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Alexis Riley

            My research is situated at the intersection of two academic disciplines: Performance Studies and Disability Studies. Specifically, I study performance and mental illness. Through a combination of performance analysis, historical research, and practice-based methodologies, I explore cultural responses to psychiatric distress in a variety of settings, including the theatre, the clinic, and the classroom.

In the theatre, I analyze live performance. I observe how actors reproduce specific gestures, vocalizations, or movements when portraying a character with a mental illness, and assess how such representations reflect or refute stigmatizing beliefs.

In the clinic, I evaluate archival documents. I identify the use of distinctly theatrical language within psychiatric literature, and trace the ways this language morphs in tandem with changing aesthetic preferences. 

In the classroom, I survey a variety of teaching methods. I draw on theories from theatre studies and disability studies to develop strategies for accessible pedagogy, deploying drama-based activities as a means to foster diversity and inclusion.

As an interdisciplinary artist-scholar, I share my research in academic publications, professional presentations, and public performances. Throughout, I frame my findings in terms of their impact on patients, families, and institutions. This attention to impact is guided by a central question:

How might the study of performance
help us to cultivate

                                    more thoughtful,

                                               more nuanced,

more generous approaches

to lived experiences of psychiatric distress?  


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