Post, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, and The Atlas of Boston History. She has been awarded fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Boston Athenaeum, and a Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowship through her affiliation with the Rhetoric and Public Culture Cluster at Northwestern. Outside of research at Northwestern, she is the Graduate Assistant for Public Humanities at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities (2020-2021), the co-coordinator of the Northwestern Graduate Public Humanities Colloquium, and serves on the Graduate Student Advisory Council for the Center for Civic Engagement.

Chelsea Taylor

Chelsea Taylor holds a BA in Theatre and English from Trinity University and an MA in Theatre Studies and Dramaturgy from the University of Houston. Her current research explores how live performances that adapt biblical stories at contemporary Christian tourist destination across the United States function as immersive preaching techniques, giving old narratives new spiritual impacts for their audiences. Her work has been supported by the Buffet Travel Grant and the Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowship, and she has presented her writing on panels at ATHE and MATC. At Northwestern, Chelsea also serves as a Graduate Writing Place Fellow and is affiliated with the Critical Global Avant-Garde and Modernist Studies Cluster.

Janine Chow

Janine Chow received her BA in English from Yale University, where she wrote her thesis on Matilda the Musical. Her research examines how children and childhoods are performed in American musical theatre, with attention to adaptive shifts between source text and production. As a sound designer, she enjoys examining technical theatre and how visceral elements shape one’s cerebral experience of a show.

Deon Custard

Deon Custard completed BAs in English and Theatre (Directing) at Bates College in Lewiston, ME before beginning at Northwestern in the fall of 2021. Current research interests are focused on Shakespeare’s plays (as literature and as malleable performance texts), the carnivalesque and other comic theories, the racialized body in performance, and how radical joy can be used to re-examine existing institutions. In addition to his work as a PhD student, Deon is a freelance director, lighting & sound designer, dramaturg, and teaching artist.

Lia Dewey

Lia Christine Dewey (she/they) received her BA in Theatre, with an emphasis in Acting from California State University, Fresno and their MA in Theatre Performance History and Theory from The Ohio State University. As a dramaturg, playwright, and cultural critic, her work is focused on activism and representation in the American theatre industry, social media, and the digital performance of everyday life. They are also a Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellow for the Rhetoric and Public Culture cluster.

Ana Díaz Barriga

Ana Díaz Barriga is a puppetry practitioner and scholar interested in the application of cognitive science approaches and methods to the study of puppetry and spectatorship. She is the recipient of a Cognitive Science Advanced Research Fellowship and a Mellon Cluster Fellowship in Science Studies. Her current research investigates the sophisticated ways puppeteers guide viewers’ minds and bodies to make meaning of contemporary puppetry performance using methods from both cognitive science and theatre studies. Ana has presented her work at IFTR and ASTR. In addition to her research, she is also a CIRTL Scholar and a Graduate Teaching Mentor at the Searle Center for Advanced Learning and Teaching. Ana has a BA in Drama from the University of Glamorgan (UK) and an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (UK).

Laura Jeanne Ferdinand

Laura Jeanne Ferdinand is a Presidential Fellow and doctoral candidate at Northwestern University who specializes in the intersections of gender, race, class, and performance in constructions of history and culture in the US South. Her current research examines the twentieth-century origins of southern identity, situating performances of racialized southern femininity at the heart of the region’s most pivotal and prolific period of cultural production. Laura works with organizations across Northwestern, serving as a writing fellow at The Graduate Writing Place and a freelance editor at Northwestern University Press. She is the recipient of fellowships from Northwestern, Emory, University of Georgia, and Miami University where she served as instructor of theatre. She has presented her work at the American Society for Theatre Research, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and Mid-Atlantic Theatre Conference. Her writing is featured in Theatre History Studies.

Jessica Friedman

Jessica Friedman received a BA in Ethnic and Racial Studies from Columbia University (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and has completed graduate studies in Theatre and Dance at UC San Diego. Her research focuses on performances of national identity and female corporeality in modern dance during the 1940s. She is the recipient of a Dance Studies Association Selma Jeanne Cohen award for excellence in research and writing, as well as research fellowships from the New York Public Library, the 92nd Street Y, and the Renate Voris Fellowship Foundation.

Phoenix Gonzalez

Phoenix Gonzalez earned her B.A. in Religion from Princeton University, with Certificates (minors) in Theater and Medieval Studies. After several years in New York City as a tech startup product manager by day, actor by night, and all around frequent Met Cloisters museum patron, she attended Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music to study the intersection of Christian ritual and theater in the Middle Ages. There, she received her Master of Arts in Religion and continued on the medieval drama wagon out to Chicago. The recipient of a Mellon Cluster Fellowship in Medieval Studies, at Northwestern, her research centers medieval drama then and now, and she is committed to merging her scholarly pursuits with her practice as an actor and director in staging these fascinating plays today.

Heather Grimm

Heather Grimm holds a BA in Theatre and Economics from Denison University and an MA in Theatre and Performance from Queen Mary University of London. Her research interests include the history of popular entertainment, comedy studies, ethnographic methods, historiography, and audience studies. Heather’s dissertation is an ethnographic study of bluegrass music in the Midwest that applies methods from theatre studies to popular music performance. At Northwestern, Heather serves as a Graduate Writing Place Fellow and is affiliated with the Critical Theory Cluster.

Alícia Hernàndez Grande

Alícia Hernàndez Grande earned her BA in English and Theatre from Rice University and her MA in Theatre History and Dramaturgy at the University of Houston. Her dissertation project considers the development of Catalan cultural identity and independence politics through theatre, spectacle, and public protest. Her project and research interests also intersect with historical memory, trauma, and public spectacle. Other research interests include sports, including the Olympic Games, the World Cup, and Formula 1. She is affiliated with the British Studies cluster and with Northwestern’s The Writing Place.

Hayana Kim

Hayana Kim is a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern University. Her dissertation, entitled “Embodying Democracies: The Gwangju Uprising and the Politics of Mourning in South Korea,” focuses on contemporary South Korean artistic and activist performances in service of democracy. She is a recipient of multiple grants and fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, American Council of Learned Societies, Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, the Graduate School of Northwestern, and the School of Communication at Northwestern. Her works were also recognized with multiple awards such as the Helsinki Prize from the International Federation for Theatre Research and two Emerging Scholars Awards from the Association for Asian Performance and Performance Studies Focus Group, affiliated with the Association for Theatre Research in Higher Education. She writes and publishes both in English and Korean. Her publications in English have appeared or are forthcoming in Asian Theatre Journal (2021) and The Cambridge Companion to International Theatre Festivals (2020). Her publications in Korean include a book chapter contribution with the Chonnam National University Press (2021) as well as multiple op-eds in Korean newspapers. She can be reached at: Email: Her alternative email is:

Claudia Kinahan

Claudia holds a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. Her research lies at the intersection of performance, technology, and gender. Her dissertation explores how female gendered new media devices, or what she terms ‘virtual women’, perform human, ‘woman’, and labour. She is the recipient of the Herman Diedrich and Richard Johnson Families Scholarship from NU School of Communication. Claudia also maintains an artistic practice and has written, directed, and performed for numerous stages. You can find out more about her work at

Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp received his BPhil in Theatre Arts and Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and his M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Alex’s research interests focus on contemporary performance, materialism(s)/material culture, and aesthetic theory, with a particular attention to affect theory, ecological philosophy, human-nonhuman relations, and political history, theory, and economy. Alex is also a trained actor.

Liz Laurie

Liz Laurie received her BA in Classical Civilization from New York University and an MA in Theatre from Hunter College. Her dissertation project explores representations of gender and sexuality in cosplay at fan conventions in the United States. Her research interests include popular culture, digital humanities, and fan practice as performance. She is affiliated with the Gender and Sexuality Cluster and is a fellow at Northwestern’s The Writing Place.

Dwayne Keith Mann

Dwayne Keith Mann is a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University. He holds a graduate degree in Performance Studies from New York University, where he delivered a Master’s thesis on aesthetics, figuration, labor, and black things. His dissertation project, part of the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama program, studies late-nineteenth century parade and drill performance on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, disclosing intersectional spaces of national and state military defense strategies, musical theatre performance, and black male figuration. Dwayne is also the Artistic Director of kei•aesthetic production &design, an arts and leisure warehouse specializing in intellectual gameplays.

Gabrielle Randle

Gabrielle Randle received a BA in Drama and Sociology from Stanford University and an MA in Performance as Public Practice from The University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include conscious dramaturgical interventions in the staging of protest and survival. Her research currently centers on the acts of testimony and witness in the performance of Black Women Revolutionaries. Gabrielle is affiliated with the Comparative Race and Diaspora Cluster and is the recipient of a Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowship.

Matthew Randle-Bent

Matthew Randle-Bent is a theatre scholar and artist. His scholarly research focuses on the artistic and intellectual legacies of international performance festivals of the 1970s, many of which were sponsored by the International Theatre Institute (ITI). In particular, his current work focuses on the ITI’s Third World theatre committee, which hosted festivals in the Philippines, Iran, France, and the GDR during that decade. This work highlights unfinished histories of radical performance, as well as the transnational foundations of performance theory between what was known as the “Second” and “Third” worlds. His undergraduate degree is from Warwick University and his Master’s is from Queen Mary, University of London. Matthew’s writing has been published in Contemporary Theatre Review,, and Theatre Journal. He teaches classes in theatre studies at Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University, and in 2022 will be an artist in residence at The Watermill Center.

Eleanor Russell

Eleanor Russell received a BA in Religious Studies from Grinnell College and an MA in Theatre History and Criticism from CUNY Brooklyn College. Her dissertation explores mid-twentieth century stand-up comedy on record and its relationship to avant-garde performance practices. She is affiliated with the Critical Theory Cluster. She hosts a podcast on sound and performance:

Rachel Russell

Rachel Russell, from Baltimore, MD, holds a BFA in Dance Pedagogy from Columbia College Chicago and a MA in Performance Studies from New York University. Her research includes understanding, documenting, and conceptualizing the present day history of Black Women dancers, choreographers and their predecessors. Rachel is affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Cluster in Gender & Sexuality and is the recipient of a Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellowship.

Caroline Shadle

Caroline Shadle received a BA in American Studies and English from Wesleyan University (CT) and an MA in Dance Studies from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she was a Dean’s Scholar. Caroline researches twentieth-century dance, with a focus on Chicago dance history. Caroline is also a freelance dance writer and has written for publications including Dance MagazineDance Teacher, and Fjord Review.

Skye Strauss

Skye Strauss worked as a costume designer and technician before joining IPTD. Her research grows out of her artistic practice; using theory on scenography, new materialism, and puppetry to explore how design and materiality shape both process and performance.  In her dissertation, “Materiality Matters: On the Power of ‘Things’ in Collective Creation,” Skye argues that materiality is an important source of inspiration during the devising process across the disciplines of dance, circus, and theatre. She explores how the performing objects onstage foster intense affective and emotional experiences for the audience. Her research was funded by an International Student Travel Grant from The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).  She received additional support from Northwestern, receiving both a Graduate Research Grant and a School of Communication Ignition Grant.  She has presented her writing in the Puppetry and Material Performance Working Group at ASTR and in panel presentations on design and circus at ATHE. Her article “The Workings of a Wild Mind,” on director and designer Bill Mitchell, was published in TD&T in 2021.  She has also published a performance review in Puppetry International, a book review in Theatre Topics, and a book chapter on Michael Curry in Theatre Artisans and Their Craft.  Skye earned her B.A. in Theatre with University Honors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and her M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland) as a Rotary Scholar. When she is not on campus, she can be found building magical things or hanging upside down at the circus. Her artistic portfolio is available online at:

Weston Twardowski

Weston Twardowski is a doctoral candidate and the Program Manager of Diluvial Houston, a Mellon Grant Initiative hosted by the School of Humanities and the Center for Environmental Studies at Rice University. He holds dual BAs in History and Theatre from Louisiana State University, and an MA in Theatre Studies from the University of Houston. His research centers on civic identity, especially in relation to memory, race, environment, politics and activism, and place-making practices. Weston’s dissertation takes the case study of post-Katrina New Orleans to argue for the central role of place-making performance in environmental and disaster resilience. His work has been published in TDR: The Drama ReviewTheatre JournalEcumenica, and Theatre History Studies. He has worked professionally as an actor, director, and dramaturg, and is the co-founder and literary manager of Third Culture Theatre in Los Angeles.

Linnea Valdivia

Linnea C Valdivia earned her B.A. in English from Whitman College before starting at Northwestern in 2020. She is the recipient of a Mellon Cluster Fellowship in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests include queerness in early America, medicalization of the body and theatrical performance as a site of queer meaning-making. In addition to her scholarly pursuits, she also is a professional freelance dramaturg, producer and playwright with special focuses on new work development and Latinx theatre.

Keary Watts

Keary Watts is a Ph.D. candidate, a Franke Graduate Fellow at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Searle Center for Advanced Learning and Teaching. He is working on a dissertation that tracks and theorizes the political and historiographic potential of “strategic re-deployment,” or the purportedly anti-racist incorporation of nineteenth-century blackface minstrel conventions by minoritarian theatre artists in the contemporary era. He is an Auburn University (B.A.) and Washington University in St. Louis (M.A.) alum.

Elena Weber

Elena Weber received her BA and MA in Media Studies, Theater Studies and Art History from the University of Cologne. Her research interests include ethnographic methods, urban studies, spatial practices, and the performative reproduction and reenactment of history. Elena’s dissertation is a mixed-method, ethnographic and archival project on public performances in Rome’s historic center. It creates a genealogy centralizing performances in the formation and perpetuation of ideology.