Master's Theses: Class of 2018

Michelle Daly

Director of Berkshire Cultural Resource Center at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Curating Performance at the University: A Rhizomatic Practice

Advised by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez

How can performance curators expand their own understanding of the role and its position at the university to actively contribute to education? Further, why should they? This thesis argues that the university performance curator should position their role to enhance the critical discourse taking place in the classroom, and provide opportunities to position the university performing arts center as a co-curricular space of learning. 


Katrina De Wees

Curatorial and Production Assistant at The Shed (NYC)

Curating the End of American Rape Culture: Racial, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, Power and Transformation in Institutional Landscapes of Cultural Memory

Advised by Shanté Paradigm Smalls

This thesis explores transformative critical pedagogies as applied in contemporary inquiry-based curatorial practice and gallery education within curatorial institutions as a means of intervention and healing the hegemonic pandemic strictures of the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy which constitutes American rape culture. The systemic structures of violence are introduced and theoretical, art historical and communal contexts of curatorial practice with strategic possibility to end American rape culture are discussed. De Wees shares the methodology of black liberatory systems used in her research and as an emerging curator within a curatorial institution navigating rape culture.


Ellina Kevorkian

Director of Artistic Programming at The Soap Factory (Minneapolis)

Recasting Monumentality: Performances of Public Protest at Confederate Monuments

Advised by Rebecca Schneider

This thesis explores performances of public protest at Confederate monuments. The unveiling of a monument suggests its shared meaning with spectators. Civil War Confederates were memorialized for their sacrifice, as they fought to preserve a Southern way of life that included systems of slavery. White supremacists and alt-right groups recently have gathered across the country to protest what they see as the erosion of traditional Southern culture with monuments as the backdrop for their protests. However, this meaning is being challenged by acts of public protest. These monuments, cast initially as representing white sacrifice, are now seen to promote white supremacism and African American subordination.


Brian Hyunsuk Lee

Audience Outreach Associate at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago)

Hiding Your Present From You: Relating the Musical and Queer Contexts of Arthur Russell

Advised by Roger Grant

What relation might music have to queerness? The intention of this question is not simply to propose different or more ways in which queer modes of thinking should lend themselves to the scholarly study of music. It is more so asked in order to open up the possibility that music, as well as the multisensory experience of feeling and interpreting musical sounds and their extra-sonic contexts, is already and has always been related to queerness. The purpose of this thesis is, in part, to demonstrate those queer aspects of music through the examination of one particular artist. I lend my focus on the life, music, and archival ephemera of Arthur Russell, a contemporary musician and cross-genre composer of the downtown New York music scene who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992. In searching through these musical and extra-musical materials, I locate a queer pressure that emanates from within, surrounding, and enacted by Arthur Russell’s oeuvre by observing the music’s inability to be contained by genre, its disruption of normative time, and its enabling of a queer hope through its pleasure, sexuality, and reach towards the future.


Marsha Reid

Founder and Director, Kindred Arts

Harlem (1917-2017) Public Space: Culture of Exclusion, Exclusion of Culture

Advised by Barbara Adams

Harlem, New York’s first major black residential and business center and birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance, finds itself an increasingly polarized environment in the midst of its most recent wave of disruption. Over the course of a century, systemic political, economic, and educational inequities, engendered by pathologies of neoliberal proscription, have converged to create a new era in Harlem, one that is marked by spatial exclusions, cultural erasure, disenfranchisement, and relegation of a storied history to artifacts for consumption. Referencing concepts of kinship and reflecting on forums for communitas—spaces where people can exist together without strong hierarchy—this paper considers Harlem’s use of public space as an incubator for action and creation in the pursuit of happiness and freedom. 


Ali Rosa-Salas

Director of Performance Programs at Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement (NYC)

Knowing One's Power: Decolonial Approaches to Curatorial Practice

Advised by Jackson Polys

This thesis is a comparative analysis of Re(as)sisting Narratives (2016) and Kahatenhstánion tsi na’tetiatere ne Iotohrkó: wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing Lines from January to December (2017), two contemporary art exhibitions that self-identify as engaged with decolonial politics.


Rachel Scandling

Co-director of Los Angeles Performance Practice

Curating Feminist Performance in Los Angeles: Alternative Practices

Advised by Andy Campbell

Using the lenses of phenomenologies and gender and queer theory, and by tracing alternative modalities, this thesis examines the work of Los Angeles-based contemporary performance artists taisha paggett and Gina Young. Through their practices, both artists engage with or center feminism as an anchoring approach to dismantling hegemonic systems of oppression.


Michèle Steinwald

Independent Dance Curator and Writer

slut, angel, animal, vegetable, mineral, water, light, love, god, spirit, dust, beauty, universe: an embodied inventory of elements at play in Deborah Hay’s choreography

Advised by Katherine Brewer Ball

This thesis develops vocabulary to define Deborah Hay’s choreographic strategies and movement choices in order to highlight her contributions to experimental dance. Hay has deviated from the traditional route of a choreographer. She has instigated change by unlocking dancers’ perceptions and efficacy in performance through written scores and mantra-like instructions. Meanwhile, audiences are left out of the conversation. This thesis takes the position of a highly sensitized and informed audience member, and uses choreographic logic to rhythmically layer information and overlapping notions—as repetition is a common choreographic strategy—to center elements of Hay’s approaches for greater identification. The resulting inventory isolates reoccurring aspects of Hay’s energetic material, its embodiment transmitted from stage to audience seats, and the revolution for which it has laid the foundation.



Master’s Theses: Class of 2017

Paige Blansfield

Program Manager at American Express

WORDS, LIFE, AND ALL: Language, Performativity and Engagement in the Theater  

Advised by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez

This thesis assesses the method and result of a linguistic approach for transmitting the qualitative impacts of new performance adopted by two New York City–centric theater companies. Drawing on the distinctly innovative curatorial models employed by the Public Theater’s “Public Works” program and the New Georges theater company to broaden community access to their works, Blansfield suggests both artists and institutions can use this method to deepen engagement and understanding beyond the in-person audience experience.


Christy Bolingbroke

Executive / Artistic Director of the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron 

Designing a 21st Century Dance Ecology: Questioning Current Practices and Embracing Curatorial Interventions

Advised by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack

This research, straddling the artistic and the administrative, mines the ecological roles of artists, presenters, and funders across dance. Anecdotal data and research is cross-referenced against the New England Foundation for the Arts' field-wide survey on the twentieth anniversary of the National Dance Project. This work explores the current condition of how dance is made and distributed in this country; highlights how and where its players interact; and inquires if we understand and truly see the goals we are trying to achieve, the problems we are trying to resolve.


Jaamil Olawale Kosoko

Curator, Poet, and Performance Artist

The Blood Was On Their Shoulders: Mapping Black Intersectional Identities within Curatorial Practice

Advised by Judy Hussie Taylor

This thesis examines the artistic projects that hold Black women, trans, and queer intersectional identities as the focal point for creative engagement, conversation, and study. Drawing from predominantly Black, queer, and feminist research materials and methodologies, Kosoko collects data through interviews, rehearsals, performance showings, readings, and personal reflections that give voice to the ways in which artists and artist-curators creatively render themes of societal trauma, loss, fugitivity, queerness, and trans perspectives as a strategy for survival and healing for self and community. To provide a critical lens into the art practices of selected artists, Kosoko introduces the Socio-Choreological Mapping ideology as a conceptual frame for creating more inclusive cultural spaces for people of color.


Cori Olinghouse

Founder and Director, The Portal Project

Mapping the Unruly: Imagining a Methodology for the Archiving of Performance 

Advised by Karinne Keithley Syers

This thesis develops an experimental framework for the archiving of performance, focusing on choreographer Melinda Ring’s 1999 work, "Impossible Dance." This graduate thesis describes a prismatic approach to the archiving of “Impossible Dance,” which manifests in three forms: a performance transmission structure, a digital publication, and a printed book. Each of these forms plays with the impossibility in archiving the unruly—a conceit staged to intervene in institutional approaches that privilege the codifying of form over the nature of improvisational experience. Additionally, this thesis asks how the archiving of the impossible might press against what is possible and legible in the field of archiving.


Jessica Wasilewski

Producer, Park Avenue Armory, NYC

Effecting Dynamic Cultural Exchange Through the Performing Arts: Three Case Studies of U.S. Exchange with Asia

Advised by Rachel Cooper

The concept of dynamic cultural exchange transcends the constraints of national and regional boundaries, histories, religions, and politics. It acknowledges, at once, the differences and commonalities of distinct cultures while recognizing the validity of each. This research identifies innovative practices for dynamic cultural exchange through the performing arts by way of a focused analysis of three cases of U.S. exchange with Asia: Festival of Indonesia In Performance (1990-1992), Dance, the Spirit of Cambodia (2001), and Season of Cambodia (2013).    


Master’s Theses: Class of 2016

John Andress

Associate Director of Performing Arts at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

Choreographic Transformations: Creative Documentation in Dance

Advised by Tim Griffin

Through an examination of archival photography and video, notational drawings and scores, non-documentary visual art works, and key works of contemporary choreographers, this thesis assembles myriad approaches of documenting and historicizing live dance from the 1960s to the present. In the past decade, dance and performance have experienced a resurgence in museums and galleries. Ephemeral by nature, performance exists in a fleeting moment, then resides in the memory of the viewer and the body of the performers. Utilizing the concept of liveness explored by philosophers and scholars such as Henri Bergson, Peggy Phelan, Philip Auslander, Jose Munoz, and Andre Lepecki, this thesis explores how dance as an ephemeral art form is preserved and historicized both in the body of contemporary performers and how that form may be preserved in the larger cultural sphere.


Megan Brian

Assistant Director of Education and Public Practice at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Advised by Frances Phillips

An investigation into the changing models of arts organizations in San Francisco in light of economic pressures. Considered in dialogue with the frames of post-Fordism, neoliberal economics, the Californian ideology, creative placemaking, arts ecosystem and collaboration theories, the three case studies illustrate newly adopted and adapted models from other sectors. The models include variations on marketplace, land trust, and start-up approaches. Each organization is considered in situ of its particular challenges and opportunities, however the three examples offer creative solutions that have implications for informing institutions in a broader context. The case studies include Lost Weekend Video, CounterPulse, and Minnesota Street Project and follow their major transitions in the years 2015 and 2016.


Randal Fippinger 

Producing Director at Williams College '62 Center for Theatre and Dance

Practicing Community: Examining and Reimagining Community-based Performance Practice in Williamstown

Advised by Cathy Edwards

This thesis will examine historical and contemporary trends along with major community arts practices as a strategic investigation towards the creation of an artist- lead, movement-based project called Served to be developed in close connection with the students, faculty, and staff of Williams College. It will survey of community-based projects in Williamstown and the surrounding community as a springboard for an analysis of the major trends in community arts practice, contextualizing the project of this thesis within a larger history of community arts practice as well as demonstrating why this project is right for this community.


Julie Potter

Director at ODC Theater

Curating Encounter in the Public Square

Advised by Shannon Jackson

By studying a program of artist-driven think tanks at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts exploring issues of the urban future, labor, ecology and freedom, Potter examines the challenges and affective capacities of a call-and-response pedagogy for action research located at a civic institution. This research, in the expanded field of socially engaged art, mines the roles of the art center as public square, the artist as public intellectual and the community as a generative culture making entity. By observing research oriented working groups engaged in collaborative knowledge production for creative public intervention and exhibition, this work explores the conditions for increased equity and operations of a civic public practice, which employs participants in a relationship of partnership with the institution.


Image above: 
South Studio at night, Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University