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.

Dotun Ayobade

Dotun Ayobade

Dotun Ayobade is a PhD student in the Performance at Public Practice (PPP) program and his research centers on the contribution and responses of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat performance to society and politics in Nigeria particularly between the 1970s and 90s. Therefore, his research borders around the intersections between Afrobeat music, Yoruba epistemology and political activism in Nigeria. Dotun is a Nigerian poet and playwright whose artistic interests are in the exploration of Yoruba indigenous performance aesthetics in addressing socio-political issues in contemporary Africa. He has written an anthology of unpublished poems and two plays, Ijapa and Shrouds in the Womb, both of which attempt to reimagine Yoruba mythologies and folklore in contemporary socio-political contexts. Dotun recently presented a paper titled “Poor Performances: Poverty and Survival in the Performances of Nigerian Standup Comedians” at the 2012 edition of The Toyin Falola Annual International Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora.

Scott Blackshire

Scott Blackshire

Scott Blackshire is a second year PhD student in the Performance as Public Practice program at The University of Texas at Austin, College of Fine Arts, and recently served as Co-Chair of the Engaging Research Committee for the 2013 Cohen New Works Festival.

His work examines the reality of artists’ lives, specifically as they emerge from academic programs into their post-baccalaureate creative community of choice. The way in which communities support artists – and allocate funds accordingly - is also important in order to capture maximum support from private and community–based sources, foundations, individual patrons, and corporate underwriters for emerging and established artists. Experiences and perspectives from the performing, professional, and non-profit worlds will support exploration of the identity of emerging artists. It will also enable 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 ready to welcome and 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 UK. He has enjoyed premiering new operatic works and presenting solo recitals. 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). While living in New York City he worked in the private sector, most notably as Managing Director of an international children’s charity, Sovann Komar, delivering housing and healthcare to abandoned and orphaned children in Cambodia. In Austin, performing has been balanced with management and development work in the non-profit, private foundation, and academic realms.

Samuel N. W. Blake

glasses and suit with a book

Samuel N. W. Blake is an artist/scholar/educator/activist, and an M.A. student in Performance as Public Practice. Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, Sam arrived at The University of Texas at Austin after living and working professionally in Chicago. While much of his theatre work has been as a director, he has also enjoyed being an actor, dramaturg, stage manager, sound designer, and lighting designer during his professional career. His most recent artistic work has been in devised theatre heavily influenced by the physical theatre teachings of Jacque Lecoq.

Sam’s research currently focuses on the queer youth theatre movement in the United States, with particular focus on how this movement facilitates queer youth to speak as authorities of their own experiences through performance. His other research interests include queer theatre and theory, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in prison programs, applied theatre, Lecoq physical theatre, and clown. Sam earned his B.A. from the University of Michigan with degrees in both drama and english, as well as a minor in British history. He graduated with the Dean Robertson Award for achievement of excellence in theatre. 

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.

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.

Natalie Goodnow

Natalie Goodnow is currently completing her M.F.A. in Performance as Public Practice. She is a nationally recognized theatre artist from Austin, Texas who creates and directs activist performance for stages, streets, and classrooms. Her solo play Mud Offerings was the 2011 winner of the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award and has been presented nationally at festivals and conferences in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and throughout Texas. Natalie collaborates with Texans United for Families, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and other local organizations to create performances and workshops in support of their campaigns. Natalie also serves as the Associate Director of In the Classroom Programs at Creative Action, where she directs interactive performance residencies that tour to local schools. Her thesis project, Conversation with an Apple: Play Development as Movement-Building Against Mass Incarceration, investigates if and how viewing and responding to drafts of this original solo play contributes to efforts to build a strong movement against mass incarceration in the United States, with a particular focus on the school-to-prison pipeline. Natalie is a 2014-2015 recipient of the American Association for University Women Career Development Grant. She holds a B.A. from Southwestern University where she majored in Theatre and minored in Spanish and Feminist Studies.

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.

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.

Chuyun Oh

Chuyun Oh

Chuyun Oh is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance as Public Practice (PPP) at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds an M.A. in Aesthetics and B.A. degrees in Philosophy and Dance from Ewha Womans University, South Korea. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, her research focuses on performance as a site of identity formation, including the (re)construction of race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity in a transnational context.

As a Fulbright scholar and an internationally award-winning artist, she has worked as a professional dancer, choreographer, critic, and cultural studies and performance studies scholar. She published two books on interdisciplinary arts sponsored by Korean Arts Counsel (2009), and has presented her performances worldwide, including Korea, Japan, Austria, Germany, and The United States.

Her recent articles have been published in an anthology entitled The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context (Palgrave, 2014) as well as in The Journal of Communication, Culture & Critique and the Journal of Fandom Studies (forthcoming, 2015). Her works have been presented at international and national conferences including Crossroads, NCA, ICA, PCA/ACA, ATHE, and CORD/SDHS.

Her academic research and performance portfolio are available at:

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. 

Gabrielle Randle

standing in front of a window with hand on shoulder

Gabrielle Randle is a theater director and non-profit professional who is passionate about social justice, storytelling and creative cultural exchange. She graduated from Stanford University in the Summer of 2009 with a dual degree in Drama and Sociology. She has directed and produced professionally across The United States, including Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York City (Off-Broadway). She has also created work internationally in South Africa, Uganda and Italy. Randle is an M.A. student in Performance as Public Practice at The University of Texas at Austin. Her current research interests include rhetoric of theatre for social change and performance ethnography as social justice.

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 currently serves as co-chair of the Executive Committee organizing the Hemi Graduate Student Initiative Convergence 2015, which will be held at The University of Texas at Austin next fall.

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.

Roén Salinas

Roen Salinas

Roén Salinas (M.F.A., Dance, UT/Austin) is currently a doctoral candidate in the U.T. Performance as Public Practice program with graduate portfolios in Mexican-American Studies and RGK Nonprofit Management and Philanthropic Studies. His research examines Southwest Borderlands identity and histories in American dance, with a focus on Chicana/o performance and barrio cultural production. Salinas has presented research for the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS), Texas Association of Chicana/os in Higher Education (TAChE), the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS), and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC). As dissertation research he coordinated the UT/Center for Mexican-American Studies and Department of Theater cosponsored symposium titled “Danzas: Siglo XXI: Modern Movimientos.”

A Tejano artist/scholar/citizen, Salinas is the artistic director/choreographer of Austin’s AZTLAN Dance Company, where he integrates research with practice to create thought-provoking Tejano/Xicano inspired dance that draws from pre-Columbian, folk, and contemporary forms. Roén is active in numerous public forums, boards, and initiatives that advocate the arts. He teaches Theater and Dance/CMAS cross listed undergraduate courses in Chicano Performance, Dance in Chicano Society, Latino Dance Rhythms, and Mexican-American Public Performance.

Beliza Torres Narvåez

Beliza Torres Narvåez

Beliza Torres Narvåez, an artist/scholar/educator from Puerto Rico, is currently a PhD Candidate in PPP. Her dissertation analyzes how Latina performers delineate the emotional and political dimensions behind the constructions of fatness as undesirable, and its relationship to ethnicity, race and gender. Other scholarly research focuses on AfroLatina/o performers, radical street performance, masculinity, performance-as-research, and applied theatre. She has taught movement, acting, applied theatre, theatre appreciation and humanities at the college level, and has trained teachers on how to integrate theatre to the regular curriculum. She has worked with different organizations developing and facilitating programs for youth that integrates techniques of drama therapy, theatre and pedagogy of the oppressed and education for peace to support the development of communication and social skills in order to promote and practice personal growth, solidarity, unity-in-diversity, equality and justice. As a performer, Beliza has developed a number of solo performances, and also collaborated with other artists exploring identity, sexuality, time and public space.

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.