About Us

Theatre Arts Department Mission

Our mission is to create Art in Action: theatre that is engaged and inclusive, rigorous and enjoyable, thoughtful and transformative. Theatre Arts at UofL challenges students to become critical thinkers who take pleasure connecting with local, national, and global communities through live performance. Graduates explore the world with the courage, discipline, and practical skills required of theatre artists—imagination, empathy, critical analysis, craftsmanship, problem solving, social awareness and collaboration.

Department History and Background

Theatre Arts Department (TAD)

Dating back to the founding of the University Dramatic Club in 1923, the Theatre Arts Department is committed to the development of its students as human beings and to nurturing their apprenticeship as theatre artists. The department fosters creativity, collaboration, discipline, and artistic growth in its students.  It embraces the theatre as a means of creative expression, cultural understanding, social development, and historical perspective. We train students in the fine art of theatre, voice, movement, scene study, and design and also teach the historical and literary context of the theatre as a humanist and liberal art.  All students are exposed to the diversity of multicultural theatre. The department strives to develop, disseminate, and preserve knowledge.  This knowledge includes the ability to understand the theatre arts, to appreciate them, and to create works of art that enhance the human condition.

African American Theatre Program (AATP)

Founded in 1993, the African American Theatre Program is integral to the Theatre Arts Department.  It develops theatre artists trained in the traditions of African American theatre and contributes to the multi-cultural arts movement.  The AATP includes two Mainstage productions a season, community service, touring, and eight courses for graduate and undergraduate students.  Subjects include theatre history, literature, performance, and theatre practicum.  Undergraduates can earn a minor in African American Theatre, while graduate students can earn a Graduate Certificate in African American Theatre.  These studies in African American theatre are unique among American universities.

The College of Arts and Sciences MissionArts & Sciences Thinker Logo

The mission of the College of Arts and Sciences is to improve life in the Commonwealth and particularly in the greater Louisville urban area, creating knowledge through its research, sharing knowledge through its teaching, and guiding all its students to realize their potential.

We believe that an excellent education in the liberal arts and sciences is the best preparation for life and work in a world of increasing diversity and ever-accelerating change because it prepares our graduates to be informed and critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and confident communicators.

Our students learn by doing: they conduct research and express their creativity, include ethical considerations in their thinking, and experience their world from the perspectives of other cultures. The College brings the heritage of the intellectual tradition to bear on the challenges of the future.

The University of Louisville MissionUofL Logo

The University of Louisville shall be a premier, nationally recognized metropolitan research university with a commitment to the liberal arts and sciences and the the intellectual, cultural, and economic development of our diverse communities and citizens through the pursuit of excellence in five interrelated strategic areas:

  1. Education Experience
  2. Research, Creative, and Scholarly Activity
  3. Accessibility, Diversity, Equity, and Communication
  4. Partnerships and Collaborations
  5. Institutional Effectiveness of Programs and Services
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Faculty & Staff

Full-Time Faculty

Braden Blauser

Braden Blauser

Assistant Professor, Technical Director

Phone: (502) 852-8688

Catron Booker

Assistant Professor

Phone: (502) 852-8576

Nefertiti Burton

Nefertiti Burton

Department Chair and Professor

Phone: (502) 852-8444

Ariadne Calvano

J. Ariadne Calvano

Assistant Professor of Acting and Movement

Phone: (502) 852-8447


	Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter

Assistant Professor of Acting and Voice

Phone: (502) 852-8446

Kevin Gawley

Kevin Gawley

Associate Professor, Resident Scenic, Lighting and Projection Designer

Phone: (502) 852-8444

Zhanna Goldentul

Zhanna Goldentul

Associate Professor (Term), Resident Costume and Makeup Designer

Phone: (502) 852-8579


LaShondra Hood

Assistant Professor (Term)

Phone: (502) 852-8526

Jennifer Pennington

Assistant Professor of Acting

Phone: (502) 852-8576

Janna Segal

Janna Segal

Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Theatre History, Dramatic Literature, and Dramaturgy

Phone: (502) 852-8445

	Russell Vandenbroucke

Russell Vandenbroucke

Professor, Theatre Arts
Founding Director, Peace, Justice & Conflict Transformation Program

Phone: (502) 852-8448

	Jerome Wills

Jerome Wills

Assistant Professor Term, Technology and Design



headshot of Miranda Cisneros

Miranda Cisneros

Technical Production Manager, Shop Supervisor

Miranda Cisneros (she/her/hers) is a graduate from the University of Louisville. She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Theatre Arts in 2017. Since graduating, she has continued to work professionally at places like Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, The Rev Theatre Company (formerly Merry-Go-Round Playhouse) in Auburn, NY, and Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach, FL. She is passionate about creating environments where people can learn, grow, and contribute their talents and skills to a collaborative and diverse team of professional theatre artists.


Jessica Key

Program Coordinator, Sr.

Jessica Key is a native of Danville, KY and currently resides in Frankfort, KY. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Music from Campbellsville University. She also earned her Master’s in Facility and Event Management from Western Kentucky University. Jessica has a passion for event coordinating, community outreach projects, volunteering and music.

Phone: 502-852-5922

Melissa Kenney Shepherd

Melissa Kenney Shepherd

Costume Shop Manager, Part-Time Faculty

Melissa Kenney Shepherd is a graduate of the UofL’s Theatre Arts Department.  She received an MFA in Performance in 2001.  Currently, Melissa is the Costume Shop Manager, part-time faculty, and costume designer for the traveling Repertory Company here at UofL.  Melissa always finds it rewarding to work in the costume shop daily with our undergraduate assistantship crew.  The team create all costumes for UofL’s Mainstage, Rep Company, and some touring show throughout the year.  Melissa overseas a UofL  Internship for undergraduate students in costumes in collaboration with Trinity High School each spring for their musical.  When not on campus, Shepherd works as a costume designer for local theatres; Stage One Children’s Theatre, Center Stage, The Chicken Coop Theatre, Pandora Productions, and Trinity HS.  Other professional costume design credits include work for Argosy Entertainment, The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Melodrama Musical Theatre, Prather Entertainment and Trodger and Sons.  Melissa is an actor with Heyman Talent, where she gets to work on projects with her daughter Lilly and many UofL alumni students!

Phone: 502-852-8441

Part-Time Faculty

Melony Caulder

Melony Caulder

Melony Caulder teaches online Enjoyment of Theatre classes. She received her B.A. in Speech and Theatre with a minor in Telecommunications from Fayetteville State University in May 2007, an M.F.A in Performance and Acting with a Certificate in African American Theatre from the University of Louisville in May 2010, and an M.Ed. in Adult and Continuing Education from Strayer University in June 2014. Melony has taught courses on a part-time basis in previous years at U of L and also at Kentucky State University.


Carol Stewart


Carol has been teaching courses in theatre and the humanities for the past ten years, including classes in Acting, Voice, Radio Drama, Theatre History, Performance Theory, Script Analysis, Creativity in the Arts, Shakespeare, and Prison Theatre. An award-winning audiobook narrator with twenty years experience in the studio, Carol has recorded over 300 titles for the Talking Book Program of the National Library Service (a division of the Library of Congress) as well as full-length and abridged texts for commercial audiobook publishers. Carol earned her BFA at the Goodman School of Drama and an MA at the University of Louisville; she is currently a doctoral candidate in Interdisciplinary Humanities at UofL. She has trained with New York’s SITI Company. Her areas of research and artistic practice are focused on the training and creative experience of the actor; SITI Company training and productions; devised theatre; Shakespeare in translation; and Shakespeare with non-traditional artists, including the incarcerated and the aging. She is one of the conference organizers for Stage the Future, an international conference on science fiction and theatre, and is co-producer of Parallax, a new science fiction theatre festival in Louisville. She is co-artistic director of Here There Be Monsters & Co.

Emeritus Faculty

Rinda Frye holds a Ph.D. in theatre from University of Oregon and is a member of VASTA (the Voice and Speech Trainers Association) and an associate editor for IDEA, the International Dialects of English Archive.

Bert Harris was the founding Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Speech at the University of Louisville. He founded the UofL Repertory Company in 1976, and served as its Artistic Director for thirty years.

Michael F. Hottois was the Production Designer for the UofL Theatre Department and has designed for most of the theatres in the area. He was a scenic artist in the films Boris and Natasha and Closetlandand Soul of the Game

Lundeana Thomas
Dr. Lundeana M. Thomas, a University of Louisville Faculty Emeritus, and Full Professor earned her Ph. D. and Master’s from the University of Michigan and is the author of Barbara Ann Teer and the National Black Theatre: Transformational Forces in Harlem. Dr. Thomas became a Co-Director of the African American Theatre Program in 1996 and became Director in 2003. Major Accomplishments include: 1) recruiting many African American students; 2) securing minimum enrollments in all AATP classes; 3) securing a local, national, and international reputation for the program (Major trip to China in 2007); 4) securing finances for the program, including a Ford Foundation Grant in 2004; 5) securing high profile Practitioners and Academicians of theatre for students including Broadway Director, Kenny Leon; Carson-Adler Agent, Shirley Faison; Broadway Directors, Paul Carter Harrison and Clinton Turner Davis; Broadway Scenic Designer, Felix Cochren; and 6) created many standing courses and oversaw the Archives of the AATP. Additionally, Dr. Thomas was a founder and President of the Black Theatre Network a well as founder mof the

Thomas has also presented papers in Ghana, Australia, China and Spain, and performed at the Grahamstown Festival in South Africa with U of L students. She has directed over 75 productions including a 13thC. Chinese play adapted to a Hip Hop Play that has been presented at the National Black Theatre Festival and Singapore. Since retirement Dr. Thomas has directed Mason-Dixon and Harriet Tubman Visits a Therapist by Carolyn Gage for the The Victorian Players of Youngstown, Ohio; The Ballad of Emmett Till at New Heritage Theatre in Pittsburgh, Flyin’ West at the North Georgia State University and wrote and directed a Dinner Mystery Theatre for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in Youngstown.

James Tompkins

Studio Theatre Company

Studio Theatre's Misson

Studio Theater Company is an RSO that strives to give students the opportunity to create and perform plays in an encouraging and supporting environment and to create an open, diverse environment where any student at the university interested in any of the many aspects of theatre can come together and organize events entirely on their own.

Studio Theater Company operates through the University of Louisville and focuses on providing theatre experience to actors, directors, producers, and technicians in our community.

Our mission is to provide University of Louisville students with an outlet that allows them to explore their creative energies in a performance setting. Through production of performance art we hope to provide every willing student with the opportunity to work on, participate in, and enjoy the theatrical process. Studio Theatre has and will always provide this service free to the public, making the arts accessible to all.

If you’d like to receive updates from Studio Theater Company, like our Facebook page.  If you’d like to get involved in Studio Theater Company please contact us via email at . Or contact the Managing Liaison, Jordan Lyons, directly via email at .

Current Projects


Studio Theater Company accepts proposals for all of our five Thrust Theatre slots as well as proposals for productions in alternate spaces. All proposals for the following season must be submitted by May 1st. So for example, if you wanted to submit a proposal for the 2016/2017 season, you would need to submit your proposal no later than May 1, 2016.

Please feel free to fill out a proposal form and drop it off in our mailbox at the Theatre Arts building at 2314 S. Floyd St.

Theatre Arts Academics at UofL

Three students performing on stage

As part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Theatre Arts is committed to a liberal arts education for our undergraduate students and professional training for graduate students.  The ancient art of theatre is most fully understood and exists at its deepest form of expression through the creation of performances shared with an audience.  Doing so demands a deep array of knowledge and skill combined with a professional attitude and work ethic that can serve students throughout their lives in whatever profession they pursue.

Making theatre requires a great deal more than talent and desire, including:

  • Self-discipline
  • Collaboration, often with strangers
  • Acceptance that the needs of the whole are more important than those of any individual
  • Self-awareness
  • Critical thinking
  • Comprehending many kinds of scripts to grasp both their surface and the subtle domain of subtext
  • Empathizing with strangers including characters whose point of view, beliefs, mindset, religion, politics, behavior, and attitudes may be vastly different from one’s own
  • Embracing the past, present, and future—wherever a production takes us and the audience
  • Meeting deadlines that are often shorter than ideal
  • Working within budgets that are always less than desired
  • Communicating fearlessly, often to strangers, on a naked stage about matters so crucial that the life, or death, of a character hangs in the balance
  • Joy in creating work that turns ideas, imagination, words, cloth, lumber, sound, and silence into magic that is beheld by everyone whether friend or stranger.  When we are passionate about our work—and making theatre demands such passion every day—it does not seem like work at all.

We believe that these complex goals, abilities, and attitudes should be evident daily in our classrooms and our rehearsal rooms.

Students who internalize this way of thinking and working are prepared extraordinarily well for any of their future goals.

Statement on Black Lives Matter, racial equity, and justice for all

First, an apology. We know this statement comes too late. We apologize for not being at the forefront of this important discussion. Faculty, staff, and administrators of the African American Theatre Program and Department of Theatre Arts hold ourselves accountable for any harm that we have caused. We will strive to do better.

The Department of Theatre Arts and the African American Theatre Program support Black Lives Matter and other groups and communities engaging in protests in Louisville and beyond. While we cannot all deeply understand the pain that the African American community has been suffering over the past 400 years in the United States, we hear you, we see you, and we stand with you. Racial violence and injustice are products of racism perpetuated in our society. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and David McAtee’s deaths further confirm that racism frustrates, angers, and deeply hurts us and others affected by these acts of police brutality and systemic oppression. The Department of Theatre Arts and the African American Theatre Program stand in solidarity with students, artists, scholars and members of the Black community and their allies and organizations working toward racial equity and justice. 

Our mission is “Art in Action”: theatre that is engaged and inclusive, rigorous and enjoyable, thoughtful and transformative. Our mission must be enacted. To that end, we will continue to elevate the voices of black playwrights, performers, and theatre makers while creating work that challenges systemic bias. 

We will also critically engage in dialogue and action in the following ways: 

  • We reassert our pledge to annually produce two African American Theatre Program shows in our 2020-21 and future Mainstage seasons, and to annually produce the MLK Day celebration.
  • We will continue to engage in inclusivity and anti-racism training. 
  • We recommit to increasing the diversity of the Theatre Arts faculty, staff, and students.
  • We renew our support of our students, dedication to uplifting student voices of protest, and commitment to advocating for a student platform on our Department stages and in the community. 
  • We reaffirm our commitment to community engagement and partnerships.
  • We will work to foster a brave space for our students and audiences to safely create, collaborate, and challenge authoritative systems.

In solidarity,

The Department of Theatre Arts 

The African American Theatre Program