Stepan Atamian - TAPS/Germanics

BA, Columbia University 2016
MA, UChicago 2019

I graduated from Columbia University in German Literature and Cultural History in 2016. As an undergraduate, I managed the university's opera company, and also worked as a programmer for two New York radio station’s weekly opera programs. I received my Master of Arts in the Humanities with a focus on Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago in 2019. My Masters thesis was on the Bayreuther Festspiele’s two most recent stagings of Wagner’s Meistersinger von Nürnberg that presented the opera in relation to its effective history.

My current interests include the operas of Richard Wagner and Strauss, German tragedy (especially those by Heinrich von Kleist and Hugo von Hofmannsthaal), and Brecht’s model of eplc theatre. More specifically, I am interested in further examining contemporary productions by German-based directors such as Thomas Ostermeier, Frank Castorf, and Barrie Kosky. In addition to my academic work, I work as an artist manager for a roster of international opera singers, conductors, and instrumentalists.


Catrin Dowd - TAPS/Music

BA, Yale 2015
MM, McGill University 2017

As a musicologist, I study the reception history of Baroque and Classical music, particularly during the twentieth century. My current and previous projects explore the growth of the “early music movement” during the Cold War era, and the long-term influence of the “court of miracles” legend (featured in Louis XIV’s Ballet de la Nuit and Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris) on urban reform in France. Other interests include music printing technologies, natural disasters, colonial manuscripts, South African arts, and the history of Roma(gypsies) in France.

As a bassist, I have enjoyed collaborating with composers, scientists, and playwrights, and playing at festivals such as Aspen, Moritzburg, and Lucerne.


Marissa Fenley - TAPS/English

BA, Lewis & Clark University 2013

I am currently a PhD student in both the English and Theater and Performance Studies departments. I build and play around with puppets as well as think about their literary and visual representation in theater, literature, television, and film.

My dissertation project takes account of both the mechanical and metaphorical modes that typically circumscribe the puppet as either a theatrical object or a metaphor of control. I am interested in the ways that the puppet, as a structured relation that moves between the material object, its aesthetic image, and its conceptual significance, allows us to see the point of interaction between the abstract workings of subjective experience and the mechanics (bodily, environmental or social) of its operations.

Marissa and her work were recently featured in the magazine of the Division of the Humanities, TABLEAU.


Arianna Gass - TAPS/English

BA, Vassar College 2013

I seek to undertake an analysis of complex emergent systems in digital literature, including interactive fiction, and networked narratives in the form of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). From both technical and creative perspectives, how do these texts build relationships between reader/players and the text, as well as players in communities? Within networked and programmable media, how does emergence, characterized by small-scale interactions over long periods of time, come to serve not just as metaphor, but as mechanic? In turn, how can this mechanic be used to connect, educate, and lead people to more meaningful aesthetic experiences? My inquiries draw from work in the fields of feminist and queer theory, game studies, and performance studies.

I am interested in how text-based games (developed through TADS, Inform, or Twine) have facilitated an active feminist resistance in online culture. Works by Zoë Quinn, Anna Anthropy, and Porpentine have precipitated an emergent misogynist metagame, Gamergate. This online movement sought to physically and emotionally harm female, trans, and gender non-conforming game designers and media critics. This cultural backlash against queer and feminist games makes their study increasingly important. I hope to draw on the audience-centered methodology of Gaming at the Edge (Shaw), which presents a methodology for examining how and why players play. Additionally, I believe that structuralist (Barthes) and post-structuralist (Fish, Derrida) literary theory can inform a reading of these texts and their communities, shedding light on the unit operations (Bogost) that drive these radical play spaces within the white, cis, hetero-patriarchy.


Varshini Narayanan - TAPS/Music

BA, Princeton 2016

As both an ethnomusicologist and a performing artist, I use music as a lens to explore questions of authenticity and belonging, drawing heavily on my background in Carnatic, jazz, choral, and operatic performance. My research focuses on the semiotics of musical performance and the interface between music and language, studying the (co)construction and expression of cultural identity through group improvisation and the interactions that take place between musician, ensemble, and audience, both offstage and on. My prior and ongoing projects explore the transmission and pedagogy of oral traditions, especially those that do not fit neatly into Eurocentric modes of transcription and analysis.


Clara Nizard - TAPS/English

BA, McGill University 2016
MFA, Royal Central School of Speech 2018

What is it to be together? What myths and fault-lines animate or trouble our capacities to exist with and across complex bonds? My research is chiefly concerned with modes of gathering which experiment kin and kithship. Knotting together queer, psychoanalytical and aesthetic theories, I focus on texts (performances) foregrounding messy relations, intertwined bodies and affective archives. I seek to seize something of relations and unpick their textualization(s) through a combination of writing and body-based work, integrating a methodological reflexivity to my research.


Eva Pensis - TAPS/Music

BM, University of Southern California 2016

My work concerns the space between queer nightlife, survival economies, and popular culture. I'm interested in performances of femininity—on the stage and in the street—across the 20th and 21st centuries with attention to how disreputable femininities (trans, Black, fat, poor, street, and 'freak' femininities) are produced and represented in distinction to respectable femininity. These are performances of femininity from a distance, that 'get by' some way, somehow, often in genres of performance historically criticized by feminist perspectives. My current project examines the contributions of street queens and trans women to LGBTQ cultural formations, particularly as they go unrecognized in both academic accounts of gay history and in pop culture's appropriations.


Sharvari Sastry - TAPS/South Asian Languages & Civilizations

BA, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai 2009
MA, Manipal University, Manipal 2014

Sharvari Sastry is a PhD Candidate in the departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and Theater and Performance Studies. Her dissertation research focuses on the ethics and aesthetics of performance preservation in the modern and contemporary Indian context. She explores these issues primarily with reference to tamasha and lavani, performance forms of Maharashtra in Western India, examining how attempts to preserve these so-called “folk” forms negotiate issues of caste, class and gender. Her dissertation project draws from archival and ethnographic sources, and hopes to reflect on the ruptures between collaboration & appropriation, documentation & museumization, recording & memory, performance & archives. Prior to starting graduate school, Sharvari worked as an administrator, editor and amateur archivist with various theatre companies in Bombay.


Michael Stablein, Jr. - TAPS/English

BFA, Florida State University 2008
MFA, Columbia University 2016

In performance and on paper, my work is a sideways look at the social, literary, aesthetic, and political performances of straight white men in America and the circuits of violence and aggression in which they are often found. I endeavor to see them as a new queer subject.

The research is at the intersection of queer theory, affect theory, and performance studies. Focusing on various theories of performative subject formation, I am examining affective points of paralysis resistant to ethical responsibility and perceived senses of marginalization experienced by privileged bodies. Analyzing coming-of-age literature, adolescent game-play, and cultural formation—the work isolates commonplace social rehearsals where the banal or quotidian performances of everyday life conceal inherent violence, repression, and the queer erotics concomitantly produced.

Viewing the performances of straight white men as a queer performativity, I am crafting a different relation to ethical responsibility—an analysis that is as problematically reparative as it is a rigorously critical application of queer theory to performances of violence that are also often the performances of stigma and shame.


Sila Ulug - TAPS/Art History

BA, Hunter College 2016
MA, Hunter College 2018

I aim to engage the theoretical and practical aspects of ‘performance’ in the art world as they facilitate the development of social structures and facts in academic, non-profit, and commercial spaces. My inquiries are both written and performed, while primarily conceptual. I look to ‘physical theater’, social media, and virtual realities to inform the methodologies I use to communicate my thought. Gamification, sociological theory, and moral philosophy are subsidiary components that inform my intellectual program.