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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tufts Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies wins multiple ASTR awards

The Aidekman Arts Center is pictured on Sept. 23, 2021.

Several members of the Tufts Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies were recognized in this year’s American Society for Theatre Research awards. Among this year’s winners are two faculty members and three alumni.

ASTR is a U.S.-based professional organization that seeks to promote and celebrate scholarship and research in theater and performance studies. It hosts a four-day annual conference where theater professors and academics from across the globe present some of their work, including research and published books.

Noe Montez, chair of the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies is a recipient of an honorable mention for the ASTR Translation Prize, a prize given to the best english translation of a non-english theatrical work.

Montez, along with a few other collaborators, edited a book titled “‘Nothing to Do With Love:’ and Other Plays,” (2022) written by Santiago Loza. The play, originally written in Spanish, explores the lives of marginalized Argentinians affected by economic hardships and the country’s changing attitudes on race and sexuality. 

Montez reflected on the department’s outstanding records in the ASTR awards, a gesture of the department’s excellence and competency across the nation.

“Tufts has, for 40 or 50 years now, … one of the preeminent Ph.D. programs in theatre and performance studies in the United States,” Montez said. “Historically, many faculty members at Tufts have won the field’s Distinguished Scholar Award and many of our faculty and students have won book prizes, article prizes, grants [and] fellowships from the organization. We are one of the elite theater and performance studies graduate programs in the United States.”

Following the end of the ASTR conference, held in November in New Orleans, Montez embarked on his term as the organization’s vice president for publications. His roles include negotiating the rights contract for the organization’s academic journal and acting as a liaison between scholars and editors at university presses.

“It's an honor to be recognized by the field as someone who they trust to champion the scholarship that the field is producing,” Montez said. “What I’d like to see is a greater diversity of scholarship on theater and performance studies. So, I want to work with publishers to make sure that we're producing more work that's driven by a scholarship centered in … other areas of the globe, where theater and performance scholarship is oftentimes underrepresented.”

Kareem Khubchandani, associate professor of theatre and performance studies, was awarded with an honorable mention in the Sally Banes Publication Prize for Best Book in Dance Studies. According to Khubchandani, the award affirms the importance of dance.

“[The] award … acknowledges that as we study theater and performance, that dance is an important part of that story,” Khubchandani said. “When we think about stage performance … dance often gets left out of the story of theater. And so, this award at this theater conference is really trying to lift dance up.”

Khubchandani’s book, titled “Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife” (2020), explores queer nightlife in Chicago and Bangalore. In the book, he argues that nightclubs are places of globalization, where people of significant diverse backgrounds interact.

 “The way that we talk about nightclubs is usually that they're sites of escape, and we're running away from the reality of the everyday,” Khubchandani explained. “By teaching people that they're about globalization, it actually integrates nightclubs into processes that are not about escape but are really about material circumstances of economy and survival and colonialism, even while they're also about joy and pleasure and fantasy.”

Tufts alum Dassia Posner (Ph.D. ’07), associate professor of theatre and Slavic languages and literature at Northwestern University, was awarded the ASTR Translation Prize in collaboration with two other colleagues, for their work in “Three Loves for Three Oranges: Gozzi, Meyerhold, Prokofiev” (2021). 

In addition to making ideas and humor within plays more accessible to the public, Posner sees her work as a translator necessary to move away from Western centrism in theatrical arts.

“Winning the Translation Award specifically is really important to me because I think that the most important way to increase global understanding and to move away from Anglo-centric and U.S.-centric perspectives in the theater is for there to be more translation,” Posner said. 

Danielle Rosvally (Ph.D. ‘16) won the ASTR Collaborative Research Award to fund a project titled, “Yassified Shakespeare: Gender Performance and Critical Shax-Drag” along with colleague Trevor Boffone.

Daphne Lei (Ph.D. ‘99), a Tufts alum and professor at UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, won the ASTR Distinguished Scholar Award, making her the first Asian-American scholar to get this recognition in ASTR’s 60-year history.  

“For me, this award is the highest honor of my profession and I’m truly humbled by this recognition,” Lei wrote in an email to the Daily. “I’m also extremely happy that the academic field finally recognizes the value of Asian and Asian American theater.”

Montez explained that theatrical arts cut across multiple societal domains.

“[When] most people think about theater, dance and performance studies, they probably are thinking about performing in plays or musicals or dance concerts,” Montez said. “And that's an important part of the work that we do, but it's not the only work that we do. Really, what we do as a department is specialize in illuminating how social and cultural formations like gender and race and indigeneity, ethnicity, sexuality, colonization, class; … those inform performances both on and off stage.”