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Theater Studies

Fall Innovation and Entrepreneurship Undergraduate Certificate Information Sessions:
Come learn how the brand new certificate in innovation and entrepreneurship can enhance your Duke experience and help you develop a crucial set of life skills that complement any Duke major. Whether you plan to start a venture, work on Wall Street, pursue a social entrepreneurship opportunity, or head off to graduate or professional school, skills in innovation and entrepreneurship will be vital determinants of your success.
Please note that juniors must apply by September 21in order to be considered.
Wednesday, August 27
McClendon Tower 5, 5:30-6:30 pm
Thursday, August 28
Teer 203, 5:30-6:30 pm
Wednesday, September 3
Student Life Conference Room (Bryan Center), 5:30-6:30 pm
Tuesday, September 16
Gross Hall 107, 6:00-7:00 pm

Now Now Oh Now Comes to Duke

The Dept. of Theater Studies and Duke Perfomances are bringing to campus Rude Mechanicals, one of the most innovative theater companies working in the US at this time.

The internationally celebrated Austin, Texas theater collective Rude Mechanicals have been delighting audiences with what they describe as a “genre-defying cocktail of big ideas, cheap laughs, and dizzying spectacle” for seventeen years. The company makes its Duke debut with Now Now Oh Now, an immersive theatrical experience that explores the nature of beauty, evolution, choice, and chance. Read more here.

Leading an intimate audience of only thirty people through a two-part cabinet of wonders in Duke’s Sheafer Theater, Rude Mechs combine serious scientific content with the nerdy pleasures of interactive gaming and the undeniable satisfaction of Murder Mystery Theatre. An evening full of surprises for performers and audience alike, “Now Now Oh Now is a delightful way to have your mind blown” (Austin Chronicle).

$24$15 Age 30 and under$10 Duke students
General Admission; 919-684-4444

AUDITIONS for our Mainstage play, The Perfect Detonator are August 26th and 27th. Full details here.

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Above, the Duke In Chicago 2014 group. Below, excerpts from a blog entry from a student who participated in the Duke in Chicago 2014 program. See more of what the students had to say here.

"Our incredible six week artistic and entrepreneurial immersion has been extremely fun, eye-opening, and insightful. When I board my flight to New York on Sunday, I will take lots of small, specific information about the industry away with me, but what about the big picture? Through our guest speakers, our readings, and most importantly our development of Artifical, I have pinpointed the three key takeaways from this explosive summer: 1) the importance of entrepreneurial training in the arts, 2) the paradox of artistic innovation and creating original art in an ensemble, and 3) the complexity of arts management. The takeaways have surprised me for sure, but more importantly, they have inspired me. The arts business is too often negligently brushed under the rug, but upon entering it, I see it for all of its exhilarating worth..."

O'Berski in China

Professor Jaybird O'Berski is in China working with migrant workers, along with recent Duke graduate Shucao Mo. To the right and below are visual dispatches from Beijing with captions.

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Jaybird and his new friend Caesar (adult pictured) visited an English class in a school for the children of migrant workers. They taught them a game called Fruitbowl that he plays with acting classes at Duke.
PS He says the pro actors here already knew Big Booty (a favorite of Duke students)!

In second picture (hit arrow top right), people from the migrant village like to watch warmups and rehearsal. In photo 3, migrant domestic worker actresses read over a scene from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Many of these women only see their families once a year. In 4, domestic workers rehearse as Demetrius and Helena in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. August 13 they'll do a public performance in the neighborhood in Beijing where O'Berski is staying.

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O'Berski says, "I've been consensually conscripted into giving improv workshops here. The actors are passionate, hilarious and starving for direction. There are NO improv teachers here but the demand is huge considering the rate of business and cultural expansion. Doing two or three more next week with Beijing's 8+ improv teams. Massive, towering honor!"

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O'Berski's host and Duke alum Shucao Mo directs the migrant workers at Skin Village in a scene about a homeless man who finds a baby in a trash bag.

Machinal Opens April 3 at Duke

The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal April 3-13, 2014 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center. Jules Odendahl-James, visiting lecturer and resident dramaturg in theater studies, is directing the play.

Machinal is the story of “a young woman, any woman,”—a woman destroyed by “a world of money, men, and machines.” Machinal depicts the struggle for personal fulfillment in a world where alienation, commodification and automation reign supreme. A world that is past, present and future.

Treadwell’s 1928 American expressionist masterwork draws inspiration from the case of Ruth Snyder, who was put to death in Sing Sing’s electric chair for killing her husband with the help of her lover Judd Gray. “The murder case was a sensation at the time and was made even more so by a reporter sneaking a camera into the execution chamber. The resulting photograph of Snyder was published on the front page of the Daily Times tabloid,” says Odendahl-James.

“It’s important to remember this play is very much of the 1920s. It was written less than 10 years after women got the right to vote,” she says. “That said, there’s a lot that feels contemporary about feeling trapped in a machine of life that pushes you along without giving you a chance to figure out who you are and why you do things. Certainly technological advancements increase the anxiety about human identity, but Treadwell is very interested in the role that such anxiety and pressure played in women’s lives. That’s specifically why it attracted me—its resonance is still there.

Machinal was a play by a female playwright that opened on Broadway. In fact, it had its first Broadway revival this past January. And it was unique for Broadway standards of the time. There are lots of theatrical conventions that were new—montage of sound and scenery, archetypal characters—all pushing the envelope of expected realistic dramas. Treadwell was one of a handful of women playwrights working in an era where this type of writing was just taking hold in American theater. Today we are fairly comfortable with these conventions, but at the time they were rather extraordinary,” explains Odendahl-James.

“It’s always interesting to look back and try and think what watching it might have been like for an audience that was unfamiliar with this type of play,” says Odendahl-James. “Ours is a small cast—10 actors, nine who play over thirty roles between them. Developing that kind of ensemble is very appealing for a liberal arts theater program—even more so when we have a chance to do a rather obscure play from the early part of the previous century, but one that connects to our own moment in time.”

Post-show discussion
April 11 “Young Women and Life Machines” – panel discussion

A blog at documents the unfolding of the play.

A video trailer can be found at

Show dates/times/prices/ticket info:
By Sophie Treadwell
Directed by Jules Odendahl-James, Theater Studies faculty
Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center, West Campus
April 3-5 & 10-12 at 8 pm
April 6 & 13 at 2 pm
$10 general admission; $5 students and sr. citizens; 919-684-4444

Hoi Polloi Brings Republic to Durham

With Republic, Hoi Polloi creates a dream-like theatrical experience that tackles the massive moral questions raised by Socrates, against an ever-shifting backdrop of characters and settings. An intimate audience at Durham's Manbites Dog Theater joins their symposium, addressing a fundamental human question: Why be good? Artistic Director Alec Duffy, a Duke graduate, developed Republic over a two-year residency on campus; the result is an adventure that stimulates both the senses and the synapses.

Republic is a co-presentation of Duke Performances, Duke Department of Theater Studies and Manbites Dog Theater.

Buy tickets here.

Thursday, February 20 | 8:15 pm
Friday, February 21 | 8:15 pm
Saturday, February 22 | 8:15 pm
Sunday, February 23 | 3:15 pm
Wednesday, February 26 | 8:15 pm
Thursday, February 27 | 8:15 pm
Friday, February 28 | 8:15 pm
Saturday, March 1 | 8:15 pm
Manbites Dog Theater
$17$15 Age 30 & under$10 Duke students
General Admission Seating.

Love's Infrastructure

Look at the picture below (the PSI Theater in the Durham Arts Council) and imagine an indy pop puppet opera happening in there. You will notice a band set up on the right (Bombadil), a screen in the center - the storytelling vehicle to show the world of the puppets, and the area on the left that holds that world. Then flip through the slides and see the magic elements that came to life. At the very end, you will see the artists who pulled it off!

Directed by "mad genius" (according to her team) Torry Bend
Photos by Izzy Burger and Barbara Riegel Bend

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Theater Studies Professor Torry Bend Has a Busy Semester!

Torrry Bend has a show opening on January 24, but it's not a typical theater studies mainstage show. Love's Infrastructure is a collaboration with local (but nationally known and loved) band Bombadil, for which Bend will provide puppets and direction.

Duke Performances is presenting the show, which DP describes on its website:
"Durham’s Bombadil made their name on the local and national scenes playing ambitious indie pop with an international kick: “the melodies are chipper, the hooks prominent, the performances energetic, and the arrangements full to bursting with ideas” (Paste Magazine). Duke Theater Studies professor and puppeteer Torry Bend hand-crafts exquisite miniature worlds, with the Indy Weekly calling her puppet odyssey The Paper Hat Game “sparkling yet pensive” in a rare five-star review.

"Now, two of Durham’s most inventive forces unite to offer the world premiere of Love’s Infrastructure, an immersive experience on a set designed by Bend, with music performed live by Bombadil, and enlivened with a cast of Bend’s captivating puppets." See trailer below.

Bend is designing the set for the spring mainstage play, Machinal, as well, which runs April 3-13 in Sheafer Theater.

Here is an interview with Torry Bend in which she discusses both shows. Chronicle interview.

Video trailer below for Love's Infrastructure

Duke Theater Studies to Present
Uncle Vanya

The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya Nov. 14-24, 2013 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center. Jeff Storer, professor of the practice of theater studies, is directing the play.

Storer has prepared his student cast by having them explore both Chekhov’s vaudevilles and his longer major works to help them understand the fine balance of humor and suffering in Chekhov’s work. “He was the master of combining laughter and tears,” notes Storer.

To help the cast mine the humor in the play, Storer brought in Providence, RI-based movement and clown technique consultant and physical theater performer Kali Quinn. "I was looking for somebody who would not only help actors develop character through movement but also push them to understand humor through movement," Storer said. “Because this production is not set in a particular period and the students won’t be using wigs and makeup, their characters will need to be expressed through their movement."

Storer was also insistent that his cast should reflect the student body at Duke, so the play has a diverse group of actors.  The timelessness of a Chekhov play makes it unnecessary to faithfully reflect 19th century Russia, he says.

“There are specific historical and cultural contexts that are absolutely relevant to Chekhov’s playwriting and the traditions of realistic performance that govern the way his work is often performed,” says Jules Odendahl-James the production dramaturg. “However, Chekhov broke a lot of rules in his time. He transformed what audiences thought should be depicted on-stage. His collaboration with director/actor Constantin Stanislavski also transformed the way plays were staged. Our production aims for a similar kind of transformation. To invite audiences who never heard of Chekhov to give his work a try and for those who have seen a lot of Chekhov, to see his work in a new way, a new light.”

Local musician and composer Bart Matthews has written the score for the play, and he and students in the cast will be playing trumpets, piano, guitar, violin and ukuleles to provide the soundscape for Uncle Vanya.

Storer is using a new adaptation by Annie Baker for this production. Set design is by Raleigh artist Sonya Drum, and costume design is by Chatham County artist Derrick Ivey. Chuck Catotti from Duke University is providing lighting design.

Post-show discussions

Nov. 15 with movement designer Kali Quinn and Uncle Vanya actors and production team. Quinn is a facilitator of creative discovery, innovative storytelling, and physical play based in Providence, RI.

Nov. 22 with Raphael Martin, the Literary and Humanities Manager at Soho Repertory Theatre (NYC), where Annie Baker’s version of the play premiered in the summer of 2012.

A video trailer with footage drawn from movement workshops directed by Kali Quinn can be found here:

A blog at documents the unfolding of the play.

Show dates/times/prices:

Uncle Vanya
By Anton Chekhov
Adaptation by Annie Baker
Directed by Jeff Storer, Theater Studies faculty
Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center, West Campus
November 14-16 & 21-23 at 8 pm
November 17 & 23, 24 at 2 pm

$10 general admission; $5 students and sr. citizens; 919-684-4444

Duke Theater Studies and Durham Arts Council Bring Broadway Legend Anita Gillette to Durham

The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies and the Durham Arts Council joined together to present an evening with Broadway legend Anita Gillette. Coming to Durham from sold-out performances at Birdland in New York, Anita Gillette briought her one-woman show, "After All" to Durham to support the Durham Arts Council.

"After All" gives audiences a look backstage with Tony nominee Anita Gillette as she recounts a career that has taken her from performing alongside Ethel Merman in Gypsy to starring on Broadway in CarnivalCabaretGuys and Dolls, Neil Simon's Chapter Two, and more!  As Gillette reminisces through her life in song, she revisits her friendship with Irving Berlin, her work in films like Moonstruck, and her experiences on TV in roles including Tina Fey's mom on 30 Rock

Gillette was also on the Duke campus to present a masterclass for musical theater students.

"After All"

November 1, 2013

8 pm

PSI Theater, 120 Morris Street, Durham 

$25 general admission, $10 students


More about Anita:

Video of Anita Gillette as Sally Bowles in Cabaret:

Tennessee Williams on Anita Gillette:

The Narrowing in Durham

Through film, stage, music and installation, The Narrowing, co-written and directed by theater studies faculty Ellen Hemphill, follows four tales of relationships in times of crises throughout history, but as co-author Nor Hall reminds us, "Wild talents are born out of catastrophe - entrepeneurs, playactors, new schools of philosophy, dance medicine."

Phenomenal actors tell the tales of four sets of people in four catastrophic periods of history, past and future. Large scale traumas in human experience exert tremendous pressure on those who live through them.

A building on Foster Street was transformed to become 539 MUZE, and in it a stunning production brings theater, film, music, soundscapes, installation and light for total audience immersion.

Duke Theater Studies to Present Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag

The Theater Previews New Works Lab program in the Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Sibyl Kempson’s Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag Sept. 27 & 28, 2013 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center.

Kempson will be on the Duke campus for two weeks to work on the play, which is a work-in-progress for the American Playwrights Division of New York City Players. It is, according to Kempson, an examination of the collision of aesthetics and ethics when difficult situations such as the abject conditions of poverty are articulated in a mode of high art.

Kempson is using the work of American photographer Walker Evans as source material. Evans’s critically acclaimed work, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, documented families in the Depression-era South. Susan Sontag more recently wrote extensively on photography and on Evans.

“Walker Evans,” said Sontag, “was the last great photographer to work seriously and assuredly in a mood deriving from [Walt] Whitman’s euphoric humanism.” But, she goes on to say that his work also anticipated much of the “cooler, ruder, bleaker photography that has been done since.

“The camera is a kind of passport that annihilates moral boundaries and social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibility toward the people photographed,” said Sontag in her work, On Photography, speaking to the potential clash of aesthetics and ethics.

Other resource materials for the play include the journals of Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, The NEW American Machinist’s Handbook and ancient Assyrian mythology, says Kempson, “and then shoved into the strict alchemical formulae of the Broadway musical to contemplate the ethical pitfalls and philosophical limitations of poverty porn.”

Kempson will bring in composer Ashley Turba and choreographer David Neumann to collaborate on the new piece during her two-week residency on campus. Jody McAuliffe, Chair of Theater Studies and Professor of the Practice of Theater Studies and Slavic and Eurasian Studies is dramaturg.

The residency will culminate in a free reading of Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, featuring Duke undergrads, grad students and community members.

Guest Artist Kali Quinn to Present One-Woman Show and Workshop

Kali Quinn, who has come to Duke to work with the Uncle Vanya class, will be bringing her own brand of physical theater to Duke. Her show, Overture to a Thursday Morning will be presented Friday, Sept. 13 at 8 pm in Brody Theater. Virtuoso physical theater artist Quinn plays Lila, a character who smokes, listens to Talking Heads and wants to be a violin rock star, but unwanted discoveries drive her toward the truth about her own birth. The show is free.

“Kali brings her customary grace, whimsy and beautifully calibrated performance skills to a piece that is funny, moving, and filled with the delight of performance, storytelling, and memory," says Nigel Maister, Artistic Director of University of Rochester International Theatre Program.

Quinn wil also offer a free physical theater (mask/clown) workshop in Room 127 in the Bryan Center (known as the Rehearsal Studio) Sunday, Sept. 15 from 3:15 to 5 pm, which is open to all.

Read this article from Duke Today for more about Kali Quinn.

Theater Studies Open House

Join the Department of Theater Studies for its annual back-to-school open house to see old friends, meet new ones and hear what's in store this year. Enjoy barbecue and all the fixin's, topped off with banana pudding and IMPROV!

Monday, August 26, 5:30 to 7 pm in Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center

Duke Theater Studies to Present Lear

Durham, N.C. – The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Young Jean Lee’s Lear April 4-14, 2013 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center. Jody McAuliffe, chair of theater studies and professor of the practice of theater studies and Slavic and Eurasian studies, is directing the 65-minute play.

Fiercely talented contemporary New York playwright Young Jean Lee has written a wildly humorous, freaky, postmodern take on Shakespeare’s greatest play, King Lear.  As Lee describes her highly original version: “the kids are in the palace, they’ve just kicked the fathers out into the storm; they pretend they’re fine, then realize they’re not.” 

When she wrote the play, Lee says she was interested in the phenomenon of being an adult, having a parent get sick and realizing their mortality and then realizing our own mortality. “In the first half of the play a lot of those themes get played out, most obviously with the rejection of the father, but also with the obsession with getting fat or bald, and just the idea of being incapable of love, love of others or self-love,” says Lee in an interview in The L Magazine.  

“I knew the students could readily relate to the great roles and rich themes of this exciting play by one of our most exciting experimental theater artists,” says McAuliffe. “I was deeply moved by this theatrical meditation on the loss of a father and thoroughly, playfully engaged by the imagined world of the fatherless children of Lear and Gloucester.

“I found the radical reinvention of Goneril and Regan as not all bad, Cordelia as not all good, Edgar as a nerd, and Edmund as a sensitive human being surprising, refreshing and fun,” adds McAuliffe

Torry Bend, assistant professor of the practice of theater studies, is set designer and Sonya Drum of Raleigh is costume designer. Duke graduate student composer Bryan Christian is sound designer, Roz Fulton-Dahlie, professor of theatrical design & lighting technology at NC School of the Arts, is lighting designer, Clay Taliaferro, professor of the practice of dance, emeritus, is choreographer, Jeff A.R. Jones, certified teacher with SAFD, is fight director. Jules Odendahl-James, visiting lecturer in theater studies is serving as dramaturg on the production. A blog at documents the unfolding of the play.

Show dates/times/prices:

By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Jody McAuliffe, Theater Studies faculty
Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center, West Campus 

April 4-6 and 11-13 at 8 pm and April 7 & 14 at 2 pm
$10 general admission; $5 students and sr. citizens; 919-684-4444

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Waltz Opens Thursday, March 21 in East Duke 209.

Waltz, an original puppet show written, designed, and directed by Don Tucker as his Theater Studies senior distinction project, explores themes of the strength of human imagination, memory and reality, hope and survival. In Waltz, a terminally ill child retreats into a world of his own creation in order to cope with his frightening experiences in a hospital ward. Guided by a trio of puppeteers, the audience is invited into a surreal world where the lines between hospital and dream, reality and cartoon are blurred. Waltz runs March 21-23 in East Duke 209, with two shows each night at 8 PM and 9 PM. 20 seats available per show.

Duke Theater Student Presents Original Play, The Miles

Durham, N.C. – Duke student Steven Li of the Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies wrote an original play, The Miles as his senior distinction project. He also acted in the play, which was directed by Marshall Botvinick. The Miles ran Feb. 14-16, 2013 in Brody Theater on Duke’s East Campus. You can watch it here.

The Miles tells the story of the disruption of the lives of married couple Sam and Emma when an old friend shows up from the past. The one act examines the nature of love, duty and desire and what happens when they collide.

The work of musician Sara Bareilles inspired Li to write his play. “Part of the allure of music is that a song can come out of the blue, on the radio or a friend’s playlist, and evoke a sense of kindred spirit,” says Li. “I felt like I shared that kind of special connection with Bareilles. Her music served as an initial springboard for this project. Weaving her music into the text was simultaneously difficult and effortless. Over time, as the play developed, music and text became inseparable. Now, I can’t imagine this play without her music as an intrinsic part of the text.

Watch the video here.

"How to Build a Forest" Montage

filmed and edited by Wolfgang Hastert
"How to Build a Forest," an interactive performance-art installation created by Obie Award-winning duo PearlDamour and visual artist Shawn Hall, was presented October 19-21, 2012 at Duke University's Page Auditorium.

In addition to support from the Department of Theater Studies, the work’s three-day run at Duke was supported by a Visiting Artist Grant from the Council for the Arts; Duke University’s Office of the Provost; the Nicholas School of the Environment; and from a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. Support for educational outreach to local K-12 students came from the Duke Environmental Leadership Program in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation.

Duke Theater Studies to Present An Evening With Cloud Eye Control

The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will be presenting a evening of short works from Cloud Eye Control Dec. 1 at 8 pm in Sheafer Theater in the Bryan Center on Duke's West Campus.

The evening will include Half Life, currently under development and which will be further developed during a residency at Duke, resulting in a work-in-progress showing. Also on the line-up will be Final Space. The evening will also include a special performance of Miwa Matreyek's solo piece, Myth and Infrastructure.

Half Life is a hybrid performance piece inspired by personal blog postings of Japanese housewives who were directly affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. These posts chronicle their difficult transition to a new “everyday life” amidst the absurdity of catastrophe. "Building off of our unique style of digital and physical stagecraft, Half Life will integrate multiple channels of projected video, animation, music, and performance," says Cloud Eye member Chi-wang Yang. 

By layering media and body on stage, a fantastical world of image and sound is "live-composited” for the audience. The completed concert-length cinema/theater hybrid will intimately explore radiological catastrophe, un-seeable worlds (microscopic, psychological), and sublime encounters with decay in an age of uncertainty.

Final Space tells the story of a young woman beckoned out of her lucid dream state by mysterious voices and embarks on a fantastical journey. "Through puppetry, illusion, performance and video, our protagonist abandons her oppressive technological world, only to land on an inhospitable moon landscape," says Yang. "It is there that she must meditate and use rudimentary flash cards to re-imagine a world that contains warmth, home, friendship, and hope."

Cloud Eye Control is a performance group from Los Angeles comprised of Miwa Matreyek, Anna Oxygen, and Chi-wang Yang. They create original works that combine three different sets of artistic disciplines: Chi-wang is a director of experimental theater, Miwa is an award-winning animator and installation artist, and Anna is an internationally known musician and performance artist.

According to group members, to explore our techno-humanistic moment, Cloud Eye Control is dedicated to interdisciplinary exploration and creating hybrid art that embraces the inherent synergies, as well as the intriguing dissonances, that arise when screen, stage, media and body meet. We serve as co-artistic directors and generate their work collaboratively. Cloud Eye Control's performances have been presented at festivals in the U.S. and internationally, including REDCAT, Time-Based Art Festival, Fusebox Festival, EXIT Festival (Paris), Platform Intl Animation Festival, San Francisco Intl Film Festival.

Duke Theater Studies to Present Women Beware Women

Durham, N.C. – The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women Nov. 8-18, 2012 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center. Jay O’Berski, assistant professor of the practice of theater studies, is directing the play.

According to O’Berski, Middleton's 17th century Women Beware Women burns with feverish characters who manipulate the desires and fears of both their enemies and friends. Women are playing all roles in the play.

“We’re doing this play now because of the extreme power and intellect of the young women currently involved in making theater at Duke,” says O’Berski. “In a time where reactionary forces are attempting to inflict damage on the basic human and reproductive rights of women it seemed apropos to create work where female characters live freely and create their own rules. Women Beware Women is a play about a righteous questioning of presumed morality, where sexuality and class trump traditional gender roles, where love eats itself and tastes delicious.”

Show dates/times/prices:
Women Beware Women
By Thomas Middleton
Directed by Jay O’Berski
Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center, West Campus 

Nov. 8-10 & 15-17 at 8:00 pm, Nov. 11 & 18 at 2 pm
$10 general admission; $5 students and sr. citizens; 919-684-4444   

Theater Studies Faculty Member Torry Bend to present The Paper Hat Game
a new toy theater performance October 18 – November 3, 2012 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster Street, Durham, Presented as part of Manbites Dog Theater’s Other Voices Series

The Paper Hat Game tells the story of notorious prankster “the Paper Hat Guy” through the language of Toy Theater and projection. The hero of this visual kaleidoscope has a simple game, handing out paper hats on the subway with the intention of bringing a bit of childlike joy to daily commuters. But even heroes fall on hard times, and despite the Paper Hat Guy’s daily attempt to brighten the city, the city isn’t always able to reciprocate.

Torry Bend transforms this almost-true story into a constantly shifting landscape of city life. The story finds its shape with live puppetry, intricate models, photo-motion video and a collage of shifting scenery all layered into a performance space only slightly bigger than an oven. With dreamlike video designed by Raquel Salvatella de Prada, a gritty soundscape, and live puppetry, the performance offers a voyage into the psychological and physical workings of a large city.

The Paper Hat Game received a developmental workshop at Duke University in Fall 2011. In a 5-star review, the Independent Weekly wrote, “Torry Bend [and] video designer Raquel Salvatella have created a beacon for the new era with their exquisite short ‘toy theater’ work…. I can't emphasize enough the deep satisfaction provided by the beautiful craft of this hybrid production.”

Creator Torry Bend said, “Though we had a fantastic workshop run at Duke University last fall, it was clear to me that the show was not complete. The show needed time to mature a bit. It has been delightfully fulfilling to tackle Paper Hat again, giving it the attention it needs, adding scenes, enhancing and extending what was working, and tightening and simplifying the performability of the puppets. I am thrilled to move towards this opening at Manbites
Dog Theater feeling like this piece has come into its own.”

The Paper Hat Game runs approximately one hour. Following each performance, audience members will be invited to venture backstage and explore the inner workings of this complex and intricate toy theater performance.
Times and ticket info here

How To Build a Forest

DURHAM, NC – “How to Build a Forest,” an interactive performance-art installation created by Obie Award-winning duo PearlDamour and visual artist Shawn Hall, will be presented October 19-21 at Duke University’s Page Auditorium.

The show is free and open to the public.  No tickets are required. 

Performances will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19; from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20; and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21. 

Watch a live stream here during "the builds."

For more information, go to

Created in response to the ecological and cultural losses in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, “How to Build a Forest” is part visual art, part theater. Over six hours, a choreographed crew of builders transform the empty stage into a simulated forest made from fabric, rope, wire, small-gauge steel, plastic and repurposed found objects.   

The forest remains intact for just 30 minutes before crew members begin to tear it down. The next day, the cycle begins anew. 

Audience members can check in throughout the day to see how the work is progressing, and are encouraged to come onto the stage to get a closer look at the intricately detailed installation, which at “maturity” extends about 1,200 square feet and towers 20 feet tall.  

You can watch an 8-minute time-lapse video of a performance at

In addition to support from the Departmen of Theater Studies, the work’s three-day run at Duke is supported by a Visiting Artist Grant from the Council for the Arts; Duke University’s Office of the Provost; the Nicholas School of the Environment; and from a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council.   Support for educational outreach to local K-12 students comes from the Duke Environmental Leadership Program in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation.

“How to Build a Forest” was first performed at The Kitchen Center for Video, Music, Performance, Dance and Literature in New York City in June 2011.

PearlDamour and Hall will be in residence at Duke University from October 10-21.  You can e-mail them questions about their work at .

Liebe Love Amour! Coming to Duke

Durham, NC. 
Liebe Love Amour!, an original work by New York-based Anonymous Ensemble, will run at Duke Sept, 14th and 15th at 8 pm in Sheafer Theater. In its latest work of interactive theater the group characterizes as a theatricalized “live film” of an epic search for love, Anonymous Ensemble creates Hollywood magic using cameras, a green-screen, live video processing software and the opulent imagery of silent film director Erich von Stroheim.

The show unveils a panoply of love affairs between Tall Hilda and a string of paramours including a fictionalized Erich von Stroheim, a devout Gloria Swanson, and even the live audience itself.  Throughout the narrative, the audience is drawn into and onto the silver screen as their own stories become part of the fabric of the piece. The show is a tryst between cinema and live performance that invites the audience to voyeuristically participate in the artifice of cinema and the magic of theater simultaneously.  With its lush, cinematic orchestration and rapid, real-time editing, Liebe Love Amour! spins layers of romance and reality as it reels towards its inevitable Hollywood finish.

According to Lee Breuer of the world-renowned avant-garde theater troupe Mabou Mines, “AnEn is so far ahead of the curve it has to watch out not to bite its own tail.”

The Dept. of Theater Studies looks forward to hosting the young and dynamic Anonymous Ensemble, led by Duke alum Eamonn Farrell. The group will participate in residency activities with students during its week on campus.

Tickets are at or 919-684-4444 and are $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. General admission.

We send a new crop of grads out into the world.

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Duke University to Present Tony-Award Winning Musical Ragtime - opening April 5th

Durham, N.C. Duke University Departments of Theater, Music and Dance in association with the student musical groups Hoof ‘n’ Horn and the Duke Chamber Players will present the Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime.

In an unprecedented collaboration, the creative team and cast led by Theater Studies director Jeff Storer will stage this classic American musical from April 5th-15th in Reynolds Theater on Duke University’s west campus.

Music department professor Anthony Kelley provides musical direction, and choreography is by Dance professor Barbara Dickinson. Theater Studies professor Torry Bend designs sets, and local artist Derrick Ivey designs costumes.

Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, this turn-of-the-20th century tale follows three diverse families as they all search for success in America.  Played out against a background containing actual historical events and celebrities like Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and Harry Houdini, Ragtime offers a sweeping view of American life that still resonates today.

“We selected Ragtime because of its profound relevance in 2012,” says student producer Nathaniel Hill.  “By re-examining the Ragtime era through a modern eye, our faculty dramaturg Jules Odendahl-James seeks to show students how they can connect the events from the musical to issues they see in the news today, such as wealth distribution, racial inequality and even celebrity tabloid culture.”

Featuring a cast and crew of more than 120, made up of Duke students, faculty members, guest artists and community children, this groundbreaking production features a Tony Award-winning score from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty with songs including “Wheels of A Dream,” “Getting Ready Rag” and “Till We Reach That Day.”  The fusion of marches, cakewalks, gospel, and of course, ragtime, celebrates a truly eclectic mix of American music.

“The musical style known as ‘ragtime’ represents the coming of age of a nation,” says Anthony Kelley. “The delightful lyrical, melodic and harmonic turns offered by Flaherty and Ahrens really typify both the joy and intensity of the idiom. Preparing this in the context of the Duke collaboration has been highly gratifying.”

Duke’s Vice Provost for the Arts Scott Lindroth notes that, “This unprecedented undertaking that brings together three academic programs with two vibrant student organizations has engaged students from all across campus. I hope Ragtime inaugurates a new era of ambitious collaboration in the arts at Duke.”

Tickets for the production are on sale at or  Prices range from $5 to $10, with discounts for students, seniors, and groups.  

Ragtime is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) and is supported by the office of the Vice Provost for the Arts at Duke.

Duke Theater Student Translates and Directs The Mary Play

Durham, N.C. – Duke student Mandy Lowell of the Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies brings a reading of The Mary Play from the N-Town Cycle to Duke for her senior distinction project. The Mary Play will run March 23-25, 2012 in East Duke 209 on Duke’s East Campus.

“Even within medieval theater, the Mary Play is unique in many ways,” says Lowell.  “It has a grander scale and scope than most of its pageant-style fellows, it features more than twenty characters, and it is centered around Mary rather than Christ.  Its expressions of pain and joy – long-awaited parenthood, marriage, redemption, finding one’s purpose – should resonate long after we have abandoned the presentational pageant as the primary mode of theater.”

According to Lowell, the play takes the world’s most famous theological figures – the Virgin, Joseph, Elizabeth, St. Anne, even the Holy Trinity itself – and gives them humanity. Lowell says she learned a great deal studying her young subject and hopes her audience will too.

Show dates/times/prices:
The Mary Play
Translated and directed by Mandy Lowell
(Sr. Distinction Project)
East Duke 209, East Campus
Admission Free of Charge
March 23, 24 at 8 pm; March 25 at 2 pm

Duke Players to present Lady in the Red Dress by David Yee

Durham, N.C. – Duke Players will present Lady in the Red Dress by Canadian playwright David Yee. Alyssa Wong will direct. The play will run Fri –Sun., March 16-18, 2012 in Brody Theater on Duke’s East Campus at 8 pm. Admission is free.

According to the students, Lady in the Red Dress is a “psycho-political, neo-noir action/horror/thriller ghost play.” The play was a shortlisted nominee for the for the Governor General's Award for English language drama at the 2010 Governor General's Awards.

    • lady in the red dress

Duke Theater Students to Present Creditors by Strindberg

Durham, N.C. – Duke student Ali Yalgin of the Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will direct August Strindberg’s Creditors as his senior distinction project. Creditors will run Feb. 23-25, 2012 in Brody Theater on Duke’s East Campus.

“Strindberg's journey to the darker parts of the human soul put Creditors on my radar,” says Yalgin. “In the centenary year of Strindberg's death, it seemed to be appropriate to visit his fears and frustration, common to most of us, in an intimate and claustrophobic setting.”

Creditors tells the story of Adolf, a painter, and Tekla, an author, who have been married seven years. When Tekla leaves Adolf for a week, a mysterious and charismatic stranger shows up and interrogates Adolf, leading to paranoia, jealousy and revenge.

Show dates/times/prices:

By August Strindberg
Translated by Elizabeth Sprigge
Directed by Ali Yalgin (T’12)
(Sr. Distinction Project)
Brody Theater, East Campus
Admission Free of Charge

Feb. 23 at 8 pm
Feb. 24-25 8 pm and 10.30 pm
Audience is limited to 30 people.


Duke Theater Students to Present Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Durham, N.C. – Students in the Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams Feb. 2-4, 2012 in Brody Theater on Duke’s East Campus. The play is the senior distinction project for four students.

Kim Solow will direct the ensemble of student actors for senior distinction. Kirsten Johanssen, Jennifer Blocker and Kyler Griffin will act for senior distinction in this play, said to be Tennessee Williams’ favorite.

The student director and actors will explore the themes of mendacity, death and greed in this story that revolves around an impending death, a troubled marriage and a family who epitomizes the term “dysfunctional family.”

Show dates/times/prices:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

By Tennessee Williams

Directed by Kim Solow (T’12)
Featuring Kirsten Johanssen,
Jennifer Blocker, Kyler Griffin (all T’12)
(Sr. Distinction Project)
Brody Theater, East Campus
February 2-4, 8 pm, FREE


Theater Studies in BEST OF 2011 INDY LIST

In the Indy "BEST OF 2011 LIST," the theater studies department made a tremendous showing.

Theater studies faculty noted were: Jody McAuliffe (directing, The Birthday Party), Jeff Storer (directing, The Laramie Project, a theater studies production and Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them), Ellen Hemphill (directing, A Doll's House, a theater studies production), Dana Marks (best ensemble, Nightwork, Stroke/Book and Glass), Torry Bend (best production design, A Doll's House and The Paper Hat Game) and Jay O'Berski (best supporting performance, The Birthday Party, adaptation, Glass and directing, Glass).

Theater studies students were highlighted as well. Andy Chu, Wanda Jin, and Jacob W. Tobia were noted for their ensemble work in Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Jamie Bell was listed in best supporting performance for A Doll's House, and Jenny Madorsky in Stroke/Book.

Other theater studies associates noted were Jim Haverkamp (special assistance to the theater for his work in video and production design, A Doll's House), Allison Leyton-Brown (best original music, A Doll's House), Andy Parks and Bill Clarke (production design, A Doll's House) and Raquel Salvatella de Prada, (production design, The Paper Hat Game).

Spring 2012 Emerging Humanities Networks Announced and Proposal by Theater Studies Professors is One of Six Chosen

The Humanities Writ Large Steering Committee, chaired by Srinivas Aravamudan, Dean of Humanities, has selected six proposals to become the inaugural Emerging Humanities Networks of the Mellon Foundation-funded Humanities Writ Large initiative.  They are:

Performance and Integrated Media
Professor of the Practice Jody McAuliffe (Theater Studies, Slavic and Eurasian Studies), Professor Thomas DeFrantz (Dance and African and African American Studies), Assistant Professor of the Practice Torry Bend (Theater Studies), and Associate Professor of the Practice William Noland (Visual Arts) will be forming a working group to redefine the understanding of possible relationships between live performance and integrated media in the humanities in undergraduate education.  They seek to connect humanistic inquiry with application of digital technologies and new media, and integrate multiple media and disciplines into unique forms of expression that combine art and technology.  The group will, among other activities, bring in talented artists and scholars at the leading edge of performance practices research.

To read about other recipients, click here.

Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them Features Three Duke Students

Jeff Storer directs this hilarious, heartbreaking, and gently subversive story of real family values featuring Duke students Andy Chu, Wanda Jin, Jacob W. Tobia.

All but abandoned in the American heartland, three kids struggle to create a makeshift family. And when the outside world barges in, the only things that can protect them are love, loyalty, and marksmanship.

by A. Rey Pamatmat
December 1-17, 2011 at Manbites Dog Theater
Regional Premiere

Thur-Sat Dec 1-3
Thurs-Sun Dec 8-11
Wed-Sat Dec 14-17
Shows at 8:15 except Sunday Dec 11 at 3:15

Watch the trailer at

Duke Theater Studies to Present A Doll’s House

Durham, N.C. – The Duke University Dept. of Theater Studies will present Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Nov. 10-20, 2011 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center. Ellen Hemphill, associate professor of the practice of theater studies, is directing the play.

Allison Leyton-Brown composed the score and will be joined by four musicians who will play the live music, and Jim Haverkamp designed the video, which plays a central role in the play. Set design is by Torry Bend, lighting design is by Andy Parks and costumes are by Bill Clarke.

“This classic piece of Ibsen which premiered in 1879 carries the weight of a psychological drama and thriller, as well as an enormous statement of where ‘women's rights’ were at the time,” says Hemphill. “I love that a piece of Art ‘threatened’ the Norwegian audiences at the time in relation to the way things were.

“The haunting music of Allison Leyton-Brown evolved from our conversations of epic film scores behind Victorian or period films and the music used in silent films to raise the tension of the action. By using piano, bass, clarinet and especially theramin in the score, I feel that Allison has captured the mood and depth of the piece,” she says.

Another inspiration for Hemphill was the 1892 short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which illustrated attitudes in the nineteenth century toward women's physical and mental health. Classified as gothic fiction, the story has influenced the imagery of A Doll’s House. “Stage designer Torry Bend's wonderful work has 'set the stage' for this design direction and the wonderful film work by Jim Haverkamp also reflects the tone,” says Hemphill.

Hemphill notes that the layers of miscommunication and fear and lying and heartache in this story make for an intriguing challenge for a director working with younger actors. “I find that the work on gesture and movement helps them to realize how to approach these layers of the psyche without 'acting’ more complex than their life experience has taught them; thus they learn to ‘portray’ a character in a subtle, but more stylized manner,” she says.

Jules Odendahl-James is serving as dramaturg on the production. A blog by the dramaturg, the students and members of the creative team documents the unfolding of the play ( and includes many resource materials around the play.

The production will include a post-show talkback with Ibsen scholar Toril Moi Nov. 12.

Show dates/times/prices:

A Doll’s House
By Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Ellen Hemphill
Music by Allison Leyton-Brown
Video design by Jim Haverkamp
Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center, West Campus 

Nov. 10-12 & 17-19 at 8:00 pm, Nov. 13 & 20 at 2 pm

$10 general admission; $5 students and sr. citizens; 919-684-4444

Also see the trailer at           

Follow the development of the play at           


    • love and human remains

Love and Human Remains
by Brad Fraser

Note: Adult situations and sexual content - not recommended for youth under 17.

Duke Players will present the comedy-drama Love and Human Remains in Brody Theater on Duke's East Campus Oct. 27-29, 2011. The play follows the lives of several sexually frustrated "thirty-somethings" who try to learn the meaning of love — during a time in which a serial killer is terrorizing the city. Steven Li directs the student ensemble cast.

The show is at 8 pm and is free.

    • love and remains web

Theater Studies to Host Award-Winning Chinese Actor Yang Lixin

Wednesday, September 28, 7 pm
Gothic Reading Room, Perkins Library

A veteran actor of the Beijing People's Art Theatre, Mr. Yang plays the lead role in its touring production of Top Restaurant, coming soon to the Kennedy Center. In the 1990s, he starred in China's most popular sit-com, I Love My Home. He is featured in the hit film, Aftershock (being screened at Griffith Theater in the Bryan Center Tuesday, September 27 at 7:30 pm, and it will be followed by a Q&A with Eric Yang, Duke senior who worked on the film and son of Yang Lixin).

    • yanglixin

The Paper Hat Game, created and directed by Torry Bend, with video design by Raquel Salvatella, opens September 8 at Sheafer Theater in the Bryan Center on Duke University's west campus.

With dreamlike video, a gritty soundscape and live puppetry, Duke Theater Studies Professor Bend offers a voyage into the psychological and physical workings of a large city. She poses the questions: Can you fit an entire city in a theater?  How about inside a paper hat? To answer, Bend tells the story of notorious Chicago prankster, Scotty Iseri, aka The Paper Hat Guy, through the language of toy theater and projection.

September 8-10 & 15-17 at 8 pm; September 11 & 18 at 2 pm; 919-684-4444

Check out the trailer below:


Theater Studies Annual Open House - August 29th
5:30 - 7 pm in Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center

Our new and improved open house includes not only free food, but this year there will be free T-Shirts and a Magic Show by mentalist magician Josh Lozoff.

Joshua's magic combines amazing illusions developed in his travels around the world, with mental feats that explore the possibilities of the human mind. The result: a fun, mind-boggling performance that leaves audiences laughing, full of amazement , and wondering, what is real???

You can also meet the Theater Studies faculty, the Duke Players Council and meet new friends and reconnect with old ones. Info about courses, auditions, backstage opportunities and more will be available.


Past Events

Laramie events

Join us for these post-show talk-backs in Sheafer Theater beginning five minutes after curtain and lectures in Perkins Library

April 8, with Carol Martin, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU

April 10, a panel discussion, “Why Do We Need Laramie?”

April 15, with Derek Paget, University of Reading, UK

Professors Martin and Paget will also give public lectures in the
LINK, Classroom 5, Perkins Library

2 pm, April 8, Professor Martin: “Beyond Documentary Theatre”

2 pm, April 15, Professor Paget: “Why This, Why Now? The  Millennial Turn   to Documentary on Stage and Screen”

The Laramie Project Coming to Duke

Theater Studies will present The Laramie Project April 7-17, 2011 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center. Jeff Storer, Professor of the Practice of Theater Studies, is directing the play.

The Laramie Project, by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, is based on the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theater company with inhabitants of the town of Laramie, company members’ own journal entries and published news reports. The student actors will portray more than 60 characters in this iconic piece of documentary theater.

Jules Odendahl-James has been serving as dramaturg on the production and has been co-teaching a class with Storer with 18 students (all members of the cast or crew).  The class has studied the original production, the media surrounding the event and the myriad productions of the script over the last 12 years. The class also enjoyed a special visit to rehearsal by Maude Mitchell while she was in residence on campus with Mabou Mines. Mitchell was one of the original Tectonic participants and gave her insights about the collection of interviews and early development of the text.

A score has been composed by Bart Matthews, who will also provide the solo piano accompaniment during the production. Set design is by Torry Bend, lighting design is by Chuck Catotti and costumes are by Jessica Gaffney.

A very robust blog by the dramaturg and the students documents the unfolding of the play ( and includes many resource materials around the historic event that inspired The Laramie Project.

The production will include a series of three post-show talkbacks with special guests:

1) Carol Martin (NYU) on Friday, April 8. She will also deliver a lecture, “Beyond Documentary Theater” that afternoon (2pm) in Perkins Library (LINK Classroom #5).

2) Derek Paget (U of Reading, UK) on Friday, April 15. Derek will also deliver a lecture, “The Millennial Turn to Documentary on Stage and Screen” that Friday afternoon (2pm) in Perkins Library (LINK Classroom #5)

3) A panel discussion “Why Do We Need Larame?” on Sun., April 10 with panelists Sean Metzger (Duke, English), Brian Ammons (Duke, Education), Jeff Storer (Duke & Manbites Dog) and Pam Spaulding (Pam’s House Blend Blog).

Nick Yu Arrives at Duke

Chinese theater artist Yu Rongjun (Nick Yu) will arrive on the Duke campus March 16, 2011. He will be in residence at Duke to work with the students in Professor Claire Conceison's course “The China Experiment.” The students will welcome Yu to campus with a reading of excerpts of several of his plays in Sheafer Theater Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 pm, with a reception following in the Multicultural Center on the lower level of the Bryan Center. The class will culminate with a workshop production of his new play, Das Kapital, on April 26, also in Sheafer Theater. Both performances are in English and free and open to the public.

According to Conceison, Yu's residency will expose students, faculty and community members to a dynamic and significant artist in China who is literally changing the course of theater there and who is deeply involved in international artistic exchange. Yu is the most produced living playwright in mainland China and also the Deputy General Manager (and longtime director of marketing and programming) for Shanghai’s only state-run theater company, the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre.

Yu is the author of more than 30 plays and has won many prestigious awards. He is also the founder and director of a college theater festival in Shanghai, illustrating his commitment to young audiences and emerging playwrights. "He will relate wonderfully to Duke undergraduates and has an exuberant personality and contagious enthusiasm for life and for theater," says Conceison.

While in Durham, Yu will meet with several other classes both at Duke and UNC in addition to"The Chinese Experiment" class. He will also meet with Chinese students and will introduce a film screening on April 7 as part of the Cine East series. He will visit some local schools in the community as well. Requests for meetings with Yu can be directed to

Four theater studies majors are presenting senior distinction projects this spring. Here is how they describe their projects:

Heather Wiese, who is also a math major with an education minor, will perform in Proof by David Auburn. According to her synopsis: On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, Catherine (played by Wiese), a troubled young woman, has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable father, a famous mathematician. Now, following his death, she must deal with her own volatile emotions; the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire; and the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father's who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks that her father left behind. Over the long weekend that follows, a burgeoning romance and the discovery of a mysterious notebook draw Catherine into the most difficult problem of all: How much of her father's madness—or genius—will she inherit? Marshall Botvinick, himself a theater studies graduate with distinction in 2006, is directing Proof.

Will Sutherland, who is double-majoring in English & theater studies with a markets and management certificate, has adapted five short stories by Ernest Hemingway into a evening of theater called Death in the Café. According to Sutherland, the project comprises two elements: composition of a scholarly thesis on Ernest Hemingway, and the adaptation of Hemingway short stories into a theatrical production.  “I am directing a cast of Duke actors for performances in February, with permission obtained from the Hemingway family trusts and copyrights,” he says. A café in Madrid will be the setting where matadors, picadors, boxers, bartenders and other colorful characters come to life on stage in Death in the Café
February 17,18,19 at 8 pm in Brody Theater, East Campus, FREE

Benjamin Bergmann has combined his two majors, theater studies and political science and his minor in history to write Founding Rivals, an historical drama that demystifies "great men" like Jefferson, Hamilton and Burr by re-visiting the story of the dramatic presidential contest of 1800, America's first great election, in which great friends became greater enemies and in which Washington's great dreams for a government led by "men above faction" was firmly dashed on the altar of partisanship. There will be a reading of his work during the New Works Festival.
April 21 & 23 at 8 pm, Brody Theater, East Campus, FREE

Alexandra Young has written a horror play about the relationship between a woman, recently blinded, and the man taking care of her. It is a story about the woman’s struggle to cope with her blindness and her eventual struggle against the man taking care of her. “I feel that we are too dependent on film for horror stories,” says Young. “In film your point of view is directly controlled by the camera. We are used to a certain type of storytelling for horror, which, if we’re not careful, will grow stale. I want to be able to bring horror and suspense to the stage and give people an experience that will measure up to their experiences watching horror films.” Kim Solow will direct the play, which is also a part of the New Works Festival.
April 20 & 22 at 8 pm, April 23 at 2 pm, Brody Theater, East Campus, FREE

by David Auburn
(Sr. Distinction Project)
Featuring Heather Wiese (T’11)
Brody Theater, East Campus
February 3-5 at 8 pm

Hemingway: Death in the Café
(Sr. Distinction Project)

Adapted and directed by Will Sutherland (T’11)
Brody Theater, East Campus
February 17-19 at 8 pm

2011 New Plays Festival
(Sr. Distinction Projects)

new works by Alex Young & Ben Bergmann (T’11)
Brody Theater, East Campus
April 20-23 at 8 pm, April 23 at 2 pm

Please join us for the following events associated with our fall play,
The Beatification of Area Boy
by Wole Soyinka

no tickets necessary for these events:

Reception with Professor Soyinka after opening night performance Thursday, October 21, Reynolds Theater

In association with the Franklin Humanities Institute: a lunch discussion with Professor Soyinka
 “Mega-Cities/Mega-Slums: Urban Ruin and Renewal on the Global Stage”
October 22, C105, Bay 5, Smith Warehouse, lunch 12:30 pm; lecture 1:00
Click here for a resource list about this topic.

Pre-show discussion with Professor Soyinka before the Friday, October 22 play, Rare Book Room, Perkins Library, 6:30 pm

for play tickets: or 919-684-4444

    • grads edit

2010 graduating class of theater studies majors

Theater Studies Dept. Announces 2010 Award Winners

The Department of Theater Studies is proud to announce the following awards:

John M. Clum Distinguished Theater Studies Graduate Award
Allison Thawley

Alex Cohen Awards
Kana Hatakeyama
Tatianna Mott

Dale B.J. Randall Award in Dramatic Literature
Allison Thawley

Jody McAuliffe Honorary Award for Excellence in Directing
Danya Taymor

Richard E. Cytowic Honorary Award for Outstanding Student Acting
Kana Hatakeyama

Kenneth J. Reardon Honorary Award for Theater Design, Management
or Production
Kathryn Hampton

Harold Brody Award for Excellence in Musical Theater
Tatianna Mott

Still space in these fall courses!

Performance at Duke - THEATRST 130S 02
We perform all the time as humans. How does that look at Duke?

Transforming Fiction to the Stage - THEATRST 138S 01
How does a literary work become a movie or play? Find out how and how to.

Shakespeare Studio - THEATRST 146S 01
How does an actor embody text? Work with a noted London actor to find out!

Contemporary Black Plays - THEATRST 180 01
Learn about the work of black playwrights and be a part of a black play festival!

OR Choose "Courses" on the "Academics" page of this site and click through to Fall 2010 to see more exciting offerings for fall.

Musical Performance Class Premieres a New Musical

Monday, April 26 at 7 pm in Sheafer Theater, the Musical Performance Class will present its end-of-semester show.

This year's Musical Theater Workshop will present in workshop form the musical written by students from Michael Malone and Anthony Kelley's Musical Theater Composition class. The musical consists of 3 acts which take place in 3 different towns in America in 3 different time periods. The musical runs 1 hour. The performance is free and open to the public.

The Miser Opens April 8

The Duke University Department of Theater Studies will present The Miser, by Molière in a new translation by Elisabeth Lewis Corley. Joseph Megel is directing the play, which will run April 8-18 in Sheafer Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center.

This fast-paced version of the classic comedy of greed versus love is a modern take on timeless themes in Corley’s fresh translation and adaptation. With a flourish of a hat or a cloak, the ingénue women double as the character men, and the miser’s cook doubles as his coachman. Musicians stroll through the action with instruments that include the unlikely combination of clarinet, banjo, horn, cello and tuba. Dave Garner and Alex Kotch composed the original music.

Torry Bend, Lecturing Fellow in the Department of Theater Studies, is designing the sets, Jessica Gaffney is designing costumes, and Ross Kolman is lighting the production.

Elisabeth Lewis Corley’s original translation of The Miser was commissioned by 7Stages Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia, Del Hamilton and Faye Allen, Artistic Directors. 

Duke’s guest director Joseph Megel is artist in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Performance Studies where he runs the Process Series: New Works in Development.  

A pre-show discussion led by guest Molière scholar Mechele Leon from the University of Kansas will take place at 6:45 pm in the Multicultural Center in the Bryan Center at Duke (BC 0010) and is free and open to the public.

Kirstin Pauka Brings Randai to Duke

Visiting Professor of Asian Theatre Kirstin Pauka from the University of Hawaii will be appearing in several venues at Duke to share the unique art form of Randai. Originating in West Sumatra, Indonesia, Randai features unique percussion (pants-slapping), singing, circular dance, and martial arts that combine to form a dynamic theater-dance hybrid unlike anything in the West.

In Lunch Box at Brody Theater at 1 pm on Friday, March 26, Professor Pauka will discuss her field work in Sumatra, Indonesia and go over basic movements and characteristics of Randai, including a student demonstration. Free pizza will be served. The public is invited. No rsvp necessary.

In the rehearsal studio in the Bryan Center (BC127) from 2 to 4 pm on Saturday, March 27, Pauka will offer a workshop in Randai. Participants should dress comfortably (t-shirt and shorts or biking shorts). Randai pants will be provided. Interested students should rsvp to to attend.

Now You See Me

Previously on Final Battle . . . Claire has a significant relationship with her TV: she talks and it answers her.  Diagnosed with terminal cancer, she auditions to participate in a reality TV show so she can fight her Final Battle in front of millions of viewers.  A satire about life, love, and death on TV.

The Duke University Department of Theater Studies and Manbites Dog Theater will present a reading of Now You See Me, by Neal Bell, faculty member of the Dept. of Theater Studies. Faculty member Jody McAuliffe is directing the play. The reading will take place at Manbites Dog Theater (703 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701, (919) 682-4974) on March 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm.

Now You See Me is Bell’s latest play and takes as its theme America’s obsession with reality television. The reading is part of Duke’s annual new works festival. One of the primary missions of the Department of Theater Studies is to play a role in the creation and development of new works for the American theater.

Local actors Jeffrey Detwiler, Chris Burner, Katja Hill, Frank Lentricchia and Nicole Quenelle will read, and Laine Hindley will stage manage. Videographer and Duke faculty member Shambhavi Kaul will provide the video components for the play. 

Bell was awarded an Obie Award in 1992 for sustained achievement in playwriting, and he has been recognized with fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Two Small Bodies at Duke

The Duke University Department of Theater Studies will present Two Small Bodies, by Neal Bell, faculty member of the Dept. of Theater Studies. Duke alumnus Marshall Botvinick (’06) is directing the play. The production is Brittany Duck’s senior distinction project and will run in Brody Theater on Duke’s East Campus Feb. 25-27 at 8 pm. Admission is free. (Tickets at the door.)

Two Small Bodies explores the unsettling love/hate relationship which develops between a tough-guy detective and Eileen, the voluptuous woman whom he suspects of murdering her two young children.

“I have always enjoyed plays with complex female characters such as Eileen,” says Duck. “I chose this play to give me an opportunity to really push myself as an actress. The fact that this play is based on a real crime contributes to the tension in the play.”

The story is loosely connected to the true story of the death of the two children of Alice Crimmins who were discovered missing on July 14, 1965.

“I find inspiration in newspapers and magazines and get absorbed in real stories—so I take a ‘ripped from the headlines’ approach to writing,” says Bell. “When a real life story intrigues me, I try to find the gray area in what might appear to be black and white. I don’t believe in black and white. People’s motives are never as clear as they may seem.”

Bell was awarded an Obie Award in 1992 for sustained achievement in playwriting, and he has been recognized with fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.   

You, Me, and the Devil to Premiere at Duke

The Duke University Department of Theater Studies will present You, Me, and the Devil, an original play written and directed by Danya Taymor that explores “what-ifs” of Colombian history through various media including dance, cinema and music. The production is Taymor’s senior distinction project and will run in Brody Theater on Duke’s East Campus Feb. 11-13 at 8 pm. Admission is free. (Tickets at the door.)

The play follows Elizabeth Mora, a Colombian journalism student, who finds herself stuck with the topic of narco-trafficking for her final project at the University of Medellín. Taking a risk, she contacts Pablo Escobar, who at the time is an up-and-coming face in the Colombian drug trade.

Throughout her journey of discovering the man Pablo Escobar could have been, Mora meets a variety of Colombians who change the way she perceives life and the world around her. She meets a Salsa champion whose wife was taken by the Paramilitaries, a gun-toting female assassin who is Elizabeth's classmate at school, and a young mother whose son is murdered by Escobar's men.

Based on interviews Taymor collected during a summer 2009 project making documentaries with DukeEngage, combined with research on Colombian history and fiction created by Taymor, You, Me, and the Devil is a character study of the greatness and deep flaws of one of the most notorious criminals of all time.



The Lower D's at Duke

Durham, N.C. – The Duke University Department of Theater Studies presented The Lower D’s, based on the Russian play The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky, Nov. 12-21, 2009. Jay O’Berski of the Duke Theater Studies faculty directed the play.

O’Berksi decided to set The Lower D’s not in Russia but in Lagos, Nigeria—and to do so with a minimal budget. The play was designed to be a carbon-neutral production, with no new materials purchased for the play and all energy use related to the play off-set by sponsors.

Because the play focuses on life in a homeless shelter, spending money to create an elaborate set seemed “antithetical” to O’Berski. Working with set designer Torry Bend, student actors in the play went on dumpster-diving expeditions around Durham to find materials for their set and costumes.

“It gave the students a sense of ownership of the performance, learning about designing around social themes,” O’Berski says.

 “We tried to get [the students] to think about their characters,” says Bend, “to help them think about the visual world their characters live in.”

O’Berski and Bend also used recycled products for the play’s marketing materials, creating promotional posters out of cardboard scraps. In addition, they worked with NC GreenPower, a local nonprofit program, to tabulate the carbon-emission rating for the play and to identify sponsors to offset the emissions.

“We tryied to make something beautiful out of nothing—to go deep and dark with something that’s already there versus something bright and shiny and new,” O’Berski says.

“We have learned how much you can get when someone’s trash becomes someone else’s treasure,” says Danya Taymor, a student actor in the play. “I think this is probably the most unique thing Duke [theater studies] has done in the four years I’ve been here.”

The Lower D’s - Nov. 12-14 at 8 pm; Nov. 15 at 2 pm; Nov. 19-21 at 8 pm  Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center $10 general admission, $5 students and senior citizens; Information: 684-4444;


The Duke University Department of Theater Studies will present a diverse 2009 fall season.


The Fall mainstage play will be The Lower D’s, directed by faculty member Jay O’Berski. The play, based on the Russian play The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky, will be set in Lagos, Nigeria. The Lower D’s runs in Sheafer Theater Nov. 12-14 and 19-21 at 8 pm and Nov. 15 at 2 pm.

O’Berski is designing his play to be carbon neutral. The suggestion to go carbon neutral was put forth by Theater Studies graphic designer Rebecca Meek when O’Berski mentioned wanting to try a zero budget show with totally dumpster-dived set and costumes.

I agreed that it was in keeping with the spirit of the play, which is about people who make something from nothing and are looking for meaning in a world where they're treated like garbage,” says O’Berski.

NC Green Power is teaming up with us to create carbon credits to reverse travel emissions for audience members driving to the show.

Duke Players

Duke Players, the student organizations in the Theater Studies department, will produce its first show for new student orientation. The Lives of Ives will be an evening of four short plays by David Ives. They are Sure Thing; Words, Words, Words; The Philadelphia and Death of Trotsky. The Lives of Ives will take place in Brody Theater Aug. 22 at 11:30 pm and Aug. 27-29 at 8 pm.

Duke Players will present Nevermore Halloween weekend. Nevermore, based on works by Edgar Allan Poe, will run Oct. 29, 8 pm and Oct. 30-31, 8 pm and 11 pm. Admission is free at both Duke Players shows.


The Fall mainstage play will be The Lower D’s, directed by faculty member Jay O’Berski. The play, based on the Russian play The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky, will be set in Lagos, Nigeria. The Lower D’s runs in Sheafer Theater Nov. 12-14 and 19-21 at 8 pm and…
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Duke Players

Duke Players, the student organizations in the Theater Studies department, will produce its first show for new student orientation. The Lives of Ives will be an evening of four short plays by David Ives. They are Sure Thing; Words, Words, Words; The Philadelphia and Death of Trotsky. The Lives…
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Don't miss the Global Ed Fair Sept. 16, 11 am to 3 pm in the Bryan Center. Read more about it here.

Duke in London Drama Program

Dear Global Education Office:

This program has been a life experience that I will NEVER forget! I’m a pre-med student, but I did theater in high school and I still absolutely love it, so I decided to apply to this program so I could focus completely on theater before I had to start focusing on pre-med requirements (and to go to London, of course). This was my first time being out of the country, and I had so much fun! I knew the city like the back of my hand by the time I left and we got to know many of the Londoners as well. The program consisted of going to see a new play every weekday and then talking about it in class the next day. We have seen so many fantastic shows that completely blew my mind! We also did some scene work in class and had two members of the Royal Shakespeare Company come and mentor us. I did this program mostly just because I enjoy theater. Not everything in college has to go on a resume. Just enjoy travelling—both the journey and the destination. It’ll be something that lives with you forever.

-Erin Locey

Dear Global Education Office,

I'm studying theatre in London, but one of my favorite experiences was when we got a chance to explore the countryside! For our long weekend, my friend and I were able to wander from village to village on a truly spontaneous adventure, befriending sheep and seeing England from a completely different perspective than we had in the city. Everyone we met was incredibly friendly, and it was an experience I will never forget!

-Meghan Gloudemans

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"Big Mo" performs gestural vocabulary developed from work by Professor Ellen Hemphill, adapted by Jaybird. This gesture is taken from things Mo's employer does. We'll incorporate them into a play the workers have developed about bosses and domestics.

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O'Berski says he also taught some English while there. "They were great at pronunciation and scolded my horrid Chinese..."

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    • Photo Credit: Alex Maness

Madeleine Pron plays the "young woman" in Machinal, the 1928 play by Sophie Treadwell which was inspired by a true story. She is put to death in the electric chair for killing her husband with the help of her lover. Machinal runs in Sheafer Theater in the Bryan Center April 3-13, 2014.

Senior Hillary Spiritos talks about her evolution to theater studies major and finding her "tribe."

When I got involved with theater, I found my people and my place.  It was clear as day. These are my people -- creative, crazy, brilliant people, who are accepting and deep and grappling with how to make sense of and contribute to the human experience and the world in which we live.

Read whole article here.

New Works Festival Casts Announced
The organizers and directors of the plays for the New Works Festival would like to congratulate the following casts and thank everyone who auditioned.

My So Called Life, Amice Curiae, by Tony Lopez, dir. Brandon Braxton
Jordan/Jacob          Andres Davagnino
Tino/Rickey             Teddy Ward
Phillips/Mr. K           Cameron Kim
Peter/Principal F     Sam Caywood
Marshal/Mr. Graff    TBA
Steen/Graham        Jefferson Thomas
Angela/Delia            Erin Tuckman
Rayanne/Danielle    Diana Dai
Mrs. Graff/Patty       Trinity Lewis
Sharon/Annie H       Victoria Li

ACRYLIC, by Rachel Freedman, dir. Phil Watson
Caroline:            Kelly McCrum
Lexie:                 Yara Alemi
Jason:                Teddy Ward

The Big Lede, by Lucas Hubbard, dir. Kari Barclay
Stage Directions:     Hui Lui
Sandy:                     Ashley Long
Other Females:        Karley Jarin
Colton:                     Phil Watson
Other Males:           TBA

Slash Fiction, by Daisygreen Stenhouse, dir. Lindsay Samuel
Ben:                Julian Spector
Jack:               Nick Prey
Tina:                Alli Smalley
Michelle:         Amani Carson-Rose
Liv:                  Cynthia Wang
Darcy:             Faye Goodwin

3OZ, by Jeff Daye, dir. Hillary Spiritos
Roland:          Julian Spector
Cliff:                Nick Prey
Jackie:            Brandon Braxton
Guard:            TBA
Jane:              Devyn Gortner

The Spring Arts Supplement of The Chronlcle features two theater studies stories.

Read an interview here in which resident dramaturg Jules Odendahl-James discusses both the theater studies mainstage show (Machinal) she is directing and other events at Duke and in Durham.

Read an interview here with senior Phil Watson in which he discusses his road to theater, the arts at Duke, and his distinction project, An Iliad, running in Sheafer Theater Feb 13-15.

Duke in Chicago!

Read here about the new Duke in Chicago program beginning next summer!

Uncle Vanya coming your way in November. Brought to you by Theater Studies in Sheafer Theater. Check out the video below.

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Playwright Sibyl Kempson is at Duke for a two-week residency to work on her new play, Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag. The play was commissioned by New York City Players (link here). Kempson is at Duke as part of the Theater Previews New Works Lab, and her residency will culminate in a reading of the play.

Participants in the reading will include both undergraduate and graduate Duke students and a member of the community. The readings will take place September 28 and 28 at 8 pm in Sheafer Theater in the Bryan Center.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Theater Studies "Sport as Performance" class featured in Duke Today. Read the article here.

Theater Studies chair Jody McAuliffe's new book, The Mythincal Bill is out.

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By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Jody McAuliffe, Theater Studies faculty
Sheafer Theater, Bryan Center, West Campus 

April 4-6 and 11-13 at 8 pm and April 7 & 14 at 2 pm

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Duke Players Lab Theater
 - Love Song
By John Kolvenbach
Directed by Kari Barclay
Brody Theater, East Campus
March 28-30, 8 pm & March 31, 2 pm

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Check out these four videos below from Greg Hohn's "Acting for the Camera" Class.

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Actors, director and playwright of A Brave Woman in Mexico, the Theater Previews New Works Lab staged reading.

Check out clips from the livestream of the October 19th presentatin of "How to Build a Forest" in Page Auditorium here.

Images from "How to Build a Forest"

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Department of Theater Studies 2012 Awards

Harold Brody Award for Excellence in Musical Theater
Nathaniel Hill

John M. Clum Distinguished
Theater Studies Graduate Award
Kim Solow

Alex Cohen Award for Summer
Initiatives in Theater
Spencer Paez

Dale B.J. Randall Award in Dramatic Literature
Ali Yalgin

Kenneth J. Reardon Award for Theater Design, Management
or Production
Don Tucker

Outstanding Acting Student Award
Jennifer Blocker
Jenny Madorsky

Reynolds Price Award for Best Original Script for Stage, Screen or TV
David Schwartz

Jody McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Directing
Ali Yalgin

Stranger: A Festival in Search of Hospitable Acts

Duke students, faculty and Durham citizens, in collaboration with guest artists from Sojourn Theatre, will host  The Stranger Festival Fri., Feb. 24, 2012 in locations throughout Durham, a series of micro-events on a city scale intersecting with and exploring Durham’s daily patterns through workshops, encounters, performance and mobile art events, resulting in a living archive of local hospitality.

Created by Theater Studies in collaboration with Sojourn Theater and Duke Center for Civic Engagement, The Stranger Festival is the culmination of a year of conversations and meditations about the dynamics of hospitality in Durham, from tiny daily acts of civility to the impact of rapidly changing public policy.

Join us for a Mural Truck that will wander around town asking citizens to contribute to the street-made portrait, a writing workshop that asks participants to consider what is strange and what is common, an art installation in the Bull Plaza that asks us to consider the hospitality of our country, and as our finale, a culminating gathering where all the events come together at the Durham Bus Station from 7:30 – 9pm.

Visit for complete line-up.

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Visit the Duke Arts site to find out about the arts campus-wide at Duke.

Photo slideshow of Chinese theater artist Yang Lixin's recent visit to Duke.

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Buy Tickets

Duke box office for upcoming events