Meet Our Graduate Students

Current Graduate Students (MFA and PhD)

Sara Pillatzki-Warzeha is a Dakota (enrolled SWO) and German descent scholar and artist originally from South Dakota. Her research work is in Indigenous and settler colonial artistic collaborations, with a passion for Dakota language, Indigenous feminisms, and creating loving theatrical spaces for marginalized communities. In addition to her scholarly work, Sara is a theatre director and teaching artist who works with New Native Theatre, Stages Theatre Company, and Minneapolis Musical Theatre regularly, and has worked with many organizations throughout the upper midwest. She has also taught and directed at Northern State University, University of Minnesota Morris, and St. Olaf College

Briana Beeman (she/hers) is a student in the Theatre Historiography (MA/PhD) program. Her research focuses on the Young Lords, a revolutionary nationalist organization that advocated for the decolonization of Puerto Rico in the 1960s and 70s, and the performative elements of their demonstrations. She is interested in how the Young Lords have been rendered absent in histories of United States social movements, as well as how they have engaged in their own archival processes. Broadly, she is interested in how theatre, performance, music, mass media, and public history projects inform popular imaginaries surrounding the U.S. colonization of Puerto Rico. Briana is a proud Michigander with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Michigan State University.

Emily Finck is a PhD student who holds an MA in Theatre and Performance Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and a BFA from Central Michigan University in Theatre and Interpretation, with a concentration in Acting & Directing. Her research interests include: gender and race equity in acting pedagogies, the affects of the physical and emotional labor demands placed on actors and the ethical issues therein, and the aesthetics of trauma and violence in contemporary productions of early modern drama. She is especially interested in the ways sexual intimacy, violence, and trauma bleed between text, performer, performance, and spectator. 

Greta Gebhard is a MA/PhD student who holds dual Bachelors degrees in Theatre Arts (BA) and German Studies (BS) from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. She loves exploring new forms of theatrical expression and community connection, especially in the areas of dramaturgy, directing, playwriting, and performance studies.  Greta has worked as a dramaturg on many productions including Men on Boats, Collidescope 4.0, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Mary Stuart, and focuses on finding new ways of connecting the audience to the performance. In her directing work, Greta has explored a combination of approaches and styles, most recently in Blue Stockings, which combined performance art and traditional performance practices. Her play, Hostage Crisis, was selected as part of a new play development workshop, winning the Best Concept for a Full-length Play award from the Mayhew Humanities Contest. Greta’s primary research looks at the cult of domesticity in Germany during the 19th century and how those practices are represented by female German playwrights of that time period. She is especially interested in staging practices surrounding gender roles, anti-semitism, and colonial rhetoric. Other interests include feminist knowledge production, women’s theatrical history, and forms of surveillance.

Nat Smith is a Costume Design and Technology MFA student. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she moved to Utah to get her undergrad in Costume Design from Brigham Young University. Nat had the opportunity to design costumes for the Thornton Wilder one act The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden (BYU), and for Wendy and Peter Pan (BYU) as well as many student capstone projects. Through her final year of undergrad and the year following graduation, Nat worked as the wardrobe manager for a small motion picture studio while coordinating costumes for a local high school. Nat is looking forward to expanding her design abilities, branching out into the technology side of costuming, and hopes to one day manage a costume shop.

Rebecca Gardner is a first year MFA candidate with an emphasis in Costuming. She received her BA in Costume Design from Marquette University in 2019. She is interested in all forms of the costume industry including designing, draping, stitching, dressing, craft work, and millinery. She spent a year as a millinery apprentice at Hen House Ladies Hat Shop in Milwaukee Wisconsin. She has worked for a number of theatrical companies in the Milwaukee area including the Milwaukee Ballet (Dresser), Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (Designer), and Skylight Music Theatre (Stitcher/Dresser). Some of her most recent design credits include Arnie the Doughnut (Marquette University), Little Women the Musical (Marquette University), and The Young Playwrights Festival (Chamber Theatre.) 

Michael Valdez is a performance historian and theatre artist currently working toward his PhD in theatre historiography at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. A proud New College of Florida alum (c/o 2012), Michael received his MA from Florida State University, where he focused on theatrical responses to climate change in Canada and Latin America. Recent theatrical projects include dramaturgy for The Skriker (UMN), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tartuffe (FSU), and directing for Howard Barker's13 Objects, Lucas Hnath's nightnight, and Caryl Churchill's Softcops (New College of Florida). Michael is the current administrator for the American Theatre Archive Project.

Jason “J-Sun” Noer is a practitioner of several Hip Hop/Street dance forms, which he teaches, choreographs, and performs. He is the artistic director of the MIXTAPE Collective, a group of Hip Hop/Street choreographers, musical artists, and videographers that presents an annual performance at the Cowles Center (Mpls, MN). His current choreographic work focuses on agency, vulnerability, and resistance through a mover’s lens. J-Sun is a Ph.D. candidate in the Theater Arts and Dance Department at the University of Minnesota and disciplinary head of the Urban and Street Dance track. His publications include The Future of Music: Towards a Computational Musical Theory of Everything (Springer 2020) and Creative Musicianship (Springer 2022). His dissertation research is an ethnographic study of the Hip Hop/Street dance community in the Twin Cities. 

Lily Cate Gunther-Canada (she/her/hers) is an MA/PhD student holding a Master of Studies in History from the University of Oxford and dual Bachelor's degrees in Theatre and History from Loyola University Chicago. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, her experience in Civil Rights theatre drives her research interests in the potential of pedagogically-oriented public performance to challenge hegemonic narratives in specialized and macro-historical scholarship and public memory. As a Mears Fellow for German and European Studies, Lily Cate also studies the cultural-political relationships of early modern English theatre to periodized perspectives on protofeminist gender roles and gendered expression. Beyond research, Lily Cate holds nearly two decades' experience in acting and voice. Recent theatrical work also includes dramaturgy for All's Well that Ends Well (Loyola University Chicago), A Midsummer Night's Dream (One Egg No Batter Productions), and directing for Pretty Little Fools (Women in Theatre Ensemble) and Just Anne (Loyola University Chicago).

Vaishnavi Kollimarla is a performer and an MA/PhD student at the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She is interested in exploring how performance is an important way of knowing, a pedagogy, and a medium through which we could explore questions of ethically co-existing with one another, in a world fraught with inequalities. She is particularly interested in exploring these questions in the context of India. She holds a Masters' Degree in Social Work (Women Centered Practice) from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and B.A (Hons.) in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. 

Kate Buis: I am a PhD candidate in Theatre Historiography at UMN. My love of European theatre history and embodied performance, archival and memory studies, the artistic history of the human body, and language studies, drives my research on the ways in which Early Modern Western European public theatrical performances intersect with public performances of anatomical dissection, with particular interest in 15th -16th century France, Italy, Belgium, and England. My ongoing work specifically focuses on the performative acts of corporeal embodiment and disclosure displayed in the three new or revived forms of EM media: the dramatic theatre, anatomical theatre, and compound situs paper printing technology. My current project serves as entry into the world of paper technology vis à vis the first 5 "Fugitive Sheets" (1539-1545), which both perform and invite a spectrum of performances of corporeal disclosure from within strict legal and religious parameters involving ambivalence, sex, death, and power. Other academic pursuits include middle/early European languages, WWII French resistance theatre, Antigone studies, Anouilh studies, modernist and postmodernist European theatre theory and performance in France, Germany, Russia, and the UK, film, performance studies, Holocaust and WWII theatre and performance studies, intersections of memory and performance, scriptoria, cryptoria, and manuscript studies.

Mohammadreza Izadi is a MA/PhD student at UMN. He is a director, researcher, and performer. He grew up in a pistachio farm in Kerman, southern Iran, before he moved to Tehran to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Stage Design and a Master’s Degree in Puppet Theater from University of Tehran. Reza is interested in experimental theater and performance as a way to protest and resist oppression, especially when it has roots in ethnic rituals. He has acted, directed, and done stage design in multiple experimental theater productions. It is his lifelong dream to make either himself or a huge chunk of prop float on stage.