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  • Polaroid Stories

    Polaroid Stories by Naomi Iizuka, Produced in the KCPA Studio Theatre Fall 2014

  • The Skin of Our Teeth

    The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder, Produced in the KCPA Playhouse Theatre Fall 2014

  • Oh What a Lovely War

    Oh What a Lovely War

    by Joan Littlewood,Theatre Workshop, and Charles Chilton
    Research by Gerry Raffles 
    Produced in the KCPA Studio Theatre Fall 2014



Current MA/PhD Students

Current Work:

PhD Candidate, Rachel Bennett,recently published her essay entitled “Staging Auschwitz, Making Witnesses: Performances Between History, Memory, and Myth” in History, Memory, Performance edited by David Dean, Yana Meerzon, and Kathryn Prince (Palgrave 2014).

PhD Candidate, Rachel Price Cooper, will present her paper “Destabilizing Colonial Taxonomies: Irish Nationalism and Interspecies Transformation in The Countess Cathleen,” at the 2015 American Society for Theatre Research Conference.

PhD Candidate, Shannon Epplett, currently has forthcoming articles: “The Press Release as Bully Pulpit: Stormfield Theatre Calls It A Day” (New England Theatre Journal) and “Sustaining Friendships: T.W. Robertson and H.J. Byron” (Theatre History Studies).

PhD Candidate, Michelle Salerno, recently published her review of Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film and the Politics of Representation by Cynthia Baron, Diane Carson and Mark Bernard in the June 2015 issue of Journal of Popular Culture.

PhD Candidate, Sara B.T. Thiel, has been invited to deliver her paper “‘Cushion come forth’: Materializing Pregnancy on the Stuart Stage” in a plenary presentation at the 2015 American Shakespeare Center Blackfriars Conference.

PhD Candidate, Kyle A. Thomas, will be co-authoring The Play About the Antichrist (Ludus de Antichristo): A New Verse Translation, Edition, and Commentary with Carol Symes (Medieval Institute Publications 2018).

Current Students:

Rachel Bennett
PhD Candidate
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Rachel looks to her background in history and German to fuel her research in Theatre. Her work primarily focuses on 20th century political theatre in Germany, England, and America. Much of her work focuses on the performance and re-performance of violence. Her dissertation addresses the political significance of plays that depict domestic violence from England, American, and West Germany during the 1980s.

Carrie Bunch
PhD Candidate
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Rachel Price Cooper
PhD Candidate
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Rachel has worked as an actress and teacher in Chicago and Japan, and received her Masters degree in directing from University College Dublin. Her ongoing dissertation is entitled, "Waking the Dead: Funerary Performance, Classical Appropriation, and Gendered Embodiment on the Early Abbey Stage." This study analyzes the production and reception of plays that intermingle vernacular funerary performances in rural Ireland with ancient Greek precedents to emphasize female characters as birthing vessels and caretakers of human bodies, both living and dead. She argues that the intertextual brand of lamentation endorsed by the Abbey in the years leading up to the Irish War for Independence constructed gender according to certain bodies’ imagined proximity to corporeality. Other research interests include actor training, specifically as it applies (or fails to apply) to minority bodies, stage violence, the status of the maternal body onstage and the theatricalization of pregnancy

Shannon Epplett
PhD Candidate
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Shannon’s research focuses on the history of Chicago’s Off-Loop Theatre movement, specifically the manner in which the success of Steppenwolf Theatre Company has created a habitus that has constructed the subsequent history of the Chicago theatre community since the 1970s. He has presented papers at the first Chicago Theatre History Symposium in 2011 and is involved in organizing the second symposium, tentatively scheduled for 2016. He has also presented papers at the Mid-American Theatre Conference in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. He has received two fellowships to the Newberry Library in Chicago, one for dissertation research and a second to do dramaturgical research forWAAASEWAKEMEG: A Faraway Place, a performance piece based on the life of Anishinaabe poet Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, which was subsequently performed at Figure One Gallery in Champaign. Directing and devised performance are also interests: at UIUC, he has worked with Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre, and has performed inEarth BeatMyth and MagicWorld Fest, and Shoe Stories – family events at the Spurlock Museum.  In 2011, Shannon directed a movement-based production of Lee Breuer’s Red Horse Animationat Illinois State University. Prior to graduate school, Shannon worked as a director and theatre administrator in Chicago. From 2000 – 2009, Shannon was the operations coordinator for the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and had the opportunity to work with such artists as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Merce Cunningham, Joe Goode, Eiko and Koma, and Urban Bush Women. He currently teaches Communications 101 at UIUC and Fundamentals of Theatre at Illinois State University.

D.E. Frydrychowski
PhD Student
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D. E. Frydrychowski’s research focuses on the affinities between law and theatre in Early Modern England. He trained as an actor at Case Western Reserve University and The Cleveland Play House (MFA, 1999) and was educated in the law at Indiana University, Bloomington and The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, where he earned concentrations in Litigation, Corporate Law, Criminal Law & Procedure, and Public Law & Regulation. (JD, 2012) Among his projects at Cardozo was research for anAmicus Curiaebrief to the Supreme Court of the United States describing the President’s constitutional powers of diplomatic recognition. He received his B.A. (Theatre and Political Science) from James Madison University in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

D.E. has spent seasons acting with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, and New York City’s Inwood Shakespeare Festival, in addition to touring rural Appalachia with an educational show produced by the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. He founded, directed for, edited performance texts for, and acted with the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival, directing the first professional production of Shakespeare’sEdward IIIin the eastern U.S. In over a decade of work with New York City independent theatres and regional houses, he has performed with NACL, the Metropolitan Playhouse, and Inverse Theatre Company, in addition to workshopping new plays as an actor with Myriad Arts, 29th Street Rep, The Cleveland Play House, and The Mark Taper Forum. International performances include cultural festivals in Budapest, Belgrade, Sibiu, and Varna. He has worked extensively in stage combat, including serving as the Fight Captain for the large-scale outdoor historical dramaThe Legend of Daniel Boone, where he also played the title role. He is a member of Actors Equity.

Yu-Yun Hsieh
PhD Candidate
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Yu-Yun’s research explores the intersection of theatre sound and listening in the creation of live performance and the ways in which different modes of listening inform, challenge, and shape emerging theatre practice in the second half of the twentieth century. In Urbana-Champaign, he has designed several productions with Illinois Theatre, INNER VOICES Social Issues Theatre, the Station Theatre, and Parkland theatre. 

Youngji Jeon
PhD Candidate
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Brandon Koster
MA Student
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Brandon is primarily interested in studying theatrical performance in Interregnum England. Additional research interests include the relationship between Parliament and theatre in 17th century England and contemporary theatre pedagogy. Brandon has performed in a variety of stage plays and musicals, served as a captain for the Carroll University Improv Team, and is an avid playwright. Brandon received his B.A. degrees in history, political science, and theatre arts from Carroll University.

Aubrey Helene Neumann
MA Student
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Aubrey is a second year M.A. student interested in contemporary theatre making processes, with focuses in devising, women in theatre, and adaptation.  She also enjoys acting and directing.  Last year, Aubrey directed Eleemosynary at the Armory Free Theater, and this past summer, she participated in a Directing Internship at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Michelle Salerno
PhD Candidate
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Michelle’s dissertation, “Playing American: Race and Citizenship in American Theatre and Performance during the Great War, 1917-1919,″ examines the role of theatre and performance in the crafting and circulation of racial stereotypes, assumptions, images, and idealizations on the homefront. Her research focuses the influence of performance on American cultural identity, particularly during times of national or communal conflict. She has worked as a director, dramaturg, producer, playwright, and actress. Michelle received her M.A from Illinois and has graduate minors in Gender and Women’s Studies and European Union Studies. She is currently an adjunct professor at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.

Jessica Shryock
MA Student
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Jessica Shryock is an M.A. student in the Theatre Studies Program at the University of Illinois. She studies comedic performances such as improvisation, commedia dell’arte, stand-up comedy, as well as comedic plays and sketches. Her research encompasses how these performances have changed over time, and in different locations. She has performed on five different improv comedy teams, and performs stand up comedy in the local Champaign area. Additionally, her undergraduate minor in atmospheric sciences has lead her passion for sustainable theatre practices and how they can be encompassed in any theatre performance.

Sara B.T. Thiel
PhD Candidate
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Sara’s research focuses on early seventeenth-century performances of pregnancy on public and private English stages. She has presented her work at several national conferences including the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Conference, Shakespeare Association of America, the American Society for Theatre Research and the Mid-America Theatre Conference. At the University of Illinois Sara has served as the dramaturg for‘Tis Pity She’s a WhoreThe Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing. From 2008-2010 she served as an Associate Director for Shakespeare Dallas; shows there include: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Cymbeline, Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, Othello, and Timon of Athens. While working with Shakespeare Dallas, Sara also directed her adaptation of Venus and Adonis for their Shakespeare Unplugged series. Sara holds an M.A. in Theatre from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in Theatre and Philosophy from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Kyle A. Thomas
PhD Candidate

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Kyle A. Thomas is a PhD candidate in Theatre Studies at the University of Illinois and faculty member in the Theatre Department at Parkland College. He specializes in theatre history, directing theory, and methodologies for performing historical plays. Kyle holds a BA in Musical Theatre from Ouachita University and although his start in theatre was mostly on stage – receiving critical acclaim for his performances in The Crucible (John Proctor) with the Arkansas Studio Theatre and Kissing (Andrew) with New Theatre in Miami, Florida – Kyle’s work currently centers on his scholarship and directing. Some directing credits include Absence With Pictures for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival; Ah, Wilderness! at the International Drama Conference in Beijing, China; the Play of Antichrist, a Mellon Foundation grant recipientfor the “Performing the Middle Ages” Symposium; and recently, Floyd Collins at the Station Theatre. Kyle is co-author of the forthcoming publication, The Play About the Antichrist (Ludus de Antichristo): A New Verse Translation, Edition, and Commentary. Follow him on Twitter @kyleathomas or kyleathomas.net.

Rachel Wooley
MA Student
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Rachel studies playwriting by way of dramaturgy. She also intends to further pursue research in Irish theatre (early 20th century through present day) as well as theatre developed in times of and in response to war and political unrest.