Christian DuComb is assistant professor of Theater
at Colgate University. He has previously taught at Haverford College and Brown University, where he received his Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies in 2012. His current research focuses on the history of racial impersonation in Philadelphia, and his teaching interests include theater history, dramatic literature, and performance studies.
All students of theater must learn to read plays as living texts, continuously reinvented through historically and culturally specific practices of theatrical performance. As a teacher, I endeavor not only to help my students grow as scholars and artists but also to broaden their vision of what theater can be. I design my courses to probe the boundaries of theater as an art form, and I select readings that emphasize race, gender, class, and sexual identity as vital themes in the study of theater and performance.
Theater has a paradoxical capacity to highlight human differences while also exposing those differences as constructed and artificial, and this paradox animates my teaching interests in theater history, dramatic literature and criticism, and performance studies.
By using a range of pedagogical techniques—including group projects, student presentations, course blogs, performance exercises, and excursions to see live theater—I strive to foster an inclusive learning environment in which students of all backgrounds and learning styles are encouraged to participate.
Courses taught at Colgate include Introduction to Drama (THEA/ENGL 266), Modern Drama (THEA/ENGL 267), Global Theater (THEA/ENGL 349), American Theater: The Melting Pot (THEA/ENGL 351), Carnival in Performance (FSEM 163), and Challenges of Modernity (CORE 152).
Haunted City: Three Centuries of Racial Impersonation in Philadelphia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017.
Traces the deep roots of Philadelphia’s annual Mummers Parade and the city’s history of blackface masking and other forms of racial impersonation
“A persuasive blend of theory and archival research, combined with the author’s own ethnographic investigations . . . Haunted City illuminates the history of the community's engagement with racial performance in a way that no other works have done on this same comprehensive scale.”
—Heather Nathans, Tufts University
“DuComb draws not only on scholarly and primary materials, but also on his own experiences as a member of a Mummers club . . . Haunted City is a fresh and well-executed look at the American tradition of racial impersonation, grounded in thorough, original discovery research.”
—Susan G. Davis, University of Illinois
DuComb, Christian and *Jessica Benmen. “Flash Mobs, Violence, and the Turbulent Crowd.” Performance Research 19, no. 5 (November 2014): 34-40.
*indicates student co-author
“Staging Violence in Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Anodyne.” Theatre Journal 64, no. 2 (May 2012): 197-211.
“Present-Day Kutiyattam: G. Venu’s Radical and Reactionary Sanskrit Theatre.” TDR: The Drama Review 51, no. 3 (Fall 2007): 98-117. Winning entry, 2006 TDR Student Essay Contest.
Chapters in Edited Collections
“The Wenches of the Philadelphia Mummers Parade: A Performance Genealogy.” In Performing Utopia. Ed. Rachel Bowditch and Pegge Vissicaro. London: Seagull Books, 2017. 155-191.
“The Politics of Fetal Display.” In The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens. Ed. T. Christine Jespersen, Alicita Rodríguez, and Joseph Starr. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. 176-188.
“Embarrassing the Audience.” Review of Underground Railroad Game, written and performed by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard. Theater 46, no. 3 (October 2016): 104-110.
Review of Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, by Robin Bernstein. Theatre Journal 65, no. 2 (May 2013): 295-296.
“Mummers.” In The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Camden, NJ: Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, 2016. http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org.
“Meschianza.” In The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Camden, NJ: Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, 2015. http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org.
Selected Talks and Conference Presentations
“Parade Time.” Division of Arts and Humanities Colloquium, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY. April 11, 2017.
“Place and Displacement: Staging Diverse Cultural Geographies in American Theatre.” Chair and Panelist. Syracuse Stage, Syracuse, NY. January 29, 2017.
“Re-scripting Histoire de nègre at Colgate University.” Modern Language Association, Annual Convention, Austin, TX. January 8, 2016.
“Graphic Art, Black Performance, and Orientalism in Antebellum Philadelphia.” American Studies Association, Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA. November 9, 2014.
“New Works Symposium: Performance in Global Americas.” Panelist. Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. April 24, 2014.
“What’s New about Flash Mobs?” Co-presented with student co-author, Jessica Benmen. Performance Studies International, Conference 19, Stanford University, Stanford, CA. June 27, 2013.
“Blackface Photography and Performance Remains.” Plenary Paper. American Society for Theatre Research, Annual Conference, Nashville, TN. November 2, 2012.
Major Grants and Fellowships
Working Group Grant, Central New York Humanities Corridor, 2014-2017. Co-awarded to Mary Simonson (Colgate) and Amanda Eubanks Winkler (Syracuse)
Dissertation Research Fellowship, American Society for Theatre Research, 2010
Short-Term Research Fellowship, Winterthur Museum and Library, Winterthur, DE, 2010
Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia and Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Thomas J. Watson Foundation, 2001-2002
Colgate Arts Council, 2017-2018. Performance and symposium on the Wakefield Second Shepherds’ Play. Co-awarded to Lynn Staley and Susan Cerasano.
Colgate Arts Council, 2016-2017. Workshops, class visits, and performance of One Way Red by Dani Solomon ’13.
Kallgren Travel Grant, Colgate Faculty Development Council, 2016. Travel to Hong Kong to research heritage, media, and the performing arts with Padma Kaimal, Ani Maitra, Wenhua Shi, and Mary Simonson.
Publication Subvention and Expense Grants, Colgate Research Council, 2014-2015. Funding for Haunted City: Three Centuries of Racial Impersonation in Philadelphia.
Colgate Arts Council, 2014-2015. Staged reading and roundtable discussion on a new English-language translation of Édouard Glissant’s play Histoire de nègre. Co-awarded to Mahadevi Ramakrishnan.
Honors, Awards, and Prizes
Cambridge University Press Prize, American Society for Theatre Research, 2012
Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award, Brown University, 2012
Graduate Student Essay Award, Theory and Criticism Focus Group, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, 2009
Student Essay Contest Winner, TDR: The Drama Review, 2006