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ABOUT ME

Career

I am a theatre artist and educator with many years experience in directing, performance, writing (playwriting and scholarship), editing, and arts management, both in academic and non-academic settings.

 

As of this writing (10/18/21), I am currently serving as a Faculty Lecturer at the Ohio State University, where I completed my PhD in Theatre Performance, History, and Theory, with an additional G.I.S. in Disability Studies. I am proud to have recently published At the Intersection of Disability and Drama: A Critical Collection of New Plays with McFarland Press earlier this year, and to be currently working on a chapter for a new title in Routledge's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Theatre and Performance series.

 

Prior to OSU, I have taught at the undergraduate level continuously since 2008. Most recently, I served as the Director of Theatre Programming at Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas (teaching and administration position); before that, as an adjunct Writing and Literature instructor specializing in theatre at Chester College of New England and as a Graduate Instructor at Baylor University. I remain in good standing with my supervisors at each of these institutions, and remain especially proud of my time at Baylor, where I received commendations for my high teaching evaluation scores, including twice being nominated for the university's annual Graduate Instructor award.

Although I work in many areas of theatre production, my passion is in exploring the intersection of theory and practice through dramaturgy, directing, and devising. I have directed well over 50 productions since 1997 in professional, amateur, and academic settings. A few favorite directing credits include Shipwrecked: An Entertainment and A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts at Baylor University, Richard III and One Flea Spare with Ghostlight Theater Co., Les Miserables and Playing Hamlet with Riverbend Youth Company, Dear Harvey at Chester College, La Serva Padrona and Der Schauspieldirektor for the Central Texas Opera Festival, and the world premiere of Void at Boston Playwright's Theatre. 

 

Meanwhile, I have presented research and scholarship on contemporary directing, theatrical copyright law, disability theatre, contemporary operatic staging practices, and performance for social change at several academic conferences around the country. I am the editor of an upcoming critical collection of plays on the intersection of stage performance and disability (At the Intersection of Disability and Drama., McFarland Publishing), co-editor of Seven Deadly Sins: a collection of new plays (Ghostlight Publishing), the co-editor of Texas Theatre Journal (published annually by the Texas Educational Theatre Association), former chair of the Armitage Symposium (including editor of the proceedings journal, Lovecraftian Proceedings, Hippocampus Press), and serve on the Excellence in Editing awards committee for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. My writing has been published by McFarland, New England Theatre Journal, and Stage Directions, among others, and my original plays have been performed in NYC, Boston, and at a number of regional and educational theatres in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Texas.

 

As a scholar, my work has become more and more targeted and specialized, focusing strongly on disability portrayal/accessibility issues and on Yiddish and Yinglish-language theatre. I have spent my career attempting to "decolonize" degree aims and my own syllabi, with much of my work toward rhizomatic learning being heavily influenced by H. Bhaba's post-colonial writings and the emerging fields of Universal and Inclusive Design theories. Meanwhile, while I love upper level/graduate seminars, there's a big part of my heart that forever remains locked into "bringing people under the tent"-style introductory courses. There is little that I enjoy as much as seeing a business major realize how applicable Commedia dell'Arte busking techniques are to marketing philosophy; a criminal justice, law, or gender studies student react to reading Glaspell's "Trifles"; or a video game design student recognize how immensely helpful a lighting or scenic painting course can be to their career goals. Although I obviously care deeply for the fourth-year major devoting their life and career to theatre, I have a decade-long softspot and adoration for the non-major who wanders into the theatre building.

Life and Family

I am a first-generation American (father's side); my father was a child of war and a refugee to the U.S., having experienced much of the worst fascism had to offer. Once he was of age, he joined the U.S. military, became a citizen, and stayed in uniform for the majority of his life, including my own birth on a U.S. Military base. That base, I'm sorry to say, was the now-closed Pease Air Force Base, which was declared a hazardous materials superfund clean-up site and has been linked to numerous birth defects. Although it is impossible to absolutely prove causality, it is generally assumed this was the cause of my own congenital disabilities/birth defects, including the childhood need for an ostomy bag and other special care needs. These and other issues proved very difficult for my mother, and the last quarter of her life was sadly a story of addiction and incarceration. I share these things here because, as much as we might like to think otherwise, stories like this are not rare among our students. Details change, but more and more of our students come to the classroom with personal and family tragedies. It is important that they can find mentors who may--though exact circumstances may be different--understand what it means to attempt to focus on school when their home lives are falling apart around them. While my formal education is obviously a vital aspect of my ability to teach, there remains a special strength and wisdom earned through lived experience.

 

I have done my best to apply this in my work -- prior to professionally entering academia, I devoted several years and gained leadership positions with the non-profit Creating Positive Change and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America; my work with both focusing on community partnerships, grant-writing, and education to help teens around issues of addiction, unstable home life, etc. Within theatre, I have worked on performances for non-English-speaking refugee children, on student-led devising productions, and on school tours for districts cutting field trip budgets.

 

Meanwhile, as the son of a career military father, my earliest years were spent living on military bases in New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, and Hawai'i. My teens and early adult years were spent in multiple locations around New England, and my career has given me the opportunity to live in Texas, Kansas, and now Ohio. Between this and my experiences spending time overseas, I've come to appreciate just how much one country, one state, one city, or even one neighborhood can instill entirely different cultural assumptions, values, and biases from its nearest neighbor -- a fact which is equal parts volatile and gloriously beautiful. I am grateful that each place has left its mark on me for the better.

Today, I live in Columbus, OH with my wonderful wife, Mariah. Our mixed-faith home includes our bold and brilliant nine-year-old daughter (Matilda), our hilarious and headstrong seven-year-old son (Ollivander), and our two high-maintenance cats (Elfaba and Mochi).

 

I enjoy reading, playing with my kids, additive sculpture, horror, most-things-NPR-ish, Yiddish memes, and a nice, airy coconut sorbet.

 

Seeking Assistant or Associate Professorship
and/or Administration Openings for Fall, 2022

 

With two terminal degrees in theatre (MFA in Directing, PhD in Perf/Hist/Theory), as well as graduate credentials in Disability Studies and Yiddish/Jewish studies and professional experience with management, grant-writing, and program development, I am hopeful my resume will suggest suitability to a wide range of potential educational positions. In terms of departmental and institutional personalities, I have taught in private and public settings; in tiny studios and huge lecture halls; I have taught in the North, the South, and in-between; I have taught in religious and secular settings; I have taught at institutions having their hay day, and institutions facing crises; I have taught in-person, online, and a hybrid of the two; I have taught at one of the largest universities in the country (Ohio State, with over 40k undergrads) and one of the smallest (Chester College, with a total enrollment of 200 students); I have taught at a nationally ranked research university, and I have taught at a rural community college; I have optimized programming with full budget approval and I have done so on a shoestring.

I can honestly say, I have loved it all.

 

I am completely flexible about the variables listed above -- instead, my concern has to do balance -- an institution in which I can teach and work directly with students, but without taking on a course load that precludes any other work; an institution that values and supports research, but not so much that it ignores its fundamental mission of teaching; an institution where I can expect to direct now and then without personally churning out the entire season. For administration, an institution in which relationships with donors, civic leaders, and industry are viewed as important pieces of the larger, student-centered decision-making rhizome rather than a bifurcated "student needs versus administrative needs" conflict. I am looking, I suppose, for what most theatre academics are looking for: a place where they can read, they can write, they can serve students, and they can create. Any institution (U.S.-based or not) that can offer that is an institution with whom I'm extremely eager to speak.

CONTACT

 

 

johnsefel@gmail.com

Tel: 603-930-1043

 

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