The mission of the UNI Interpreters Theatre program is to offer students opportunities to learn about performance through their participation in the creation, direction, performance and production of scripts based on social and cultural issues, oral histories, ethnographies and traditional performances of literature.
Our students actively participate in the process of staging Interpreters Theatre productions. They work as writers, adapters, directors, actors, technical directors, designers, carpenters, electricians, costumers, makeup artists and props persons, creating the environments in which we stage our productions.
One goal of the Performance Studies program at UNI is to make our courses and the Interpreters Theatre and SAVE programs viable options for all students regardless of their major areas of study. With that goal in mind, we develop courses and present performances that emphasize culture, oral history, and social change.
The on-campus Interpreters Theatre program began in 1976, when the former Words and Voices program was redirected into primary emphasis on group performance of literature. Today our curricular and production emphases are on the exploration of contemporary and evolving forms of group performance, based on scripts from a variety of texts, including fiction, oral history, diaries, and folklore.
In the mid 1990s, the Iowa Board of Regents designated Lang Hall, the oldest building on campus, for a complete renovation. The Department of Communication Studies was then selected to be the “anchor’ academic department in the building following its renovation. As a part of the renovation process, designated spaces for brand new state of the art Interpreters Theatre production facilities were included in the Lang Hall design.
Our new production spaces, completed in 2001 and located on the ground floor of Lang Hall, include a black box theatre for staging performances, a state of the art technical booth, a fully equipped scene shop for storage and construction of sets, a green room, and a makeup and costume changing room.
In addition, the program was provided with state of the art lighting, audio and multimedia equipment, scene shop hand and power tools, and audience risers and chairs to further facilitate our work. These spaces and equipment provide all the furnishings we need to do exceptional work in the areas of research and creative work.
Factors such as these state of the art designated spaces for Performance Studies production, our Performance Studies faculty, and the quality of the Performance Studies undergraduate and graduate classes we offer make our production program one of the finest in the country.
FACULTY IN THE INTERPRETERS THEATRE
Dr. Danielle Dick McGeough, Artistic Director
Dr. Danielle Dick McGeough (Ph.D.; Louisiana State University; 2011) is interested in how performance, as a mode of communication, is used for collaborative problem solving, community building, and advocacy work. She has written productions around issues of "throw away culture," waste, and water quality. Dr. McGeough is fascinated by how everyday life performances (i.e., routine family storytelling or bathroom practices) maintain, reproduce, and challenge cultural norms. Her other research interests span the topics of adolescent sexuality and desire, critical pedagogy, the relationship between art and science, and gendered/sexed communication. Dr. McGeough hopes to help students cultivate curiosity and find joy in the learning process. She views the theatre as a classroom and a laboratory for students to research, play, experiment, and learn about themselves and others.
Dr. Paul Siddens, Designer and Technical Director
Dr. Paul Siddens (Ph.D.; Southern Illinois University; 1989) is a Professor of Communication Studies and Department Head at the University of Northern Iowa, where he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the analysis and performance of literary and other texts, scripting and directing for the stage, history and criticism of graphic novels and comic books, film analysis and criticism, human communication and technology, and interpersonal and nonverbal communication. He is a Producer and Faculty Designer and Technical Director for the UNI Interpreters Theatre, and has been active in professional, educational and community theatre throughout the Midwest for over forty years. He has owned and operated his own theatre and multi-media production company, and also has professional experience in 16mm film and video production, including cinematography, film editing and audio production.
Dr. Siddens is professionally trained and experienced in virtually all aspects of technical theatre including technical direction; scenic, lighting, audio and makeup design; scenic and properties construction; setting and focusing lights; and audio and multimedia engineering. He is also experienced as an arts administrator, producer, director, playwright, editor and adapter, and actor.
Dr. Siddens’ pedagogical style in all his classes centers round relating course theories and concepts to the everyday lives and experiences of his students, providing them with ways to interpret and understand the world around them. The influence of performance and drama in our everyday lives plays a large part in this process.
Dr. Karen Mitchell, Emerita Producer
Dr. Karen Mitchell (Ph.D.; Louisiana State University, 1990) came to UNI in 1991 and will be retiring in 2021. She is a professor of communication studies, the Artistic Director of UNI Interpreters Theatre, and the founding director of SAVE (Students Against a Violent Environment) Forum Actors. In addition to creative work, Dr. Mitchell's publications appear in Text and Performance Quarterly, Theatre Topics, Communication Education, and Violence Against Women. She co-edited a special issue of Text and Performance Quarterly on Performance and Citizenship in 2009 and is a recipient of the Iowa Regents Award for Faculty excellence.
In her thirty years of teaching, eleven of which were devoted to teaching high school students, Dr. Mitchell has honed a pedagogical style that emphasizes experiential learning, creative performance work, collaborative problem solving, community building, and social justice action. She is a former president of the organization Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed and is an active member in the Performance Studies division of the National Communication Association.
Ryan Courtney, Production Coordinator
Ryan Courtney (M.A.; University of Northern Iowa; 2017) is the Production Coordinator for the Interpreters Theatre. He has worked with the Interp since he was an undergraduate student in a variety of roles both on and off the stage. His research is focused on shining a light on the problematic language and behaviors that are often considered "normal" in modern society. His most recent work highlighted connections between masculinity and violence in U.S. culture and challenged audiences to reflect on the role they play in shaping gender roles through talkback sessions after each performance. Ryan is also interested in exploring the topics of race, social class, and our growing use of technology in an increasingly digital age.
Ryan is a member of the Communication Studies Department at UNI, where he teaches courses in public speaking, college writing and research, and community engagement. As an educator, he works to help his students find their voice by giving them the tools and skills they need to advocate for the issues that are most important to them. Beyond teaching, Ryan also enjoys playing and listening to music, watching movies, writing, and spending time with his fiance and dog.
Dr. Phyllis Scott Carlin, Emerita Founder
Dr. Phyllis Scott Carlin (Ph.D; Southern Illinois University; 1976) is a professor emeritus of communication studies at the University of Northern Iowa. She teaches courses in cultural performance, qualitative research (ethnography and oral history), conversation and discourse analysis, community and communication, and performance as social action. An active member of the National Communication Association, she has served as the secretary and as an executive board member of the Performance Studies division, and has served on the editorial boards of Text and Performance Quarterly, Central States Communication Journal, and Literature in Performance.
Her current research focuses on disaster narrative, environment and social change, including the relationship of expressive communication and place, and the creation of community. Recently her research on Disaster Narrative Performance appeared in a Text and Performance Quarterly co-authored essay (January, 2012). Her creative work includes a touring production of James Hearst’s farm poetry, which was sponsored by a grant from the Iowa Humanities Board. She completed ethnographic photography/video and qualitative research on rural women for the American Folklife Festival and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C). Other published research includes an article on rural women’s narrative in The Future of Performance Studies: Visions and Revisions, an article on farm crisis narratives in Culture, Performance and Identity, and an essay on evolving changes in performance studies in Renewal and Revision: The Future of Interpretation. She has also conducted research with hospice volunteers, published in Texts and Identities. In 2002, she was guest editor of an Iowa Communication Journal special issue on the topic of performance, communication, and ethnography. Her current research focuses on disaster narrative, environment and social change, the relationship of expressive communication and place, and creation of community. She is developing an ongoing project "Performing Place: Story, Community, and Environment to engage students and researchers with social issues and local/global communities in collaborative application of research in communication and performance studies. She has presented her research at conferences, including the International Qualitative Research (Canada), National Communication Association, and the National Women’s Studies Association.
Dr. Carlin was the creator and director of the Interpreters Theatre program at UNI for 17 years (1976-1993), and initiated involvement of UNI students in scripts, productions, and curricula based upon folklore, oral history and ethnographic research, advocacy, and social action. These instructional themes continue in her current teaching and curriculum development projects.