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The Social Justice LLC

Monica Stufft, PhD

Associate Professor, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

Monica Stufft is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre where she teaches courses in Theatre and Performance Studies and is involved in production work, both as a director and dramaturg. Her specializations include popular culture, theatre historiography as well as cultural, gender, and performance theory. Her research focus is on the intersections of performance and pedagogy in the classroom with a particular interest in the theoretical and philosophical implications of collaboration and collaborative theatre making.


Monica Stufft received her B.A. in English and Theatre from Muhlenberg College, and her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her Level 1 Yoga Teacher Training Certification (YogaFit Worldwide Training Systems) in September 2015.

Scholarly and Creative Work

A jointly written critical pedagogy piece, “To Thrive: Social Justice Theatre on a Catholic Campus,” is appearing in the upcoming November 2015 special issue of Theatre Topics, “Theatre and/as Education.” In the dialogue, Monica, [along with Reid Davis (Saint Mary’s College of California), Peter Harrigan (St. Michael’s College), Marietta Hedges (Catholic University), Maya Roth (Georgetown University), and Christine Young (University of San Francisco)] discuss the challenges and rewards of producing vital and engaged, if somewhat controversial, theatrical work at six distinct Catholic institutions of higher education. We reflect on how we differently steward and experience courses on performance theory, our theatre activism, interactive theatre work, and theatre for social change, cognizant of how these interactions contribute to our schools’ respective Catholic identities and missions.

Dr. Stufft published an article entitled “Putting Collaboration Front and Center: Assessment Strategies for Theatre Departments” in the March 2013 issue of Theatre Topics in which she questions a focus on individuated modes of assessment in the field of theatre, details her development of collaboration based assessment tools, and shares insights from the implementation of those tools in the evaluation of collaboration during a production that she directed at USD.

Dr. Stufft also co-wrote an article with USD graduate Michael Frederick Ahmad entitled “Performances that Matter: Theory and Practice on a Catholic University Campus” for the spring 2011 volume of Ecumenica in which they explore two performance pieces Ahmad created while enrolled in Stufft’s Performance Studies course.

Monica is currently working on the theatrical adaptation of screenwriter/director Todd Berger’s indie film It’s a Disaster. The film received a national theatrical release and is currently available through Netflix and Amazon Prime. In this project, Monica is exploring, along with her co-writer/co-director/co-producer Dr. Kelly Rafferty, how to get potential audience members off of their couches and into a theater. We are using theatricality – engagement with a live audience, music, shared laughter, our presence in the same imperiled room – to intensify the audience’s engagement with the film’s themes and driving questions. Rather than simply taking the screenplay, which has six couples gathering for brunch at a friend’s house, and re-creating the same narrative on a traditional stage, we are instead aiming for something inherently theatrical, a live event you could not experience on film or television. The script, “It’s a Disaster: Live,” was completed over Monica’s sabbatical; we will be opening the premiere production in the Bay Area in early 2016.

Monica also recently went back to her performance roots, becoming a founding member of The Ukelady Janes, a Los Angeles-based (mostly) cover band made up of eight ukulele playing women (with occasional appearances by the glockenspiel, violin, shaky pineapple and banana, as well as, for our upcoming Ukelady-Eighties night in November, the accordion).

At USD, she most recently directed “TBD,” a collaboratively-devised theatre piece created from scratch by students enrolled in the Spring 2013 course, THEA 494: Collaborative Theatre Making. The show featured live music and explored how Disney princesses have shaped ideals as well as wants and needs by drawing from the personal stories of the participants. The students were interested in the journey to happily ever after, what it takes to get there, and in both celebrating and troubling the characters and narratives offered by Disney. In Spring 2016, she and her students in Collaborative Theatre Making will devise another “TBD” production, or what we are informally and affectionately referring to as “TBD 2: the return of TBD!™”

At USD, She has also directed Naomi Iizuka’s “ANON(ymous)” as well as Charles Mee’s “The Mail Order Bride” using collaborative theatre making methods. She has served as dramaturg on shows such as “Cabaret,” “An Experiment with An Air Pump,” “The Country Wife,” “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” “The Saint Plays,” “Picasso at the Lapin Agile," and “First Lady Suite.”

In addition to directing and dramaturging projects at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Stufft served as Assistant Director for numerous productions at the Aurora Theatre Company (Berkeley, CA), where she worked as a dramaturg and a member of the Directors Board for the Global Age Project. She has also been involved in projects at The Magic Theatre (San Francisco, CA) and at St. Mary's College (Moraga, CA).

Dr. Stufft is currently the co-chair for ATHE’s Professional Development’s subcommittee on Assessment with Jane Duncan. She recently served as the chair of the Collaborative Research Award Committee and as a member of the Domestic Exchange Program Committee of the American Society for Theatre Research, co-chaired the Performance and Pedagogy working group with Dr. Sruti Bala and sat on the board of Performance Studies international, and was the Membership and Finance Officer of the Susan Glaspell Society.

Teaching Interests

In all of her courses, Dr. Stufft focuses on the various relationships between the aesthetic and the everyday, the real and the represented, and between the self and the other. Her courses are designed to facilitate and highlight the active interchange between theory and practice, between scholar and artist. At USD, she offers undergraduate courses in Performance Studies, Theatre History, Contemporary Theatre, Acting 1 and Theatre & Society as well as the Special Topics course on Collaborative Theatre Making.