The Department of Theatre engages in research that fosters innovative theory and creative practice. We center the role of creativity in all of our research modalities, examine the impact of theatre beyond our stages, interrogate how theatre challenges and/or reflects the current state of society, and more. Explore the research interests of our faculty, below.

Rob Conkie

Distinguished Professor Rob Conkie’s research includes Shakespeare in performance, theatre and environment, ekphrasis, comics studies, and practice as research. Most recently he is writing a book, provisionally entitled “Shakespeare on Fire: Cymbeline in the Anthropocene in the Antipodes.” It is an account of a production of Shakespeare’s late play aimed at intervening in debates about climate catastrophe. The book – in comics form – digresses from accounts of the play on the stage to meditate upon the global crisis of wildfire. 

Lynne Conner

Dr. Lynne Conner’s research includes cultural history, cultural policy, and playwriting. Her recent publications include the Routledge Companion to Audiences and the Performing Arts (co-editor; 2022), for which she authored two chapters and co-authored a chapter-length Introduction and Afterword. Her play The Mother is a 2023 Bay Area National Playwrights Festival Semi-finalist. Her play In the Garden of Live Flowers (published by Dramatic Publishing Company) was produced by First Flight Theatre Company in 2023 and a video streaming version was awarded a 2023 Green Academy Award (“Best Biopic”). In April 2023, Dr. Conner was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society.

Aerialist on silks on a blue lit stage

Carlos AlexisCruz

The Nouveau Sud Circus Project, founded and directed by Associate Professor of Theatre CarlosAlexis Cruz, explores topics of social and political importance through community engaged research and circus arts. Funded by a New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) Creation and Touring Grant, Nouveau Sud began touring La Bestia, which addresses immigration and migration in the U.S., in summer 2023. Cruz has also begun to develop new work investigating gun violence, Violenza, funded by a Cultural Visions Grant from the Arts & Science Council.


David Janowiak

Professor Janowiak’s research includes both performing and directing. Most recently he voiced the role of Narrator as a voiceover artist for an independent film project titled “Bonsai.” He collaborated with award-winning dancer, choreographer, teacher, and film maker Les Watanabe on the project. Watanabe said this of the film: “Many years ago, while my father was working on his Bonsai plants in the garden, my mother said to me ‘He made my life a Bonsai.’ The result, decades later was this extremely personal work intertwining the technically brutal creation of the beautiful bonsai tree with the life of my mother.” The film has garnered 14 Laurels so far in 2023, including presentations at the International Gold Awards; Florence Film Awards (Best Experimental Film); 8 and a Halfilm Awards (Best Art House Short Film); the Frida Film Festival (Best Experimental Film); and winning the ‘Best Original Screenplay’ award at the 2023 New York Film Awards, where it was presented at the Kraine Theater (NY) last September. 

Mark Pizzato

Dr. Mark Pizzato’s research includes theatre, film, neuro psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and performance studies. His recent research endeavor includes a book forthcoming in May 2024 from Bloomsbury Press entitled, European Churches and Chinese Temples as Neuro-Theatrical Sites in which Dr. Pizzato compares monumental designs and performance spaces of Christian, Buddhist, and related sanctuaries, exploring how brain networks, animal-human emotions, and cultural ideals are reflected historically and affected today as “inner theatre” elements. In a study of over 80 buildings – shown by 40 images in the book, plus thousands of photos and videos online –Pizzato demonstrates how they reflect meta-theatrical projections from prior generations. They also affect the embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended (4E) cognition of current visitors, who bring performance frameworks of belief, hope, and doubt to the sacred site. This involves neuro-social, inner/outer theatre networks with patriarchal, maternal, and trickster paradigms.

Robin Witt

Professor Robin Witt’s research area includes the directing of new plays from the UK and Ireland as well as the resurrection of lost and forgotten plays from the inter-war years. Most recently, she directed the US premiere of Tony and Olivier award winner Simon Stephens’ Light Falls for Steep Theatre in Chicago where she has been an ensemble member for 15 years. In the fall of 2022, Steep Theatre received a 2.9 million dollar grant from the Federal Government to purchase and renovate a new performance space in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. Robin will be directing the inaugural production in the new Steep space in February of 2025.