Wesleyan portrait of Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon

Associate Professor of English

Downey House, 294 High Street, 216

Associate Professor, Theater

Downey House, 294 High Street,

Associate Professor, African American Studies


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BA Wesleyan University
MA Northwestern University
PHD Northwestern University

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon is an Associate Professor in English and an affiliated faculty in African American Studies, Theater, and Caribbean Studies. Her course offerings and research exemplify interdisciplinary methodologies and collaborative approaches towards examining: the dramatic and performance traditions of African Americans and the larger African Diaspora; American drama; American musical theatre; American and European theatre and performance histories; theatrical spectatorship; dramatic adaptations of poetry, novels, and historical fiction; and, the application of critical race theories, gender theories, sexuality theories, and popular culture theories to drama and performance. Her book, The Black Circuit: Race, Performance, and Spectatorship in Black Popular Theatre (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, March 2020), examines “Chitlin Circuit” theatrical productions and the reception practices of African American spectators. Professor Shaw McMahon’s scholarship has appeared in various print and online journals, such as E-misfèrica, in media res: a media commons project, Modern Drama, Theatre Survey, Theatre Topics, and Theatre Research International as well as in edited anthologies on race, performance, media, and sociology, including The New Black Sociologists: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018), The Palgrave Handbook of Musical Theatre Producers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry (The University Press of Mississippi, 2016), Black Theater is Black Life: An Oral History of Theater and Dance in Chicago, 1970-2010 (Northwestern University Press, 2013), and Sticky Reputations: The Politics of Collective Memory in Midcentury America (Routledge, 2011). Her interviews with playwrights and actors of “Chitlin Circuit” Theatre have been published by Time Out Chicago magazine. She has been consulted as an expert in African American theatre and drama by journalists from the Kansas City Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NPR, The St. Croix Avis, USA Today and Sweden's Sveriges Radio. Her current projects include an investigation into the public exhibition of children from the Danish West Indies (referred to today as the United States Virgin Islands) in early twentieth century Denmark and investigations into the hypervisibility of African American women characters within the plays of August Wilson.

Professor Shaw McMahon is originally from the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is a Wesleyan alumna, class of '99, who majored in Theater (with a concentratron in Acting) and Sociology. Her Wesleyan honors BA thesis in Theater is entitled Color Aware enough to be Color-blind: A look at Color-blind Casting from the Perspective of the Black Actor. After Wesleyan, she attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she received her Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama. Her dissertation, entitled Theatrical Events and African American Audiences: A Study of Contemporary "Chitlin Circuit" Theatre, examines Chitlin Circuit (a.k.a. Gospel Musical) theatrical productions and the reception practices of African American spectators through interdisciplinary methods of research that span across theatre, performance studies, sociology, film and dance studies. She is a member of the American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR), the Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), the Black Theatre Association (BTA), and the International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR). In 2016, she was awarded the Mellon Mays Mentor of the Year Award at Wesleyan. 

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Office Hours have ended for the 2023-24 academic year.


Fall 2024
ENGL 176F - 01
August Wilson (FYS)

ENGL 201N - 01
Ways of Reading: Adaptations