Tag Archive for Katie Pearl

Theater Department Performs Socially-Distanced Fall Show, SLABBER

The Theater Department presented its fall show, SLABBER, Oct. 16–18 on the Center for the Arts green. The socially-distanced performances were open for groups of 48 audience members at a time.

Directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl, SLABBER introduced the audience to a group of enigmatic figures who have traveled to Wesleyan to diagnose their mysterious condition—one they have been suffering from for years. As they reveal their research, audience members are pulled deep into a fable of an outcast little girl, the history of Middletown, and a soap-cutting machine known only as the slabber.

This performance asked the Wesleyan community to consider notions of social and physical contamination, and whether it’s possible to come close to someone else without ever leaving your chair. Originally created by the interdisciplinary theater duo PearlDamour, the work was re-devised by the Wesleyan Student Ensemble, Here and Now, for the current socio-political moment.

Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)


Theater Department’s Interdisciplinary “Talk It Out” Focuses on Contagion and Pandemics

On Sept. 22, faculty, staff, and students gathered on Zoom for a "Talk It Out" that related to the Theater Department's upcoming production of SLABBER. Directed and created by Katie Pearl, assistant professor of theater, SLABBER is an open-air, interactive, socially distanced performance that brings viewers directly into the research and experiments of a group of people who are trying to identify a mysterious condition, known only as "slabber."

On Sept. 22, faculty, staff, and students gathered on Zoom for a “Talk It Out” that related to the Theater Department’s upcoming production of SLABBER. Directed and created by Katie Pearl, assistant professor of theater, SLABBER is an open-air, interactive, socially distanced performance that brings viewers directly into the research and experiments of a group of people who are trying to identify a mysterious condition, known only as “slabber.” The interdisciplinary conversation, titled “Dis/Ease: Contagion and Pandemics in Our World and Its Stories” was facilitated by Luna Mac-Williams ’22, pictured at top, center.


The SLABBER performance invites viewers to consider notions of social and physical contamination and asks whether it’s possible to come close to someone else across a great distance. During the “Talk It Out,” guest speakers Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology; and Anthony Hatch, associate professor of science in society, offered their insight on how pandemics and contagion play out in our world and in our stories. Participants discussed the topics of contagion and how concepts of “dirty/clean” are changing social constructs.


Cohan spoke about the idea of purification. “When biologists learned about the microbiome, we lost the idea that there was something pure about our bodies, and the more we can scrub ourselves of those nasty bacteria, the better our lives would be. And it turns out, now it’s the opposite,” he said. “How hard do you really want to scrub to make yourself pure? It would be a dangerous exercise, and nobody really knows how bad an idea that would be.”


Hatch, who worked as an HIV/AIDS educator in the 1990s and early 2000s, noted that scholars find repetitive themes with the emergence of new infectious epidemic and pandemic diseases. “It’s quite easy to vilify a particular group that you believe is responsible for what has happened. Now, we have the so-called ‘China virus,’ which is a racist ploy designed to take attention away from the lack of leadership and [terms of] providing testing, which should happen. We saw this in 1918. . . . This has happened with everything from AIDS to Zika, and now with the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . We’re asking, who’s bringing the infection, what’s the source of the infection, how do we prevent the infection?”


“There’s a word I want to drop into the conversation and that is stigma,” Pearl said. “I’m thinking back to that moment, in the beginning [of the pandemic], when you wouldn’t want to put a mask on because you wouldn’t want people to think you were sick. The stigma around dirtiness is so huge, it keeps us from putting on that external marker of protection, to protect you from other people, and that is what has taken us down. It’s the stigma.”

The discussion was sponsored by the Creative Campus Initiative, Office of Academic Affairs and the Theater Department.

The discussion was sponsored by the Creative Campus Initiative, Office of Academic Affairs, and the Theater Department. Theater Department “Talk It Outs” occur at least once a semester, and serve as a way to invite the larger Wesleyan community into an interdisciplinary, open conversation around the issues the productions are framing. SLABBER will be performed Oct. 16–18 on the Center for the Arts green, and will be open to 48 audience members each night.

Reserve your spot for a SLABBER performance here.

Theater Department Produces, Livestreams The Method Gun

method gun

The cast and crew of the Theater Department’s production of The Method Gun answered questions from the public following their livestreamed performance on May 2. Speaking (highlighted in yellow) is the show’s director Katie Pearl, assistant director of theater.

The shows must go on.

Rather than allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to force a final curtain call on theatrical productions, Wesleyan’s Theater Department pivoted to an online format. On May 1, and again on May 2, the department offered livestreamed performances of The Method Gun, featuring 10 student-actors.

A replay of the Saturday performance is available for viewing on The Method Gun @ Wes website.

After countless hours of line rehearsals, overcoming technical frustrations, and learning how to act and teach theater in a virtual world, show director and Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl breathed a sigh of relief during the Thursday night dress rehearsal.

“I almost can’t believe what we pulled off,” Pearl said. “It was super down-to-the-wire. We were cutting and rewriting scenes up until the last minute and wrestling with livestreaming software, but it all came together on Thursday. For the first time, it really worked. And all of us just wept afterwards. Because we’d made a thing. We’d transcended what felt like an impossible situation, and stayed committed to each other and the process to create something that really meant what we wanted it to mean.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

Pearl Creates MILTON, a Performance, Community Engagement Experience

miltonFrom Wisconsin to Massachusetts, Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl has visited five small American towns named Milton and developed a series of performances, each focused on (and performed in) a particular Milton.

Since 2012, Pearl and Lisa D’Amour—known collectively as PearlDamour—have led the performance and community engagement experiment.

In November 2019, PearlDamour released MILTON, a book that includes the full text of PearlDamour’s North Carolina performance, along with photos and excerpts from performances in Oregon and Massachusetts, and essay reflections on the process and practice of community-based art-making.

For more than 20 years, Obie-Award winning PearlDamour has pushed the boundaries of theatrical experience both inside and outside traditional theater spaces. PearlDamour’s work also includes the 8-hour performance installation How to Build a Forestinspired by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and devised for traditional theatre stages; and Lost in the Meadow, created for a 40-acre hillside at Longwood Botanical Gardens outside Philadelphia, exploring the short-sightedness of humans. They were honored with the Lee Reynolds Award in 2011 for How to Build a Forest, and with an Obie Award in 2003 for Nita and Zita.

This spring, Pearl is teaching the THEA 381 course Directing II.