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2015 Award Recipients
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Congratulations to Our 2015 Award Recipients!

ATAP Initiation Grant

The American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) is an ASTR initiative that supports theatre makers in archiving records of their work for the benefit of artists, scholars, patrons, and the public. Last year was the inaugural year of the initiative, and we are pleased to see the program continue. This year’s recipient is Artists Repertory Theatre, here in Portland, under the leadership of Managing Director Sarah Horton.


Artists Repertory Theatre

Co-Sponsored Event Grant

The Co-Sponsored Event grant exists to:

  • Fulfill ASTR's purpose through collaboration with other organizations and institutions;
  • Foster closer relationships with cognate organizations and/or projects; and
  • Increase the visibility of the work of both ASTR and the award recipient within a wider professional context. I’m pleased to announce that this year’s co-sponsored event funding goes to Michelle Granshaw at the University of Pittsburgh, for Spectacles of Labor: Performance and the Working Class.


Michelle Granshaw

Thomas Marshall and David Keller Travel Awards

Thomas Marshall Recipients

Yasmine Jahanmir, UC Santa Barbara, “Bathing Beauties: Gender, Nationalism, and Parody in Theatrical and Competitive Synchronized Swimming,”

Ioana Jucan, Brown University, “(Re)Action in the Anthropocene: With Concern to Plastic,”

Tiffany Trent, Arizona State University, “Parables in Practice: Congregational Gardens and Farmers’ Markets as Utopic Visioning and Festival Sites.”

David Keller Recipients

Arnab Banerji, Loyola Marymount University, “Setting the Stage: A Materialist Semiotic Analysis of Contemporary Bengali Group Theatre from Kolkata, India”

Lisa Woynarski, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, “Towards an Ecological Performance Aesthetic for the Bio-Urban: A Non-Anthropocentric Theory”

Josy Miller, UC Davis, “Ivory Tower/Black Box: Practice-as-Research in Contemporary Shakespeare Studies”

ASTR’s future depends on the organization bringing critical voices to this conference, who might otherwise not be able to attend due to a lack of institutional support.

Grant for Teachers with Heavy Working Loads

Not only do applicants maintain rigorous research agendas but they also teach an average of 24-30 credit course load annually, mostly to traditionally underserved student communities. This year we received seven very strong applications, all of them worthy of accommodation. Supporting her book project on Robert Lopez/The Mexican Elvis, the 2015 Grants for Teachers with Heavy Teaching Loads goes to Dr. Karen Jean Martinson of the Chicago State University.


Dr. Karen Jean Martinson

Helen Krich Chinoy Dissertation Fellowship

The Helen Krich Chinoy Dissertation Fellowships are intended to assist Ph.D. candidates with the expenses of travel to national and international collections to conduct research projects connected with their dissertations. These awards are available to Ph.D. candidates who have passed their qualifying exams within the last two years (or will have passed their qualifying exams by June of the current year) and have begun working on their dissertations. The project must be part of the dissertation research. I would like to thank all the applicants and their incredible projects and the entire committee for their efforts.


Gwyneth Shanks, UCLA, “Performance and the Museum: Material Remains”

Susan Finque, University of Washington, “The Callao Contract of 1599: Evidence for a Transformative Genealogy of American Theatre from Lima, Peru”

Haddy Kreie, University of California at Santa Barbara, “Slavery and the Emergence of Vodun: Race, Trauma, Protection, and Agency in Spiritual Systems of Southern Benin”

Collaborative Research Awards

The purpose of the Collaborative Research Award is to foster collaborative research across different academic and artistic contexts, and/or different national contexts. The committee, Eng-Beng Lim, Karen Jean Martinson, and myself, are delighted to announce the winners of this year’s award. This year, we were delighted to have had the most applicants we’ve had in years. Because of the impressive applications, the award was split between two projects:


Jimmy Noriega from The College of Wooster and Carlos Chavarria from Contra Costa College for their project Jotoholic (Confessions of a Mexican Outcast): Queer Latina/o Performance as Research. This project involves the production of Chavarria’s play Jotoholic, written and performed by Chavarria, and directed by Noriega, at Noriega’s school. Following the collaboration, the pair plan to write about their research and process in journal article. The committee was excited about supporting a project that integrates both theory and artistic practice, and one that unites two scholars at very different institutions. We were particularly impressed by the way this project will benefit not only these scholars, but their students and campus communities.

The second project brings together Shane Boyle from Queen Mary University, London, and Brandon Woolf from Free University Berlin for their project The Hidden Abode of Counter Logistics. We were impressed by Boyle and Woolf’s practice based research project that results in the pair’s performance lecture that will be researched, workshopped, and staged in places including London, the Port of Felixstowe, Berlin, and New York. We were excited that this project is part of the emerging field of performance philosophy, and has an international scope well-suited to the grant.

Cambridge University Press


Naomi Bragin

Naomi is the recipient of the Cambridge University Press Prize for the best paper by a first-time plenary presenter at the 2014 ASTR Conference. Ms. Bragin’s paper "Funky Robots on the Soul Train Line: Black Power Technology and Anti-Human Movements,” offered a bold and original take on the “post-human” and the “anti-human” through a careful, well researched, and beautifully written analysis of the "robot" and other early hip hop dance styles.

In addition, Pannill Camp received honorable mention for his paper “Arts of Brotherhood: French Masonic Ritual and Sentimental Dramaturgy in Eighteenth-Century France” -- a model of scholarly excellence and an important contribution to French theatre historiography.

Research/Targeted Research/McNamara Subvention Awards

The Committee was charged with determining three ASTR awards. The excellence of the applications and diversity of subject matter made determining the recipients of these awards both engaging and challenging.

Research Fellowship Recipients

Julia Walker
Civil Rights: Performing Social Theory on the Modern Stage
The Research Fellowship will help support Julia’s archival research for a provisional reconstruction of the eurhythmic techniques and musical score of W.E.B. Dubois’s Star of Ethiopia pageant in which thousands of citizens performed on 4 different occasions between 1913 and 1925.

E.J. Westlake
La Conquistadora and Zozobra: Cultural Icons in Conflict
The Research Fellowship will help support E.J.s archival research for her study of the different bounded spaces occupied by the procession of La Conquistadora and the Burning of the Zozobra at the Fiestas de Santa Fe.

Targeted Research Recipients

Jennifer Goodlander
Puppet Performance in Cambodia's Cities: Reconfiguring Tradition After the Khmer Rouge
The Targeted Research award will help support Jennifer’s field research into how puppetry complements and challenges urban spaces to articulate present and future cultural and national identities.

Eric Mayer-Garcia
Documenting the Photographic Archive of Tablas-Alarcos as a Resource of Cuban Theatre History
The Targeted Research award will support Eric’s study of the contents of the archive of Tablas- Alarcos press, focusing on records of Cuba’s experimental theatre history. Eric’s aims include contributing to our understanding of Havana’s experimental theatre and demonstrating the importance of alternative theatre archives in writing theatre history.

McNamara Publication Subvention Award

Jessica Berson, winner of the 2015 James McNamara Publication Subvention Award, with Carol Martin.


Jessica Berson
The Naked Result: How Exotic Dance Became Big Business. The McNamara Publication Subvention Award will help Jessica with the fees for photographic reproductions for her forthcoming book, The Naked Result, an interdisciplinary study of the contemporary corporate takeover of striptease dancing in the US and the UK in relation to class, race, and eroticism. Forthcoming by Oxford University Press, December 2015.

Selma Jean Cohen Award

Shamell Bell, winner of the 2015 Selma Jean Cohen Award, with Clare Croft.


Shamell Bell was awarded this year’s Selma Jeanne Cohen Presentation Award for her paper, “Living is Resisting: Street Dance Activism in the Black Lives Matter Movement.” Bell’s paper, which was chosen for a curated panel, addresses dance as political action from her perspectives as a dance and performance scholar, a dancer, and an active member of the Black Lives Matter movement. The committee was impressed by Bell’s call, in her words, “to create dialogue between the street dance community, theatre, and the academic world” — a call that surely has much to do with this year’s conference theme. In addition to presenting exciting political work at this year’s conference, Bell, currently a graduate student in the World Arts & Cultures program at UCLA, serves ASTR in a number of ways, on graduate student committees and beyond.

Gerald Kahan Award

Naomi Bragin, winner of the 2015 Gerald Kahan Prize, with Diana Looser and Mariellen R. Sandford, Associate Editor of TDR.


Naomi Bragin

The Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize is awarded for the best essay written and published in English in a refereed scholarly journal. The essay can be on any subject in theater research, broadly construed, and must be authored by an untenured scholar enrolled in a PhD progsam or within seven years of the doctorate. Naomi Bragin received this award for her essay “Shot and Captured: Turf Dance, YAK Films, and the Oakland, California, R.I.P. Project,” published in TDR and edited by Richard Schechner. The committee was very impressed by the theoretical rigor, nuanced analysis, and political urgency of the piece, especially Bragin’s innovative approach to theorizing performance and everyday life that has immediate social, scholarly, and artistic relevance, and far-reaching potential for influencing future work in the field.

One of the great aspects of the Kahan award is that it also acknowledges the editor’s contribution to scholarship. Mariellen Sandford, Associate Editor of TDR, was recognized for the journal’s important role in helping develop the work of junior scholars.

Oscar Brockett Award

Ellen McKay, winner of the 2015 Oscar Brockett Prize, with Brandi Wilkins-Catanese.


The Oscar G. Brockett Essay Prize is jointly awarded by the American Society for Theatre Research and the Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism at the University of Texas-Austin for the best essay by a more established scholar written and published in English in a refereed scholarly journal or volume published by a scholarly press and relating to any subject in theatre research, broadly construed.

This year, the committee is pleased to offer Honorable Mention to Marah Gubar of MIT for the essay 'Entertaining Children of all Ages: Nineteenth-Century Popular Theater as Children's Theater', published in American Quarterly, which is commended by the committee for the depth and breadth of its research in addressing the article’s topic. Significant scholarly insights are achieved as the article enhances and advances pre-existing knowledge about how the popular repertoire of the nineteenth-century stage has the capacity to illuminate ideologies and constructions of childhood.

The editor of American Quarterly, Sarah Banet-Weiser, was also recognized.

Ellen MacKay is this year’s winner of the Oscar Brockett Prize, for the essay 'Acting Historical with Shakespeare, or William-Henry Ireland's Oaken Chest', published in Shakespeare Survey, which impressed the committee as a highly persuasive and original contribution to Shakespearean studies. As the article acknowledges the scholarly difficulties of addressing the ‘unpreserved past’ and ‘dramaturgy of impossible recovery’, it touches on matters that have application and ramification for our disciplinary approaches to the archival, well beyond the specific subject in hand. Shakespeare’s absence and the ‘persistent difficulty of letting loss be loss’ propel a discussion that is meticulously researched, rigorous in approach and eloquently written.

The editor of Shakespeare Survey, Peter Holland, was also recognized.

Errol Hill Award

Faedra Chatard Carpenter, winner of the 2015 Errol Hill Award, with Patricia Herrera.


Faedra Chatard Carpenter, Coloring Whiteness: Acts of Critique in Black Performance, University of Michigan Press (2014), Honorable Mention

Paige McGinley, Washington University in St. Louis, Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism, Duke University Press (2014), Honorable Mention

Barnard Hewitt Award

Gay Gibson Cima, Honorable mention for 2015 Bernard Hewitt Award, with Robin Bernstein.

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Winner of the 2015 Bernard Hewitt Award, with Robin Bernstein.


The Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History is awarded annually to the best book in "theatre history or cognate disciplines” published during the previous calendar year. This year was exceptionally competitive in both quantity and quality: we received 51 eligible nominations, an increase of more than 100% over some previous years, and the pool included many superb books. Thank you to the authors for their scholarship, the nominators and publishers for supporting that scholarship, and the members of the Hewitt Committee, William Condee, Valleri Robinson, and Shannon Steen, for their insightful reading and vigorous conversation.

In alphabetical order, the first Honorable Mention goes to Gay Gibson Cima for her book, Performing Anti-Slavery: Activist Women on Antebellum Stages, published by Cambridge University Press. In Performing Anti-Slavery, Cima argues that African American and white women in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement transformed everyday practices into performance-based activism. Cima shows us how women mobilized everyday acts such as reading or singing, in conjunction with public speeches and debates, to activist ends. By analyzing the everyday acts and on-stage performances of black and white women, Cima challenges assumptions about abolitionism, particularly Garrisonian politics. Performing Anti-Slavery is extraordinary in scope and sweep; as one committee member put it, "reading this book is like spending time inside the mind of a brilliantly erudite scholar who is eager to share the wealth of her knowledge." It is a book of tremendous importance.

Our second Honorable Mention goes to Paige McGinley for Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism, published by Duke University Press. Staging the Blues fundamentally reframes the blues through the lens of theatricality, analyzing not only sound and bodily performance but also sets, costumes, and venues. McGinley shows how blues performers such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Lead Belly, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and others deployed theatrical conventions to stage black mobility, to challenge narratives of racial authenticity, and to fight for racial and economic justice. This bold, beautifully written book produces abundant new knowledge about the blues, and simultaneously forges new ways to think about music in any genre. It is a model that is sure to generate a new wave of scholarship about music and theatricality. One committee member said, “I enjoyed it from beginning to end”; another called it “a gift to the field.”

The winner of this year’s Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History is Elizabeth Maddock Dillon’s New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849, published by Duke University Press. New World Drama does nothing less than reveal theatre and performance as the center, the engine, of the mass transition, across the Western world, toward popular sovereignty and modernity. What is at stake in this book is the history and therefore the nature of the public sphere. Dillon argues that during the long eighteenth century, theatre functioned as what she calls a “performative commons” in which people of diverse races, genders, and classes debated politics and modes of governance. Thus Dillon shifts the center of the public sphere from print to print-and-performance, from European cities to the Atlantic colonial world, and from white literate men to a spectrum of literate and non-literate women and men including indigenous peoples, diasporic Africans in Europe, North America, and the Caribbean, and diasporic Europeans. New World Drama is a work of magisterial scope, masterful research, and far-reaching interventions. One committee member said that New World Drama "took my breath away"; another called it "astonishing." It is a scholarly achievement of the very highest order.

Distinguished Scholar Award

Distinguished Scholar Award Winner Gay Gibson Cima accepts her award.

Gay Gibson Cima with previous Distinguished Scholar Award Winner David Savran.

The Distinguished Scholar Award is given each year to a scholar whose body of work has made a significant contribution to the field of theatre, dance, opera, and/or performance studies. The three immediately previous Distinguished Scholar Award winners will consider the candidates and select the recipient.


Gay Gibson Cima

Award Announcement from David Mayer, Chair, Distinguished Scholar Award Committee

The history of the Scholar Award has much to tell us about the demographics of ASTR, about how the study of theatre history and performance studies, and the practice of theatre research have evolved. Just one example: The Scholar Award began in 1982, its first recipients male because, in those Jurassic decades of the latter half of the 20th century, most theatre dinosaurs – almost by default - were male. It wasn’t until 1985 that the first female scholar received our award, and it was another 5 years and then another 9 years and a further 4 years before the Award again went to female scholars.

The Distinguished Scholar Award was awarded to an outstanding, deserving, female theatre researcher, writer, scholar, Gay Gibson Cima.

In terms of her past work, where she taught us how female performance can valuably challenge patriarchal theatrical and cultural structures, to her recent work on performativity within female antebellum abolition movements, she is a scholar at the top of her game.

Giving this award is to challenge her – on the one hand we recognize considerable achievement, someone for us all to be proud of, to be immensely grateful for -- but, on the other hand, no finish line has been crossed. It’s not a ticket for our awardee to lie on a beach, put up her feet, and drink mojitos. The Award is an incitement to continue, a demand that she keep on researching and writing (as we know she will). There are more questions for her to ask, more problems for her to solve.

Until this week I’d never met her, although - in our research and writing - we sometimes share a century. But her marvelous books are readily accessible, and we can enjoyed their breadth, their nuanced critical analyses, their engaging contextualizing, their deep and persistent humanity.

Award Announcement from David Savran, Previous Distinguished Scholar Award Winner

It is a great pleasure to announce today that the 2015 Distinguished Scholar Award goes to Gay Gibson Cima. Gay is a path-breaking feminist theatre scholar, a teacher of distinction, and a long-standing officer of ASTR. A proud Nebraska native, who still sports a Nebraska twang, Gay is part of the first generation of feminist academics and her three books represent major contributions to the study of women’s performances in the public and private spheres.

I first met Gay (gulp) forty-one years ago, when we were graduate students at Cornell, studying with Marvin Carlson and Bert States. Those were the heady days when theory first hit U.S. universities and we would argue late into the night about Ibsen and Foucault, Japanese theatre and semiotics. Gay was then—and still is—the life of the party and even after several glasses of wine—especially after several glasses of wine—can explain why Elizabeth Robins represents the quintessence of Ibsenism.

Gay’s first book, Performing Women: Female Characters, Male Playwrights, and the Modern Stage, studies female actors whose fame has come from their work in plays by male master playwrights and argues that style has come to be identified with the playwright’s work rather than that of the performers who gave it currency. Studying actors ranging from Harriet Bosse to Billie Whitelaw, Gay underscores the skill of female actors in “mak[ing] visible and critique[ing] the performative nature of the idea of woman.” Her second and third books move outside the theatre and focus on the breathtaking array of civic performances by black and white women in the United States. Early American Women Critics: Performance, Religion, Race expands the roster of critics by arguing that women used “host bodies” or performance roles to cut across the divisions of race and class, freedom and servitude. By reimagining the work of lost or excluded women, Gay creates a visceral sense of their interventions in public discourse. Finally, Gay’s most recent book, Performing Anti-Slavery: Activist Women on Antebellum Stages, is itself a work of activist scholarship. It demonstrates the effectivity of black and white women in the political sphere and their decisive role in ending slavery in the U.S. And even though it is focused on the nineteenth century, its contemporary relevance is indisputable. As Gay writes: “Analyzing activist women’s diverse performance strategies within the antebellum anti-slavery movement reveals new ways to harness affect for political purposes . . . . [I]t raises thorny questions about ongoing anti-slavery efforts,” struggles against human trafficking and forced labor.

Gay’s work proves that rigorous archival research can be rigorously theorized. And she never loses sight of the instrumentality of performance—here—today. Nowhere has Gay’s commitment to community been demonstrated more palpably than in her many years of service to ASTR, dating back to the 1977 conference on popular entertainment that helped legitimize popular culture as an object of study. Since then, Gay has twice served on the Executive Committee and was program chair of the infamous 1989 Williamsburg conference, for which she deserves a Purple Heart. I, however, remember her most vividly during her three years as Secretary of ASTR, while Charlotte Canning was president and I was her vice. Attending meeting after meeting with Gay, I will never forget her poise, diplomacy, and bull’s eye aim. It is an honor and delight to welcome to the podium Gay Gibson Cima.

Acceptance Speech from Gay Cima

Thank you, David (Mayer), and thank you David (Savran) and the committee. Thank you all. It’s really crowded up here: everyone who has helped me over the past four decades is standing right here!

Our questions start early, right? When I was eight years old--during my hometown’s centennial celebration--my parents decked me out as that quintessential Nebraskan: Willa Cather. They marched me past the “Pioneer Re-enactments” on Main Street, to usher me into the basement of Mr. Falter’s menswear store, where anti-slavery activists and refugees from slavery had hidden during the “Bloody Kansas” border wars of the 1850s. My folks routinely highlighted these sorts of “hidden, resistant histories” on the trips my Dad lovingly planned each year.

I think my Mom saw resistant performances as survival. Growing up in a Methodist orphanage during the Great Depression and armed, curiously, with private elocution lessons, my mother started fundraising for her orphanage at age five, entertaining potential donors with dramatic recitations in private homes, churches, town halls, and radio stations across the Carolinas. By age three, I was begging to perform her recitations: my favorite opened, “I don’t care what people say; I’d rather be a boy!” By the time I donned sailor pants as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, I was vaguely aware that gender was performative; that the staging of history, particularly the history of “race” and religion, required questioning; and that performance granted orphans, refugees, and activists a certain power.

But luck matters, too, and at the University of Nebraska in the restive late 1960s, I was fortunate enough to discover politics and protests: I shook Bobby Kennedy’s hand, heard Eldridge Cleaver speak live, occupied the ROTC building, acted in Megan Terry’s Viet Rock. Luckily, a mentor, Dr. Maxine Trauernicht, encouraged me to earn a master’s in Northwestern’s Interpretation (now Performance Studies) Department, where Frank Galati taught me to devise work and Wallace Bacon introduced me to a queer sort of inter-subjectivity. After graduating and teaching eleven repetitions of the same course at a junior college, I was ready to follow my brother into doctoral study. I knew nothing of the distinction between an MFA and a PhD, though, so when I arrived at Cornell for a PhD, I thought I could study acting. This scholarship thing was all a colossal mistake.

But it was a lucky mistake. At Cornell my dear friend Marvin Carlson gave me the tools to unearth feminist approaches to Ibsen & Strindberg, and Bert States taught me how phenomenology could unmoor Beckett and Pinter. David Savran, Paula Vogel, and I bonded with our other new friends over Marvin’s arcane, multi-lingual bibliography assignments: they felt like scavenger hunts. Before long, my much-loved new husband Ron and I landed, fortuitously, at Blackburn College, where students graduate with union cards as well as academic degrees, and where we met our revolutionary best pals, here with us, today.

Washington, D.C., beckoned, and after two years as an adjunct, I snagged a job teaching at Georgetown—in an English Department, where, luckily, I could indulge my lifelong interest in protest poetry as well as plays. As Theatre and Performance Studies and African American Studies gained traction at Georgetown, I drew on the strengths of talented friends in those programs, as well as Maryland’s doctoral program.

Early ASTR conferences introduced me to an incredibly generous community that helped me refine my theories of how feminist actors contested the modern canon. When Derrida, Foucault, Butler, and the amazing Women & Theatre cohort burst onto the scene in the 1980s, I decided to create a genealogy of feminist theatre critics—but as Performance Theory expanded and bell hooks issued her call to arms, that project morphed into two interconnected investigations of how African, African American, and European American women, from the 1720s to the present, functioned as performance critics, questioning race, religion, democracy. I’ve learned so much from close friends working on feminist acting and directing, critical race theory, Early American Studies, the history of emotion and activism. I’ve worked alongside extraordinary officers, editors, archivists, students—and so many of you, with no hope of a tangible reward, have given me your anonymous or confidential support. Thank you.

I’m especially grateful to my family: my daughter Anna, my son and ASTR colleague Gibson, and my husband Ron, this award is a tribute to you: your playfulness, your insights, your love.

Thank you all for this community, for a lifetime of debating the big, thorny, life-giving questions.

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