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At the center of my pedagogy lies a commitment to connecting intellectual development with lived experience, encouraging students to foster a capacity for empathy alongside scholarly or professional acumen. I believe that good teaching respects the knowledge that students bring with them, and I aim to foster student-led learning that builds intellectual confidence alongside critical and cultural fluency. What we learn in the arts may widen our perspective on the world, but that knowledge is created in small, localized moments when we feel free to think experimentally. To adapt the words of the great teacher and theater maker Augusto Boal, it’s not the place of the instructor to show the correct path but only to offer the means by which all possible paths may be examined. 

Teaching Interests & Experience

Modern and Contemporary Drama 

Critical theory and method

Global theater and performance

Irish theater

Contemporary US Theater

Ecocriticism/Environmental Humanities

Cultural studies

Interdisciplinary Arts

Please see below for example course descriptions. Syllabi available by request.

Kelli consults with collaborators

Introduction to Global Theater & Theory

This course is a survey of global theater history and performance and an exploration of the critical lenses that help us make meaning of the time-based art we encounter. Our investigations will be grounded in three observations about what theatrical performance can do: Theater thinks, theater creates truth, theater is a political act. These dicta are partially drawn from the work of radical philosopher Alain Badiou, whom we will read later in the semester, but they apply widely across all of the traditions we will study. The course plots an approximately chronological trajectory, starting with oral storytelling traditions and ending just at the turn of the twenty-first century. The first two units feature recommended additional readings called "Contemporary Companions": plays in conversation with earlier texts to emphasize how the theatrical canon is an open site for adaptation and innovation.

A storyteller at work telling African folktales

Political Theater

The theatrical event, distinctive in its precariousness, has a political-ready quality. For Joe Kelleher, this is due to “the simple fact that it happens now and that it gathers people, who may well be strangers to each other, around issues of disagreement but also of common concern” (Theatre & Politics). From community ritual to anti-lynching drama and from history play to Hamilton, the theatre entangles itself with our lives as citizens. Exploring larger ideological and ethical questions through human relationships teaches us that the personal is always political. In this course, we will look at a collection of plays that deal with issues loosely clustered around modern warfare, intersectional identities, race-based violence, and civic duty, particularly within an American context.

a group of adventurers in 19c American dress

Stories that Shape Us (Writing & Critical Inquiry)

This course explores the shared territory between narrative and argument, creative work and academic writing, documentation and imagination. We begin by investigating how stories—and their interpretation—shape our lived experience and imaginative capacities. Stories affect our personal and collective ideas about who we are, what’s possible in our social and political spheres, and the futures we can envision. We then dig into specific strategies for storytelling across media, looking to unconventional cultural productions for ideas about how to write more engaging research-based arguments and to better understand the acts of interpretation and persuasion. The course ends with two major projects: a research essay that utilizes the strategies we discuss to interpret a cultural production and a creative project where groups of students will work together to build a multimedia text that stretches our imaginations. This is a practice-based writing class. Ultimately, the course invites students to develop their writing processes, emphasizing deep thinking, collaboration, and creativity.

A triptych of stories being told
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