Christian DuComb - Assistant Professor of English in the University Theater

Colgate Directory

Christian DuComb

Christian DuComb

Assistant Professor of Theater
University Theater, 226 Ryan Studio
p 315-228-7993
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.

Book Project

Haunted City: Three Centuries of Racial Impersonation in Philadelphia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017. In press.

Haunted City explores the history of blackface masking and other forms of racial impersonation in Philadelphia—as realized in street performance, festivity, theater, and graphic art—from the late eighteenth century through the present day.  The book focuses on select historical moments, such as the advent of the minstrel show in 1842-1843 and the ban on blackface in the Philadelphia Mummers Parade in 1964, when local performances of racial impersonation inflected regional, national, transnational, and global formations of race, gender, class, and ethnicity.  Through detailed analyses of performances of racial impersonation at key geographic sites in Philadelphia, such as Walnut Grove and City Hall, Haunted City argues that ghosts can and do appear through performance, materializing and re-presenting aspects of the past that remain stubbornly situated in place.


Book Chapters and Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
DuComb, Christian. “The Minstrel Wench and the Mummers Wench: A Performance Genealogy.” In Performing Utopia. Ed. Rachel Bowditch and Pegge Vissicaro. London: Seagull Books, 2017. pp. 155-191.

DuComb, Christian and *Jessica Benmen. “Flash Mobs, Violence, and the Turbulent Crowd.” Performance Research 19, no. 5 (November 2014): 34-40.

DuComb, Christian. “Staging Violence in Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Anodyne.” Theatre Journal 64, no. 2 (May 2012): 197-211.

DuComb, Christian. “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.

DuComb, Christian. “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.

*indicates student co-author

Book Reviews, Performance Reviews, and Encyclopedia Entries
DuComb, Christian. "Embarrassing the Audience." Review of Underground Railroad Game, written and performed by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard. Theater 46, no. 5 (October 2016).

DuComb, Christian. "Meschianza." In
The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Camden, NJ: Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, 2015.

DuComb, Christian. Review of Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, by Robin Bernstein. Theatre Journal 65.2 (May 2013): 295-296.

Selected Talks and Conference Presentations

Invited Talks
DuComb, Christian. Lead Panelist, “Perspective/Audience: Matters of Race in Viewing the Plays of August Wilson.” Syracuse Stage, co-sponsored by the Syracuse University Humanities Center, Fall 2014

DuComb, Christian. Guest Lecturer, Senior Seminar in Theatre. Brown University, Fall 2014

DuComb, Christian. Panelist, “New Works Symposium: Performance in Global Americas.” Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting, University of Cincinnati, Spring 2014

DuComb, Christian. "Facing East: The Theatre of David Henry Hwang." Wednesday@1:00 Lecture Series, Syracuse Stage, Spring 2014

Recent Conference Presentations
DuComb, Christian. "Rescripting Histoire de nègre at Colgate University."  Modern Language Association, Annual Convention, Austin, TX, Winter 2016.

DuComb, Christian. Co-convener, working group in Replotting the Politics of Performance.  American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Annual Conference, Portland, OR, Fall 2015.

DuComb, Christian. “Graphic Art, Black Performance, and Orientalism in Antebellum Philadelphia.” 
American Studies Association (ASA), Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2014

DuComb, Christian and *Jessica Benmen. “What’s New about Flash Mobs?”
Performance Studies International (PSi), Annual Conference, Stanford University, Summer 2013

DuComb, Christian. “Blackface Photography and Performance Remains”
Plenary Presentation, ASTR, Annual Conference, Nashville, TN, Fall 2012

*indicates student co-presenter

Teaching Experience

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).


It or Her, devised by Dead Genius Productions, 2006-2007
A Theatrical Rendering of the Modern Life of Karen B, devised by Dead Genius Productions, 2005
Substitution Chart
, devised by Dead Genius Productions, 2004

Histoire de nègre (staged reading), by Édouard Glissant and l'Institut Martiniquais d'études, ​2015
The Lacy Project, by Alena Smith (staged reading), 2012 
The Blind
, by Maurice Maeterlinck (assistant director), 2007
Apple of Discord
, by Alena Smith, 2003

Cipher, by Cory Hinkle, directed by Donya Washington, 2005
Accumulation Process, devised by Rick Henderson, 2005


  • Publication Subvention and Expense Grant, Colgate University Research Council, 2014-2015
  • Major Grant, Colgate University Arts Council, 2014-2015
  • Working Group Grant, Central New York Humanities Corridor, 2014-2015 
  • American Society for Theatre Research-Cambridge University Press Prize, 2012
  • Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award, Brown University,  2012
  • Dissertation Research Fellowship, American Society for Theatre Research, 2010
  • Short-Term Research Fellowship, Winterthur Museum and Library, 2010
  • Dissertation Fellowship, Brown University, 2009-2010
  • Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia/Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2009
  • 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
  • First-Year Graduate Fellowship, Brown University, 2005-2006
  • Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Thomas J. Watson Foundation, 2001-2002