Summer 2023 highlights from faculty, staff, and graduate students

August 11, 2023

Beyond the classroom, members of the TDPS community have been making their mark on stage, online, and in print over the past year. Read on to learn about some of their recent performances, publications, and accolades.

Nancy Carlin (Lecturer) played Ouiser in Steel Magnolias at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (directed by Elizabeth Carter) and Maria in Twelfth Night for the Marin Shakespeare Festival (directed by Bridgette Loriaux). In July, Nancy performed a scene for the San Francisco Playwrights Foundation Gala from one of three honored playwrights, Elana Dykewoman (in memoriam), from her play, How To Let Your Lover Die

Lena Chen (Graduate Student) was awarded a Pedantic Arts Residency and spent August 2023 in Pittsburgh, where she organized the festival WILDNESS with the AAPI artist collective JADED. She debuted Because Freedom, a series of banners inspired by Asian American literature, at Silver Eye Center for Photography and exhibited OnlyBans, a digital game about sex work and surveillance, at LIKELIKE. Her short documentary on Pittsburgh's Chinatown, The Last Mayor of Chinatown, debuted at the United States of Asian America Festival in May 2023 and will screen at the Heinz History Center in October 2023 for the Urban History Association's 10th Biennial Conference. We Lived in the Gaps Between the Stories, her project examining the experiences of abortion workers, was featured in Post 45 and will be restaged at University of California, Irvine in Fall 2023. As the recipient of a $15,000 Oakland Futures grant from The Center for Cultural Power, she will collaborate with fellow graduate student Evan Sakuma in 2023–24 on CELESTE, a workshop series and devised performance by a cohort of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders exploring sexuality, healing, and migration history in the East Bay.

Peet Cocke (Properties Director) is the assistant director of RENT, opening at Berkeley Playhouse in March 2024.

Laila Espinoza (Ph.D. Candidate) had the opportunity to travel to Ciudad Juárez this summer as a recipient of the CLAS Summer Research Award. She further developed her research on how local artists and the community perform radical acts of counter-mapping the city to denounce, protest, and refuse the silencing of ongoing feminicide and gender-based violence. This research project focuses on site-specific, public street memorials for the local artist and activist Isabel Cabanillas whose artwork, image, and symbols are present everywhere in the streets for several blocks on walls, electrical posts, and parking meters; all leading to the site of her fist and last mural.

Peter Glazer (Associate Professor) directed a sold-out staged reading of his play The Celestials at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in June 2023. Adapted from the novel by Karen Shepard, the play is based on the true story of 75 young Chinese laborers brought to the industrial city in 1870 to break a strike. Charged relationships develop between the immigrants and townspeople centering on foreman Charles Sing, factory owner Calvin Sampson, and his wife Julia, complicating an already tense situation. The cast of 14 brought together American and Chinese actors. The play was enthusiastically received.

Margo Hall (Continuing Lecturer) played the title role in Josephine’s Feast at Magic Theatre in August. The play follows a Black matriarch as she makes an audacious step into the future and foists her family into confronting change. Playwright Star Finch weighs issues of legacy, spirituality, and growth against the comedy and chaos of true-to-life family dynamics.

Shannon Jackson (Professor) published two books this past year, Back Stages: Essays on Art, Performance and Public Life and The Human Condition: Media Art from the Kramlich Collection. She also co-created two online platforms, MediaArt21 and Relevance of Place with Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana. Upon returning from sabbatical, Shannon was especially pleased to teach Ecological Aesthetics as well as a large course on Video Art that included lectures from major visiting artists, all available on YouTube. Shannon will now begin a three-year term as Department Chair for History of Art.

Roshanak Kheshti (Associate Professor) wrote a new research article, "Pocodisco: The sonic performativity of grief, grievance, and joy in diaspora," published in American Anthropologist. This article examines the intersection between diasporic melancholia, dance, and world music. These phenomena coalesce at postcolonial discos, or public gatherings where political movement takes the form of dance, sound, and eros. Focusing especially on the queer and feminist nature of these spaces and sounds, it explores how these artists/activist/curators work outside of institutional contexts as public media archaeologists who excavate and re-present sounds thought long lost to diasporic communities who occupy a precarious relationship to histories of belonging. These artists contribute to radical acts of space-making that are not merely fleeting and ephemeral events but instead participate in a legacy of the postcolonial disco, or acts of place-making with the potential for radical forms of diasporic and postcolonial belonging across space and time. 

SanSan Kwan (Professor & Department Chair) has won both a de la Torre Bueno Prize and an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for her book Love Dances: Loss and Mourning in Intercultural Collaboration

Megan Lowe (Program Associate / B.A. 2012) and her company, Megan Lowe Dances (MLD), were commissioned to create performances for de Young Museum, SF Trolley Dances, Eve (an opera at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre), Athletic Playground, Eastside Arts Alliance, Oakland Chinatown’s Lantern Festival, and Shawl-Anderson Dance Center. Her dance film with the Consulate General of Ireland premiered in Los Angeles and is now available online and on the airline Aer Lingus. HOME(in)STEAD, made in partnership with Johnny Huy Nguyen and 500 Capp Street, received an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Ensemble. The dance film version of HOME(in)STEAD premiered in the United States of Asian America Festival and CAAMFest, and has been officially selected by Contact Dance International Film Festival and San Souci Festival of Dance Cinema. Megan recently toured with Flyaway to Portland, and will be performing in Flyaway’s next production in October 2023. MLD’s 10th Anniversary Season will feature the premiere of Gathering Pieces of Peace, a dance theater work that explores mixed-race Asian American experiences, September 1–2 and 8–9 at ODC Theater in San Francisco.

Angela Marino (Associate Professor), along with TDPS alum Katherine Garcia, expanded the Critical Perspectives on Democracy and Media Lab at the Latinx Research Center to include 40+ participants and dozens of events. With working groups focused on “undoing imperialism” and “rethinking democracy” through Latinx perspectives in the American hemisphere, students traveled to Cuba and Venezuela to learn about participatory democracy and the communal state in site-specific performances. Future working groups include an Indigenous-led tribunal project on the Spanish missions in Central California in tandem with a theory course on performance and law taught by Marino in Fall 2023.

Ray Oppenheimer (Lecturer) is designing lighting for David Herrera Performance Company’s production of Orale! — “a magical and explosive contemporary dance experience of Latinx/e celebration.” Performances run September 7–9 at Z Space in San Francisco.

Vincente Perez (Ph.D. Candidate) released his debut poetry chapbook, Other Stories to Tell Ourselves, which “delivers the news that nothing in the world is final or natural."

Patrick Russell (Lecturer) taught two Fundamentals of Acting courses for the summer at Cal. He has also been busy teaching a series of summer conservatory classes for the Bay Area theater community including several current and former students of TDPS through his school, The Actors Space. Areas of focus have been Clowning, Movement, Dialects, and On-Camera Acting. He has also been directing a one-person show, The Great Gorbolski, for the San Francisco Fringe Festival. In the early summer, Patrick performed in the original full length play, The Bramford, for PlayGround SF, where he also serves as a company member.

Shannon Steen (Associate Professor) is delighted to have had a new book published. The Creativity Complex: Art, Tech, and the Seduction of an Idea came out with the University of Michigan Press in July 2023. She is also currently serving as the Associate Dean for Programs and Planning for the College of Letters and Science. In that role, she served as the chief architect of the new first-year Pathways Program, and this coming academic year will lead the design phase of the L&S Futures Project, which will determine the orientation and shape of undergraduate education for L&S outside of the majors. 

Rebecca Struch (Ph.D. Candidate) and Professor Angela Marino announce their co-authored article published with the Duke University Press journal Cultural Politics titled, “Building Popular Power from within and across Geopolitical Souths” (Issue 19.3, 2023) based on the Performance and Populism conference proceedings that they co-organized together two years ago. The article will be published in both English and Spanish. 

Latanya d. Tigner (Continuing Lecturer) had the profound opportunity to serve, witness and learn in community with some of the world's most renowned Africana dance scholars and practitioners. Latanya kicked off the inaugural Intangible Roots Professional Development Intensive held at USC for Hip-Hop dance instructors, offering her Here We Go Again workshop. She completed NDEO’s Hip-Hop History and Heritage online class, taught by Hip-Hop scholar and culture bearer Moncell Durden. Latanya rounded out the height of her summer learning at New Waves! 2023 Dance Intensive in Trinidad, where she experienced the deep, deep wisdom of sacred Caribbean dance traditions and their contemporary iterations, and assisted her mentor Thomas Presto (Talawa Technique) during his Revitalizing the Ghost workshop.

Lisa Wymore (Professor) was invited to the University of San Francisco, in Ecuador to set a new improvisational dance on the contemporary dance company Talvez. The new work is entitled Perder la conexión con nuestras historias (losing connection to our stories). During the academic year 2022-23, Prof. Wymore worked on a cross campus project entitled "A Year on Angel Island" in collaboration with Susan Moffat from the Future Histories Lab. The project involved a series of music and dance performances, exhibitions, public conversations, and affiliated courses using Angel Island’s historic immigration station as a jumping-off point for discussion about race in America, global migration, and architectures of incarceration.