Meet our Graduate Students

Current Graduate Students (MFA and PhD)

Hazel Rickard is a PhD candidate in the Theatre Historiography at the University of Minnesota. She received an MA in Theatre and Performance Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and a BA in Anthropology at Reed College. Her research interests include 19th century Spiritualism, feminine Whiteness and racialization in the United States, puppetry and material performance.

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. 

Natalie Dollison is a PhD candidate whose research focuses primarily on performances of race, place, indigeneity, and belonging in settler colonial societies. She has long had an interest in understanding these themes, which encompass her work with cultural villages and local spoken-word poets in South Africa, as well as her analysis of military band performances by segregated Black units of the U.S. Army prior to 1945. Natalie is also a theatre practitioner. Before turning to academic research, she worked as an IATSE stagehand and co-founded two successful non-profit theatre companies with her friend and mentor, the late Bliss B. Ragsdale. 

Chris Bell is a PhD candidate in theatre historiography at the University of Minnesota. His research is on contemporary and historical Indigenous performance collaborations, legacies of settlement that continue to shape academic and cultural institutions, and the pedagogical potential of gardens. He is also a community-based theatre practitioner exploring the interplay between ecology and performance, previously collaborating with Tidy Villages (Cloneen, Ireland), Unlisted: Second Steel (Pittsburgh), Lac qui Parle Historical Society (Madison, Minnesota), Five Acres Farm (Coventry, England), and White Earth 4-H/White Earth Land Recovery Project (White Earth Nation, Minnesota). His ongoing collaboration with the communities of White Earth Nation is part of an effort to devise a community-based performance initiative and to envision what mutually beneficial fieldwork might look like. His written scholarship can be found in the journals Performance Research (2020), Theatre Topics (2021), Performance Philosophy (2021), and a chapter in the forthcoming book project Decolonizing Place Based Arts Research (M. Modeen, Ed).

Nathan R. Stenberg is a first-generation disabled artist, certified personal trainer, and scholar-activist from a low-income, single-parent family in rural Minnesota. He is interested in how the stories we tell about disabled people influence everything from depictions of disability in popular entertainment to policy decisions for the disability community in the United States. A current Leadership in Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (LEID) Fellow at the University of Minnesota, Nathan has received research support from numerous fellowships including the Erickson Graduate Fellowship in Law and History, the William F. Stout Fellowship, and the Diversity of Views & Experiences (DOVE) Fellowship. Dedicated to advocating for the disability community both locally and nationally, Nathan serves on the Board of Directors of, and as the Chair of the Research Committee for the Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance (PMPA). Nathan received his BA in Music from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2014, and his MDiv from Princeton Seminary in 2017. For more, visit Nathan’s personal website. 

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.

David Melendez is a scholar-maker in Theatre Arts and Dance. His doctoral work asks how to reckon with the history of the California missions—a still-bleeding colonial wound—without creating simplifying dualisms. He moves through Spanish missionary writings about California Indians during the struggle for Mexican Independence; an American’s translation of missionary history on the eve of the US-Mexico War; early 20th century theatrical productions in Southern California and on Broadway that joined the mission past to American history; and California Indian artist James Luna’s 21st century practices of channeling and fragmenting histories written about and by California Indians through installation and performance. David is also a writing consultant at the UMN Center for Writing and has taught classes in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies. Outside the UMN, he sits on Mixed Blood Theatre’s Latino Advisory Council and is a board member of Toot Productions.