News

In her new book, "Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era," Esther Kim Lee traces the history of yellowface from 1862 to 1940 — a time when Asians faced legal and cultural exclusion from immigration and citizenship in the United States. We sat down with the professor of Theater Studies, International Comparative Studies and History and director of the Asian American Diaspora Studies Program to talk about the book, why Hollywood producers would go to such lengths to avoid hiring East Asian actors and how this… read more about Esther Kim Lee Explains How Today’s Racism Has Roots in Last Century’s Yellowface »

Come as you are I find that that challenge is the reason people show up. Because at the end of it when they say, 'I got up and I did that song, or that monologue, or that scene, or the play,' that's something that they found that they couldn't get anywhere else. A 20-year veteran of Broadway, Off Broadway, Broadway National Tour, and regional productions, Chauntee’ Schuler Irving joins the Duke faculty as assistant professor of the practice in… read more about Two New Performance Professors Bring Bravery and Compassion »

What can a puppet do that a human can’t? That’s the question puppeteer Dan Hurlin asks every time he writes a new play, including “Bismarck,” a new work he’s developing during a two-week residency with the Department of Theater Studies. Part of the New Works Lab, “Bismarck” is based on the true story of a young woman named Takako Konishi, who was found wandering the icy streets of Bismarck, North Dakota wearing a miniskirt, a cropped jacket and no hat or gloves in the winter of 2001. Clearly, she was not dressed for the… read more about What You Can See in a Puppet »

Ryan Donovan, assistant professor of Theater Studies, can pinpoint the moment he decided to become a dancer. “It all began at the National Theater in Washington, D.C., when I was seven years old and my mom took me to see the touring production of ‘Cats,’” he said. “I was sitting on the aisle, and when those dancers came into the auditorium dressed as cats, one of them came up to me and played with my clip-on tie. I was hooked.” The wonder of that moment led directly to the decade Donovan spent as a professional dancer,… read more about Ryan Donovan Is Making The Stage An Inclusive Space »

Six of this year's 24 Benenson Award winners have a major or minor in the Department of Theater Studies. Given annually, the prize offers funding for arts-centered projects proposed by undergraduates, including graduating seniors. The Theater Studies students include: Madison Canfora '22, Major: Neuroscience, Minors: Chemistry; Musical Theater, Project Area: Theater John Kang '23, Major: Visual & Media Studies (Concentration in Cinematic Arts),… read more about 6 Theater Studies Students Win Benenson Awards »

This semester, Theater Studies welcomed Associate Professor Douglas A. Jones, Jr. to the department. Before arriving at Duke, Jones served as faculty in the Department of English at Rutgers and was previously a fellow in the Society of Fellows at Princeton. He holds a Ph.D. in drama and humanities from Stanford University and earned his B.F.A. in theater at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.  Although dramatic literature is his primary literary form, Jones has worked deeply in other cultural areas, too,… read more about Douglas Jones Finds the Theatrical in the Political »

When you read a play from the early 1600s, are you reading a literary artifact or a blueprint for a live production? Is the dialogue better understood by analyzing the text or acting it out? What’s more important: the tropes of the era or the architecture of the theater it was first performed in? The answer to all of those questions is both, and a collaboration between the departments of Theater Studies and Romance Studies will show why when a new production of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s famous play “Life Is a Dream”… read more about How 2 Departments Brought a 17th Century Play to Life in 2022 »

A new program for Duke sophomores – which launched earlier this year – will include a Theater Studies course this fall: “Power, Theater, Politics” (THEATRST 225S). The course is part of the new “Transformative Ideas” program that is designed to promote open and civil cross-disciplinary dialogue on questions and big ideas that change lives, link cultures and shape societies around the world. “Power, Theater, Politics” – taught by Douglas Jones of Theater Studies and English – explores how cultural formations have… read more about Theater Studies Course Among Fall “Transformative Ideas” Offerings »

Raucous drag shows, dazzling Broadway performances, a smorgasbord of food: Duke in New York: Arts, Culture and Performance isn’t just a study away program, it’s a feast for the senses. Falling in love with the city is a familiar American story, and New York didn’t hold back on the charm for these program alumni. “My favorite part of the city overall is how creatively rich it is with opportunities (especially in fashion) at every corner,” said Sydney Reede, a sophomore who participated last semester. Hoping to work in… read more about Experiencing New York's Arts Culture for Credit »

At the end of the semester, Theater Studies Professor of the Practice Ellen Hemphill will retire from teaching after 30 years with the department. Before then, she will premiere a collaborative, interdisciplinary new work that is unlike most of her oeuvre. “North: A Love Letter” is described as a “poetic dance-movement reflection on the loss of sentient creatures on the earth.” Produced by Hemphill’s company Archipelago Theatre/Ciné, it expands Hemphill’s career work in theater choreography, voice and gesture through… read more about Ellen Hemphill on Bewilderment, Creativity and Not Really Retiring »

Traditionally, the arts and sciences have been viewed as two distant fields of study. But it isn’t uncommon for Duke’s arts departments to see students with defined career dreams in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) also enrolled in performing and visual arts courses — adding the arts to their educations and transforming STEM to STEAM. It was an incredibly busy and fruitful four years for Madison Canfora (B.S. Neuroscience, minors musical theater and Chemistry ’21), who had already completed… read more about The Arts Advantage: Nurturing the Human Experience Through Theater Studies »

Traditionally, the arts and sciences have been viewed as two distant fields of study. But it isn’t uncommon for Duke’s arts departments to see students with defined career dreams in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) also enrolled in performing and visual arts courses — adding the arts to their education and transforming STEM to STEAM. STEAM student Alexa Bolin Santiago (B.S. Biomedical Engineering; minor musical theater ’23) is a biomedical engineering junior who is intrigued with automation,… read more about The Arts Advantage: Empathetic Engineers Thanks to Theater »

Loïe Fuller was a queer choreographer whose innovations with light, fabric and movement revolutionized the synthesis of art and technology in France during the early 1900s. But within a few decades of her death, she was nearly forgotten. Inspired by her bold experiments, Artist in Residence of Theater Studies Juliana Kleist-Méndez created Fuller, a live, hybrid exploration of Loïe’s life. Aiming to put both in-person and virtual audiences into the same space of possibility with Loïe and the performers, Kleist-… read more about The Revolutionary Art Nouveau Designer with Lessons for Theater in COVID »

Lauren Ginsberg, an associate professor of classical studies and theater studies at Duke, contributed to a new opera that debuted in November 2021 in Vienna. The opera, by composer Michael Hersch with libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann, tells the story of Roman Emperor Nero’s second wife, Poppaea, and her complicated legacy.  Ginsberg was commissioned to write an accompanying essay about the history of Poppaea and about the different ways she has been depicted by historians and playwrights. She was also invited to Vienna… read more about Classics Professor Contributes to New Opera »

The pandemic definitely had an impact on live performances, but it didn’t stop Duke University’s Department of Theater Studies from presenting its mainstage productions during lockdown. Last year the actors were masked, the audiences were virtual, and the shows went on. Fast forward to fall 2021, and the department has joined the growing list of theaters opening their doors and welcoming audiences back to the seats—masked, but in-person—to enjoy live performances. Ollie McCarthy, Ben Davies… read more about Theater Studies Welcomes Audiences Back to Fill the Seats »

A Black Theater Flourished in New York 200 Years Ago The New York Times Doug A. Jones, Jr. is featured in The New York Times discussing the African Theater, which had its first performance on Sept. 17, 1821. Read moreread more about Faculty News: Doug A. Jones, Jr. Discusses the African Theater »

Traditionally, the arts and sciences have been viewed as two distant fields of study. But it isn’t uncommon for Duke’s arts departments to see students with defined career dreams in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) also enrolled in performing and visual arts courses—adding the arts to their educations and transforming STEM to STEAM.  Spencer Rosen (B.S. Computer Science; minors Theater Studies and Creative Writing ’22) is one of these STEAM students and discusses why he’s making a conscious… read more about The Arts Advantage: A Balance Between Theater Studies and Computer Science  »

What Will It Take for Broadway to Embrace Size-Inclusivity? In this TeenVogue op-ed, Gianluca Russo speaks to Broadway and theater performers about body standards in the industry and their dreams for a more inclusive future. Ryan Donovan discusses the lack of body diversity in musical theater. Read moreread more about Faculty News: Ryan Donovan discusses appearance-based biases on Broadway »

This spooky season of Halloween, Neal Bell is happy to bring some frights into our lives. The Theater Studies professor doesn’t just like scary stories – he writes them as well. His play based on the “Golem” legend about a mythical clay creature will be performed as the Fall mainstage offering of the Theater Studies Department beginning Nov. 4 in Sheafer Theater. The play transports the creature from the Jewish ghettos of Prague in the 16th century to Post 9/11 New York. But Bell, author of “How to Write a Horror Movie,”… read more about Neal Bell Selects Five Overlooked or Underrated Horror Films to Haunt Your Sleep »

Duke University’s Department of Theater Studies has joined the growing list of theaters opening their doors and welcoming audiences back to the seats for live performances. While the department was able to present its three mainstage productions during the pandemic, which was no small task, the actors performed to virtual audiences. But come November 4, theater enthusiasts return to Sheafer Theater to experience the fall mainstage Golem, masked but in-person. The play takes place in New York City… read more about Why Does a Play Set in New York After 9/11 Feature a Mythical Creature of Clay? »