2020 Thesis Project Festival

By Kara Hankard


The second year MBU MLITT students presented abstracts for their theses on Monday, November 2nd 2020. The professors and presenters beautifully reimagined the event to support COVID-safety. Only professors and current Shakespeare & Performance graduate students attended in person this year, due to pandemic restrictions, which made the in-person event more intimate and exclusive than years past. Presenters had the option to present in-person or via zoom. All in-person presenters sanitized the podium before and after use and in-person attendees sat 6-feet apart wearing masks. A Facebook Live event set up allowed more overall attendees than previously possible. Dr. Menzer stressed the importance of the audience connection to the presentation by stating “without perception, without reception, scholarship does not make a sound.” Dr. Cohen set the audience up for excitement by sharing his silver lining of this year’s challenges to students, stating that “the work is better than ever.”

This was my first year attending a thesis festival and I was blown away by the variety of subjects and research styles showcased. As a first year MLITT student, I foolishly hoped that this presentation would help narrow down my thesis topic ideas, but instead I found myself inspired to wander down many more research rabbit holes. These phenomenal presentations opened up even more possibilities for thesis topics, inspiring me by showing that no topic was too niche, multiple research methods can be incorporated into each topic, and no two presentations look the same.

It was especially exciting to see how the second year students were incorporating knowledge from previous classes in their presentations. As a student enrolled in Dr. Menzer’s  Research methods class at the time, I was especially tickled seeing the methods I was learning about from Dr. Menzer’s class spann a variety of research methods. From my Language in Performance class with Dr. Cohen, I noticed many presenters using rhetorical devices to keep the audience engaged and to simply the meaning of their complex academic research. I caught myself connecting most with the presentations where the presenters used humor to connect with the audience as well as when they openly shared their enthusiasm for the topic, which reminded me of articles I read for my Rush Towards Embarrassment, clowning class, taught by Professor Kate Norris.

Many presenters cited favorite sources from their research, which made me excited to make use of our fantastic research librarians as well as wish for unlimited time to spend buried in books and documents. I found myself chomping at the bit to dive into our pedagogy course so I can learn to present my research in the most clear, informative, and entertaining manner possible.

Thank you to all presenters for sharing your knowledge and inspiring find more things to love and more questions to ask.


Session One: Staging, Education, and Accessibility

  • Tim Briggs (virtually) – “He that thou knowest thine”: Accessibility and Impact in Producing Queer Hamlet
  • Hannah “Rock” Roccisano (virtually) – Fight Like a Girl
  • Thomas K Prater – The Purpose of Play: A New Old Way to Work
  • Robert Gotschall – Extempore: Teaching Shakespeare with Theatrical Games


Session Two: Theatre, History, and Theatre History

  • Victoria R. Wamsley – “Beautifying Physic”: Exploring Female Self-Creation in Early Modern England
  • Callie Banholzer – BEWARE OF DOG: An Examination of Supernatural Dogs in Early Modern Theatre
  • Crystal Fleshman – Black Cats Scurrying Through the Classes: A School of Supernatural Beliefs in Early Modern England
  • Alexandra E. LaGrand – “From the text of Shakspeare”: William Charles Macready, King Lear, and the Theatrical Antiquarianism of Locrine

Session Three: Theory and Theology

  • William Kyle Whitlock III – Better Out Than In: The Exile Narrative and Pastoral Tradition in Shakespeare
  • Hessy Sanders – A Spectator’s Theater: Brecht and Shakespeare on the Twenty-First Century Stage
  • Micaela Harmon – “That I Might Call Her Mine”: Lesbian Appropriations of Romeo and Juliet
  • Jude Van De Voorde – Measure for Measure and Bartholomew Fair, the City of God Comedies


Session Four: Directing, Dramaturgy, and Text

  • Amy Kimbrough – The Good, The Bad, and the Folio
  • Amber James – “Failure is an Event”: The Romance of Shakespeare in Prisons Literature
  • Amy E. Ippolito – Soliloquies for the Soul: Looking for Human Connection in Richard III
  • Haley Davis – Unsex Me Here: An Exploration and Prescription of Directing Women in Shakespeare’s Male Roles


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