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
Danielle Dick McGeough’s (Ph.D.; Louisiana State University; 2011) current research focuses on how performance is used for collaborative problem solving, community building and social justice work, specifically with regards to issues of waste and sanitation. Her research addressing how the urban poor have agitated for the right to defecate in public was published in Text and Performance Quarterly. In addition to her research on waste and sanitation, Dr. McGeough is interested in how bodies are implicated in various social and cultural practices, as well as 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.
Danielle Dick McGeough teaches courses in cultural performance, qualitative research, performance and social change, and storytelling. In addition to her teaching, Dr. McGeough works in the Interpreters Theatre, where she collaborates with students in devising ensemble performances. She views the theatre as a classroom and a laboratory for students to research, play, experiment, and learn about themselves and others.
Dr. McGeough has diverse interests ranging from performance studies, gender and communication, critical cultural studies, critical pedagogy, storytelling, environmental and health communication, body studies, popular culture and performance for social change. In addition to her academic interests, she likes to kayak, do yoga, lift weights, bike, eat, eat, eat, and spend time with her partner and puppy.
Dr. Paul Siddens, Designer and Technical Director
Paul Siddens (Ph.D.; Southern Illinois University; 1989) is a full professor, and Head of the Department of Communication Studies, at the University of Northern Iowa, where he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the analysis and performance of literature, scripting and directing literature for the stage, film analysis and criticism, human communication and technology, interpersonal and nonverbal communication, communication theory, and the basic communication course. He is a Producer and Faculty Designer and Technical Director for the UNI Interpreters Theatre, Performance Studies program, 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 multimedia production company, and also has professional experience in 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. Some of the productions he has worked on in these areas include: A Streetcar Named Desire, A View from the Bridge, The Chinese Nightingale, The Vagina Monologues, Extra-Curricular: A Novel of Rape on Campus, Grand Isle Stories, Barbie Undone, Beat: A Play on Words, Another Day in Paradise, In Real Life, and Brother Wolf.
Dr. Siddens is also professionally trained and experienced as an arts administrator, producer, director, playwright, editor and adapter, and actor. Some of the productions he has worked on in these areas include: Fahrenheit 451, Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Rhinocerous, A Day No Pigs Would Die, Tuck Everlasting, The Mad Dog Blues, Writing Against Your Text: Exploring the Self Through Original Texts, Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart, No Exit, The Inferno, and Strong Enough for a Woman, Gentle Enough for a Man.
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.
Amandajean Freking Nolte, Production Coordinator
Amandajean Freking Nolte (M.A.; University of Northern Iowa; 2007) is the director of the UNI SAVE (Students Against a Violent Environment) Forum Actors. Her work with SAVE began when she herself was a student at UNI and she continues to work with students to end gender based violence on our campus and in our communities. The group works to create interactive performances that challenge the audience to examine the assumptions we often make about both gender and sexuality. This social justice work is an ongoing project that is fueled by the passions she sees in her students.
With the Interpreters Theatre, Ms. Nolte also directs productions including beat. a play on words and Daddy’s Little Girl, a performance art piece that examines the rhetorical and performance functions of father/daughter public virginity pledges. Most recently her work with the theatre has been used to showcase the many facets of SAVE’s work on campus outside of the typical classroom venue.
As an instructor of communication studies at the University of Northern Iowa, she teaches courses in community and communication, performance studies, and oral communication. Ms. Nolte has particular interest in examining new student’s college experience, community development and performance, and gender and sexuality issues surrounding desire and loss. While much of her time is spent with her students, she also likes to find time to read books without bibliographies and to explore the Cedar Valley with her family.
Dr. Karen Mitchell, Emerita Producer
Karen Mitchell (Ph.D.; Louisiana State University, 1990) is a professor of communication studies at the University of Northern Iowa where she teaches courses in performance studies and critical communication pedagogy. She is the Artistic Director of UNI Interpreters Theatre, and the founding director of SAVE (Students Against a Violent Environment) Forum Actors. Her work with SAVE was originally part of a major grant to combat gender violence on campus, awarded to the UNI Women’s Studies program by the Department of Justice. In addition to SAVE, Dr. Mitchell also directs productions for UNI Interpreters Theatre. Her directorial work includes stage adaptations of novels (Extra-Curricular: A Novel of Rape on Campus by Anne Hasselbrack), investigations of popular cultural phenomenon (Barbie Undone), and hybrid works such as her ethnography of romance readers (The Rainbow Season: Romancing the Romance).
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.
In the fall of 2012 Dr. Mitchell received the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Distinguished Performance from the Performance Studies Division of the National Communication Association. This award recognizes teachers, scholars, and creative artists who have built lasting careers in the disciplines of Communication and Performance Studies that have been marked by consistent excellence and the highest quality of performance work.
Dr. Phyllis Scott Carlin, Emerita Founder
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.