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Indiana University Bloomington

Theatre and Performance Studies Forum

Interested students in the English department are invited to focus their study of literature and culture through the lens of performance. The Theatre and Performance Studies Research Group approaches performance as both an object and method of study. As an object of study we understand performance in a range of broad, as well as highly focused, manifestations, including theatre history and dramatic literature; avant-garde and experimental performance; the performance of politics; performances of everyday life; performances of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nation; and performances of myth and ritual. As a method of study we ask how all modes of performance — as embodied acts, speech acts, and staged spectacles meant to be witnessed — can help us better understand literary, cultural, and political events, whether early modern sea spectacle or queer nightlife performances; whether the political acts of the Black Arts Movement or the electoral performances of presidential contenders; whether postmodern stagings of classic dramatists such as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Wilde, and Beckett, or new and upcoming future classics in black, postcolonial, and transnational drama in English.

Interdisciplinary, cross-historical, and theoretically multifaceted, The Theatre and Performance Studies Research Group offers a rigorous research program that foregrounds the interplay between embodied texts and textual bodies, internal and external modes of performativity, language and the impact of visual media, in order to examine the experience, production and transformation of cultural meaning. We study theatre and performance in discrete historical periods as well as the transmission of historical and cultural performativity in its myriad creative and concrete forms.

Students can take advantage of a number of resources (in the English Department, at Indiana University, and in the region) to augment their study of drama and performance. The Drama and Performance Studies Reading Group meets several times throughout the year. English faculty and advanced graduate students working on issues of theatricality, drama, performance, or (more broadly) the embodied transmission of culture meet to present work-in-progress and to discuss new and classic literature in the field. As they complete their coursework, students may take relevant classes with distinguished faculty in the departments of Theatre and Drama; Gender Studies; Anthropology; African American and African Diaspora Studies; Folklore and Ethnomusicology; Cultural Studies; Comparative Literature; and American Studies. There are various funding opportunities and prizes that English students are invited to apply for, including:

  • The Albert Wertheim Fellowship ($18,000), which provides a one-year stipend to an advanced doctoral student writing a dissertation on theatre, dramatic literature, or performance studies, releasing her or him from any teaching responsibility.
  • The Albert Wertheim Essay Prize ($500), alternately awarded to the best graduate and undergraduate essay in theatre, dramatic literature, or performance studies each year.

Students are also able to immerse themselves in a vibrant performance culture, including the productions of Bloomington’s two theatre groups (Cardinal Stage Company and the Bloomington Playwrights Project), the productions at Indiana University’s Department of Theatre and Drama, and the world-renowned performances of opera, ballet, and symphony staged by IU Jacobs School of Music. In nearby Indianapolis, students will find the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) and The Phoenix Theatre. In Louisville, Kentucky (90 minutes away) students can enjoy productions at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, including their annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Some recent graduate course offerings in Theatre and Performance Studies have included:

  • Queer Performance/Theory, 1960 to the Present
  • Shakespearean Character and the Fetish
  • Toxic Theatre
  • Performance and Performativity
  • Antitheatricalism and Early Modern Drama
  • African American Drama, 1960 to the Present
  • Politically Incorrect Shakespeare
  • Canadian Theatre
  • Modern British and Irish Drama
  • Memory and Forgetting, Beckett and Pinter
  • Drama and Performance in Victorian England
  • Contemporary Irish Theatre
  • Shakespeare and What Counts as Context
  • Intimacy and Alienation in Modern American Drama


Linda Charnes, Professor of English and West European Studies
Professor Charnes specializes in Shakespeare, in his early modern context, as well as in the history of Shakespearean performance, appropriation and critical reception in the arenas of mass culture, literature, film, and international politics. Her areas of expertise include theoretical approaches to performativity, psychoanalysis and the performance of everyday life, and politics, from the seventeenth through the twenty-first centuries, as a fundamentally theatrical medium. She is the author of several books on Shakespeare and the history of fame/notoriety, and the contemporary political and cultural legacies of Shakespearean character, particularly in recent American and British politics.

Ellen MacKay, Assistant Professor of English
A specialist in early theatre, especially that of Tudor-Stuart England, Ellen MacKay’s work explores the complex impact of performance’s ephemerality on the idea and practice of history. Her first book project, on the catastrophic imperative of theatrical performance, studies the long record of disaster in the English Renaissance playhouse (fires, plagues, and sundry fatal accidents) and concludes that theatre was expected to precipitate disaster—and that the falls of Rome and of the Roman Catholic Church supplied proof to early modern Englishwomen and men of the damage it could and would do. She has a second book project underway on sea spectacles from Nero to Wagner that considers the utopian somatics of un-representable performance. She has published on Canadian theatre, on the performance of self-translation that the Immigration and Naturalization Service require, and the disciplinary legacy of Dionysus in 69. Some of her teaching interests include anti-theatricalism, early women dramatists, ’extreme’ theatre (medieval crucifixion scenes, Grand Guignol, Roman holidays), and reception/audience studies.

Shane Vogel, Assistant Professor of English
Located at the intersection of performance studies, queer studies, and American studies, Shane Vogel’s research and teaching are broadly concerned with the ways that social relations are imagined and reimagined through American performance practices. He is the author of The Scene of Harlem Cabaret: Race, Sexuality, Performance. This book looks at how various writers and performers used the performance to critique the sexual and racial normativity that organized the Harlem Renaissance and Progressive-era politics of racial uplift. Professor Vogel is also interested in modern and contemporary American drama as a reflexive institution of American modernity, one that allows performers, writers, and directors to use theatrical innovation and experimentation to address and redress the social conditions of modern American life. He has published articles on nightlife and the Harlem Renaissance, the history of American cabaret, and contemporary theatre and performance in such journals as Theatre Journal, Women & Performance, Criticism, Camera Obscura, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, and South Central Review. His essay, "Lena Horne’s Impersona," received the 2009 ATHE Outstanding Essay Award and received Honorable Mention for the 2009 Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize. He regularly teaches courses on modern and contemporary American drama, dramatic theory, queer performance, and performance studies.

Stephen Watt, Professor of English/Adjunct Professor of Theatre and Drama
Stephen Watt’s primary research interests originate in nineteenth- and twentieth-century drama and theatre, particularly as practiced in England, America, and Ireland. He has published on various aspects of these cultures, including books on the history of American drama, on Irish drama from 1880-1930, and on contemporary drama and theories of postmodernism. His recent book Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing centers on Samuel Beckett and contemporary Irish culture, with particular emphasis on Northern Ireland. His new research concerns Irish-American and Jewish-American literature in the first half of the twentieth century. He regularly teaches courses in these areas and on contemporary Irish culture, the work of James Joyce, and on the contemporary university.


The Albert Wertheim Fellowship, at present an $18,000 grant awarded annually to a student writing a dissertation in Drama and Performance Studies, and the annual Albert Wertheim Essay Prize of $500 are named to celebrate the long and illustrious career of Albert Wertheim, who taught at Indiana University from 1969 until the time of his death in 2003.

After graduating with his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1965, Professor Wertheim taught at Princeton University before moving to Indiana in 1969. His dissertation at Yale concerned seventeenth-century British drama, and as his career evolved his research interests expanded to include English-language drama from America, Britain, Australia, and especially South Africa. The subjects of his published articles encompass virtually the entire canon of Western drama and theatre: from articles on Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and James Shirley from the Renaissance stage to essays on Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, William Inge, and many others from the modern stage. He is perhaps best known for two books: The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard: From South Africa to the World (2000) and Staging the War: American Drama and World War II (published posthumously, 2004).

Both gifts are made possible through the generosity of the Wertheim family and Professor Wertheim’s many friends and former colleagues. The Fellowship is the gift of Ted Widlanski and Martha Jacobs, close friends of Professor Wertheim.

All graduate students in the English department working on projects in drama, theatre history, and performance studies are eligible to apply for both awards.


  • Sarah Withers
  • Patrick Maley
  • Jill Wood


  • Kristen Renzi
  • Martin Sorge
  • Melissa Jones