Current Students

M.F.A. in Performance as Public Practice

Abimbola Adunni Adelakun

Abimbola Adunni Adelakun

Abimbola Adunni Adelakun is a PhD student with scholarship interests in of Performance Activism and Social Change; Transatlantic Black Identity and Yoruba/Nigeria Performance Aesthetics. She currently holds an M.A. and B.A. in the Communication and Language Arts Department, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is in the link program between PPP and African and African Diaspora Studies where she’ll be obtaining a second Master’s.

Abimbola, born and raised in Nigeria, was a journalist with PUNCH, Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper. She maintains a weekly column in PUNCH, writing on contemporary socio-political issues influencing Nigeria. She is also an editor, has worked as Media consultant for cultural festivals, is a contributor to many magazines and journals, and is a novelist as well. Her debut book, Under the Brown Rusted Roofs, attracted several accolades. The second book is in the works and should be released before the end of 2013. She is a book editor and producer, helping writers to birth fiction and non-fiction materials.

She has featured in several stage productions in and out of the university environment some of which include Dead End, a stage play put up for eight weeks in Ibadan, Oyo state to discourage illegal migration among Nigerian citizens; Yemoja; The Concubine; The Good Woman of Setzuan etc. She was part of the Abia state cultural troupe in her NYSC Year and featured in many plays and television programs. Abimbola loves reading (especially novels!), writing, blogging, talking long introspective walks (alone) and watching movies and documentaries.

Laura Baggs

woman in blue in front of grass

Laura Baggs is an artist scholar who investigates gender and issues of in/equality through performance. Her current research focuses on political and activist performance in the current wave of feminism. In April 2015 she presented a paper titled “Hashtag Feminism and the Fight to End Violence” at the International Society for Intermedial Studies’ Play / Perform / Participate Conference at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Laura comes to the Performance as Public Practice Ph.D. Program with a M.F.A. in Theatre Practice: Staging Shakespeare from the University of Exeter and a M.A. in Performance Research from the University of Bristol. During graduate school in the United Kingdom she created performances which scrutinizes concepts of gender and the position of women in early modern play texts. Laura has a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Theatre from Ohio State University where she developed her skills as a dramaturg

Scott Blackshire

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Scott Blackshire is a Ph.D candidate in the Performance as Public Practice program at The University of Texas at Austin, College of Fine Arts. His work examines the reality of artists’ professional work, specifically as they emerge from academic programs into post-baccalaureate creative communities. Examining the ways in which communities support artists and considering the experiences and perspectives of artists-in-training supports a better understanding of artists’ lives. His work also prompts consideration of what might be done to better prepare all types of artists to fully engage in their artistic endeavors. In short, prepare emerging artists to flourish in communities that are, in turn, ready to support them.

Scott earned his Bachelor of Music (Indiana University, Bloomington) and Master of Music (Catholic University, Washington, DC) degrees in Opera Performance and has sung with regional opera companies in the United States and in the United Kingdom. While pursuing his graduate studies in Washington, DC, Scott worked as the Assistant Director of Development at The Caring Institute (an affiliate of the National Association for Homecare). In Austin, performing and academics have been balanced with work in non-profit and private foundation realms. Most recently Scott spoke at the PAVE Biennial Conference on Entrepreneurship and the Arts, moderated a panel at SXSWedu, and presented at the annual meeting of the US Department of Education School Leadership Programs, where he introduced his book chapter, “Certified Cognitive Coaching in a School Leadership Program” in From Policy to Practice: Sustainable Innovations in School Leadership Preparation and Development (2014).

Cassidy Browning

Cassidy Browning

Cassidy C Browning is an activist theatre scholar, educator, and practitioner. Browning began as a PhD in the Performance as Public Practice Program in the fall of 2009 and recently served as the Graudate Student Representative on the 2013-2014 Season Selection Committee, the Graduate Outreach Coordinator, and the The University Co-Op Presents the 2013 Cohen New Works Festival Engaging Research Subcommittee Co-Chair. The current title of her dissertation is "Representations of Transgender-ness on Stage and Screen," and she is also completing the Portfolio in Women and Gender Studies at UT. In the spring and summer of 2012, she performed in two award-winning productions in Austin - Dice in FronteraFest and the Austin Bike Zoo's Midsummer in Motion.

Browning was recently an Instructional Assistant Professor in Illinois State University’s School of Theatre, and graduated in 2008 with an M.A. in Theatre History and Criticism and minor in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Browning’s undergraduate degree was a double major in Acting and Theatre History from Illinois State University in 2006. She has taught both Introduction to Theatre and Theatre History at UT, and in the fall of 2010, received the student-nominated Texas Exes Teaching Award for the College of Fine Arts.

Her research interests include Queer Theory and Theatre, Gender Studies, Performance Art, Feminism, Transgender Identities, Performance Studies, Racialized Studies, Humor, and Internet Identity. Browning deposited a thesis in May 2008 titled, “A Room of Wong's Own: Identity Politics in the Life and Work of Kristina Wong” about a Los Angeles-based performance artist who became a figure of Third Wave Feminism after creating her infamous website <>. She is also highly active in the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) presenting her own research, organizing panels, and in service, recently completing a two-year term as the Graduate Student Subcommittee Co-Chair and as the Focus Group Representative-Elect (2014-2015) for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Focus Group.

Zoë Crabtree

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Zoë Crabtree is a Performance as Public Practice masters candidate interested in the intersections of Gender Studies, Performance Studies and Anthropology -particularly when questions of embodiment, gender identity and expression, and media come into play. She currently holds a BA in Gender Studies/Theatre Arts from Mount Holyoke College where she was awarded the 21st Century Scholar Scholarship, Sarah Williston Scholar designation and Phi Beta Kappa Membership. Crabtree's theatre involvement and interests include directing and lighting tech. While at Mount Holyoke, she directed several plays supported by the student theatre organization as well as several academic departments. She also worked on lighting design for several student productions. Her academic work outside of the theatre has included several anthropological academic papers that address hugging ideologies in the US and the Netherlands, how lovesickness is expressed and experienced and the ways in which the Purity Myth affects queer women. 

Crabtree has had the pleasure of interning and assistant stage managing at Theatre Rhinoceros, a queer theatre company based in San Francisco. She has also served as an intern for Northampton Community Television, a community-based and -supported television station in western Massachusetts, where she filmed and edited small video projects and served as a technical director and camera operator for local city council meetings. In her final year at Mount Holyoke, Crabtree worked as a Stage Crew member in association with the College’s Department of Student Programs where her responsibilities included managing and supporting the technical needs of campus events.  

Russell M. Dembin

man smiling in front of books

Russell M. Dembin is a Ph.D. student in the Performance as Public Practice program. Originally from the suburbs of New York City, he holds an M.A. in Theatre History and Criticism from Brooklyn College and B.A. degrees in Theatre Performance and Adolescence Education-English from the State University of New York at New Paltz. His current research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. theatre history and the relationship between cultural identity and performance; among his other interests are musical theatre, Shakespeare, and Beckett. Russell has presented his work at national and international conferences, including the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the American Literature Association. In addition to his scholarship, he has taught English and drama at the high school level, and he is a freelance dramaturg, an associate editor of The Sondheim Review, and a contributor to Theatre Communications Group's American Theatre magazine.

Ninoska M’bewe Escobar

Ninoska M’bewe Escobar

Ninoska M’bewe Escobar is a Graduate Fellow and doctoral candidate in Performance as Public Practice. She is a recipient of a Mellon Dance Studies Seminar scholarship (2014), Research Fellowship at New York Public Library (2014) and was also The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies Outstanding Graduate Student (2012). M’bewe focuses on performance practices within African Diaspora communities, developments and contemporary practices in American dance, and the trajectory of feminine innovation in twentieth and twenty-first century dance and performance. Her research considers cultural heritage and social experience in the formation of Black identity and theorizes the Black dancing body as a transmitter of auto/body/graphy. Her work on choreographer-anthropologist-social activist Pearl Primus examines her contributions and legacy as a reflection of Black experiences, politicization, and agency.

Trained at The Clark Center for the Performing Arts and Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York, M’bewe has had a career as a dancer, teacher and choreographer, appearing in the original Fame (1980) and in numerous concert stage productions and venues. A former faculty and program director at The Ailey School and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation in New York, she has taught widely and is a facilitator of the humanities curriculum Revelations: An Interdisciplinary Approach. M’bewe led the performance groups Life Force Dance and M’word! from 1990 to 2006, created the dances for Reza Abdoh’s The Law of Remains (1992), and is a recipient of an Audelco award for the Nuyorican Poets Café production of Pepe Carril’s Shango de Ima (1994). 

Brianna Figueroa

Woman in black tanktop

Brianna Figueroa is currently a Ph.D. student in the Performance as Public Practice program where she also completed her M.A. work. Her research focuses on the historical presence and artistry of Latina identified choreographers in the United States who produce in the genres of modern and postmodern dance. Brianna received her B.F.A. in Dance Performance from the University of Wyoming in 2008 and has trained, performed, and taught dance internationally. As a practicing artist she has developed a number of solo performances that examine the many ways that gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and history can be explored, challenged, and shared through movement. In addition to her interest in dance, Brianna is an experienced instructor of applied theatre, having developed culturally critical arts programing designed for integration into public school curriculums. Brianna also works as the program coordinator for the American Ballet Summer Intensive at UT and is a professional dramaturg in the Austin area.

Amy Guenther

purple shirt standing in front of grass

Amy Guenther is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance as Public Practice at The University of Texas at Austin with a graduate portfolio in Women’s and Gender Studies. She received her M.A. in Theatre Studies from Miami University and a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from Catawba College. Broadly, her research examines the adaptation of cultural texts in American popular culture and performances as they pertain to identity/subject formation. Her dissertation is entitled Pilgrims, Puritans, and Popular Culture: Policing the Boundaries of (Dis)Belonging in the National Imaginary. This project analyzes representations of the Puritans in 20th century popular culture as contested sites of American national identity constructions. Guenther is also a member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) where she is the Chair of Outreach and Development for the Women and Theatre Program and the secretary for the Theory and Criticism Focus Group. As part of the Women and Theatre Program, she helps to fundraise and advocate for the annual Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, which advocates for the development and production of new work by feminist playwrights. In addition to her scholarship, she works as a dramaturg and teacher. Currently, she is working as a dramaturg for a forthcoming documentary that examines the experiences of female paleontologists working in the field and the academy entitled The Bearded Lady Project: Challenging the Face of Science. She has also traveled extensively and seen and/or studied theatre in Japan, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and France.

Christine Gwillim

Gwillim headshot

Christine Gwillim is a PhD student in the Performance as Public Practice program. Her interests include practice based research, affect theory, the performance of everyday life and feminist performance. Her current research focuses on the intersectionality of religious and secular rituals.

Christine is a practicing performance artist and works for the scholarly journal, Studies in Gender and Sexuality. She recently finished a year long curatorial internship at The Kitchen in New York City, where she worked to help persevere their audio visual and paper archives. She holds a B.A. in Theater and Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University.  

Lydia Nelson

Lydia Nelson is a performance artist and Ph.D. candidate. She is the assistant editor of Theatre Research International. Locating Langston Hughes's ASK YOUR MAMA as a point of departure, her dissertation documents the theatricality and queer Black corporealities of the dozens in the twentieth century U.S. Thematically, her transdisciplinary work concerns archival and archiving transtemporal bodies. Her most recent publication appears in QED. Lydia has a B.A. in history from Western Kentucky University where she competed for WKU Forensics and was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel. She received her M.A. from Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. 

She most recently wrote, directed, and performed in Amelia at the Edge, a 1930s radio play comedy navigating (queer) time and absence in Earhart archives. In 2012, she co-directed (with Rudy Ramirez) Diana Grisanti’s River City, named Best New Play by the Austin Critics’ Table. Since fall 2010, additional directing and design work includes 900 Gallons and Heart Trouble; dramaturgy: The Cataract, Dream of Perfect Sleep, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wolf Cry Wolf; performance: Mortified!, FunFunFun Fest, Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, Austin Sketch Fest, Ladies Are Funny Festival, and The Encyclopedia Show (where she appears as long-time cast member and alter-ego “Professional Amateur Historian Lydia Nelson”).

Jess O'Rear

Blue hair and glasses in front of books

Jess O’Rear is an M.A. student in Performance as Public Practice, whose research explores the relationship between queer identity and expression, capitalism, performance, and visual culture, with particular focus on transgender identity formation and expression in today’s rapidly advancing digital age. Artistic interests include interactive multimedia performance art, documentary theater, transmedia storytelling, and site-specific performance.

Jess received a B.A. in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies with a minor in Theatre, Film, & Media Studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) in 2012. While at SMCM, Jess was a two-time recipient of the Rhoda-Stark Award in Gender Studies, a practicing stage performer, and an experimental filmmaker. Additionally, Jess has worked as a social media manager for non-profit theatre organizations such as Adirondack Theatre Festival (Glens Falls, NY) and Dixon Place (New York, NY); was an Artist-in-Residence at the 2011 Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst, MA; and enjoyed a short stint as a Secret Identity Consultant at 826NYC’s Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

Agatha Silvia Nogueira e Oliveira

smiling with flower dress

Agatha Oliveira is a doctoral student in Peformance as a Public Practice program with research interest in Black performance, transnationalism, socio-political consciousness, and artistic identity formation in the African Diaspora. She currently holds a M.A. from the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, at The University of Texas at Austin. Her thesis explores cultural exchanges and socio-political networks between the U.S. dancer-choreographer Katherine Dunham and the Brazilian dancer-choreographer Mercedes Batista during the 1950s and 1960s. Ms. Oliveira holds a second M.A. in Science of Arts from the Federal Fluminense University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and her B.A. in Professional Dance and Dance Instruction from the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. She completed a specialization in pilates technique at the Institute of Higher Education Unyhana in Bahia, Brazil (2004) and in Laban/Bartenieff movement studies at the Angel Vianna College, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2011).

Agatha Oliveira has had a career as a professional dancer with experience performing in Dance Brazil (1997-2006), Arquitetura do Movimento (2007-2011), and BBB (Brazilian Ballet of Bahia – 1990-1996). Her tours include shows in different states of Brazil, the United States, Europe, Australia, and South America. She also participated at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Workshop in 1998 and in the Summer Intensive Program at the Alvin Ailey School in New York in 2001. Recently, as a dance teacher, Ms. Oliveira offered workshops of Afro-Brazilian Contemporary at the Carver Museum and at the Brazilian Cultural Center in Houston. 

Verónica Rivera-Negrón

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Verónica is a master’s student in Performance as Public Practice at the Department of Theatre and Dance. She earned a B.A. with a dual major in journalism and theater from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

Her academic interests include Performance, Gender, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Digital Humanities. Her work aims to demonstrate how theater and performance records, shares and prompts discussion about women’s issues in the Caribbean and in Latin America. She has collaborated with the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics since 2013,and served as co-chair of the Executive Committee organizing the Hemi Graduate Student Initiative Convergence, which was held at The University of Texas at Austin in 2015.

Verónica also has experience working as assistant director and stage manager for a production at the 55to Festival de Teatro Puertorriqueño (55th Puerto Rican Theater Festival), as Digital Engagement Associate for a theater and film company in Puerto Rico and as a theater instructor for children and teenagers.

Katie Van Winkle

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Katie Van Winkle, a Ph.D. student and Donald D. Harrington Fellow, investigates theatre audiences in the past and present. She is also interested in theatre and globalization, the function of theatre in the nationalist projects of Poland and Ireland, autobiographical performances of non-actors, and contemporary performance of Greek drama. Katie holds a B.A. in Theater and Sociology/Anthropology (Swarthmore College), and pursued a dramaturgy fellowship at Baltimore's Center Stage. She earned her M.A. in Drama and Theatre (National University of Ireland, Galway) as a George J. Mitchell Scholar, where she studied and worked with Druid and Macnas in Galway and Theatre of Witness in Northern Ireland. Katie's has been published in the New Hibernia Review. 

Katie has collaborated on over seventy stage and film productions in Austin, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Galway, Belfast, and Krakow. Her professional work began under the direction of Mark Hunter, then a Performance as Public Practice doctoral student, in Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare (2000). She has since performed for many Austin companies, including Physical Plant Theater, Rubber Repertory, Salvage Vanguard, Breaking String Theater, Austin Shakespeare Festival, GNAP!, and the Hideout Theatre. She made her New York debut in November 2012 with the Rude Mechs’ tour of Dionysus in '69. Her directing credits include new plays, devised work, and Euripides' Bacchai.