Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Bud Coleman

Second Advisor

Melinda Barlow

Third Advisor

Amanda Giguere

Fourth Advisor

Oliver Gerland

Fifth Advisor

Amma G.. Kootin

Abstract

Tim Miller is known primarily as a solo performance artist and political activist. What is less known and understood is his teaching career, which has paralleled his performance career. Miller has facilitated performance creation workshops in hundreds of universities and community centers around the globe. Along with thousands of other participants, I have found them to be rich and profound experiences on scholarly, aesthetic and emotional levels. I argue that his educational work has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on individuals within the fields of theatre and performance studies and beyond.

Miller’s history as a solo performer and activist, his own statements about his pedagogy, and my observations as a workshop participant suggest a series of guiding questions for this study. What techniques does Miller employ to engage with and empower the voices and embodied experiences of the individuals that participate in his workshops? How do the methods of these workshops relate to Miller’s work as a solo performer and as an activist with ACT UP? At its most basic level, this study documents Miller’s teaching work in a variety of higher education workshop and performance contexts, investigates the structure and methodology of Miller’s workshop techniques, and identifies what characteristics the workshops share and how they differ, based on the contexts in which they occur.

I conducted thirty-seven oral history interviews with workshop participants in four residencies and case studies, the organizing faculty members, and Miller himself as the primary source material for this study. As an analytical frame, I identified six categories of inquiry: the body as memoir of personal and family history; the performance of self as an act of claiming individual identity; the immediacy of the personal narratives generated; the minimal performance style most suited to it; the relationship between these workshops and the goals and curricula of the universities and colleges where Miller most frequently teaches; and the importance of Miller’s generosity as facilitator and his faith in the capacity for each group he works with to tell powerful, beautiful, and necessary stories of their own lives.

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