RESEARCH & SCHOLARSHIP

Disability & Performance
Yiddish Theatre
Translation
Horror and Fantasy
Journal Editing

Disability & Performance

 

Critical Disability Studies as applied to Performance Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary consideration of the many intersections of disability (in all its guises) with performance (again, using a wide definition). 

My particular interests have focused largely on three particular areas of the field:

1.) the schisms between self-identification vs. medical diagnosis vs. social stigmatization in terms of disability "assigning," and the expectations accompanying these in terms of the public "performance" of disability and impairment. 
 

2.)  the tropes, archetypes, and trends concerning the portrayal of disability in theatre and film, both historically and in contemporary media
 

3.) questions of access to theatre and theatrical spaces (including theatrical events like parades, political events, etc.) for both audience and performers, including exploring adaptive vs. universal design in planning and construction

My work in this area includes:

Publications: 
 

Editor, Performing While Disabled: A Critical Anthology of New Plays (working title), McFarland Publishers, t.b.p. Spring, 2020.


Feature Article: "Finding PHAMALy: Backstage with Denver's Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists' League," Stage Directions Magazine, 2 October 2012.

 

Invited Conference Presentations:

 

“‘You Ain’t Got No Legs, Lt. Dan!’: The Erasure of Partial Limbs in Media and Performance and The Dangers of Misrepresentation”   Mid-America Theatre Conference, Houston, TX, 2017 
 
“‘I Don’t Care if You Are Offended’: Cerrie Burnell, Disability Shame, and Performance”  Disability & Popular Culture, Midwest Popular Culture Assoc. Conference, Chicago, Il, 2016 
 
“Dismantling the Disability Myth in Performance: Exploring a Rhizomatic Alternative to Disability Performance Models”  Mid-America Theatre Conference, St. Louis, MO, 2013 
 
“Finding PHAMALy: Disability Theatre Praxis with Denver’s Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League” Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association, Albuquerque, NM, 2013 

Yiddish Theatre & Translation

 

My interest in the topic focuses on Yiddish American theatre from 1881 through the interwar period. Within that era, I am particularly interested in :

1.) Disability portrayal and tropes on the Yiddish American stage, noting Yiddish Theatre's expansive influence on American theatre, radio, and television comedy for much of the 20th-Century. 
 

2.) "Art Theatre" within the Yiddish Theatre scene, with a special interest in the Yiddish Art Theatre and its leader, Maurice Schwartz. This particularly becomes interesting in terms of the YAT's influence on avant-garde theatre's place in NYC, the application of Russian constructivism on the American stage, and Schwartz's writings on Yiddish "nationality."
 

3.) The evolution of Yiddish language usage within Yiddish Theatre, from the complexities of multi-lingual characters pulled together in a Yiddish setting in the early years to the "Potato Yiddish" of later days.

My work in this area includes:

Publications
 

Review: How the Wise Men Got to Chelm: the Life and Times of a Yiddish Folk Tradition, Ruth von Bernuth, for the American Humor Association's Journal, t.b.p. Spring, 2019.


Article: "She was a Little Yeshiva Boy: Freydele Oysher and Her Cross-Gendered Chasid," for artiFacts, The Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute, currently in process (Fall, 2018).

 

Graduate and Other Work:

 

Intensive study of language and culture at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, Vilnius Universitat, Vilnius, Lithuania, Summer, 2017
 
Translation (English into Yiddish), "Vu Vet Gedanken Mir," based on "No One Knows I'm Gone" by Tom Waits. Created for Israeli musician Maya Pennington, 2018.
 
Translation and context research (Yiddish into English), The Freydele Oysher Yiddish Theatre Collection, the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute, 2018, with those translations added to the permanent collection.
 
Translation (Yiddish into English), Hello Mama, a previously unpublished play by Isidor Lillian (1882-1960). Project fulfills partial completion of an MA in Yiddish and Ashkenazic Studies, pursued concurrently to my PhD in Theatre. Ongoing, expected completion Fall, 2019.

Horror and Fantasy

 

My chief interests in this field include:

1.) The use and portrayal of disability, transhumanism, and bodily/personhood ethics as explored in horror and fantasy.
 

2.) Yiddish Horror and Dybbuk Folklore
 

3.) The Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft​

My work in this area includes:

Publications: 
 

Editor: Lovecraftian Proceedings, Vol. 1, Hippocampus Press, 2015

 

Article: "Simply Evil: American Horror’s Simplification and Christian Demonization of Yiddish Lore," to be published in Holy Horror: Religion and Modern Horror Films, Ed. by Rachael Harris, Australian Catholic University. Estimated Publication, Summer, 2020.


Article: "We Are Book Eight: Secrets to the Success of the Harry Potter Alliance," Playing Harry Potter: Essays and Interviews on Fandom and Performance, Ed. by Lisa Brenner. Mcfarland Publishing, 2015. (Co-Authored with Heather Hamilton, PhD)

Academic Journal Editing

 

I joined the editing team of the Texas Theatre Journal in 2012, first as an assistant editor, and, the following year, as associate editor. I have, since the 2015 volume, served as co-editor alongside DeAnna Toten Beard, MFA PhD.

 

Texas Theatre Journal is a peer-reviewed academic journal published annually by the Texas Educational Theatre Association, made available to its membership, to subscribing libraries and individuals, and to the public via special order through major retailers.
 

© 2018 by John Michael Sefel. This website features photography by Jarod Tseng Photography, Kat Alee Photography, Brandi Sees Photography, and Andrea Stasio.

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