Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s European Devised Performance Practice MFA Program Alum Appointed to Duke University Faculty to Pursue Performance Project

Johann Robert Wood

The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department proudly congratulates Johann Robert Wood ’20, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s MFA Program in Acting and Contemporary Performance Making (formerly the European Devised Performance Practice MFA). Following a year as an Artist-in-Residence at the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Wood has been appointed to a full-time faculty position at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He will begin his position as Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Department of Theatre Studies at Duke beginning in Fall 2022.

John Green

“We are very proud, but not surprised, that Johann has achieved this position so early in his career,” says Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member John Green, director of the Theatre Department’s graduate program and former Allen and Lynn Turner Chair of Theatre at Columbia College. “He is an exceptionally talented artist and scholar, and it will be thrilling to see how his current research and performance practice, the basis of which he established with his MFA Thesis project [at Columbia], develops in his work at Duke.”

“Johann’s intellectual curiosity and artistic boldness is typical of the students who are attracted to our MFA program,” Green adds. “His alumni peers are performing live and online in Chicago as well as nationally and internationally, teaching in colleges, publishing, and running their own theatre companies. Challenging established conventions, they collectively represent the next wave of performance innovation.”

The Columbia College Theatre Department’s MFA Program in Acting and Contemporary Performance Making is a rigorous, one-of-a-kind international experience. This intensive two-year program requires a year of professional work in Chicago followed by a year of training at Arthaus Berlin International School. This program is a good fit for students who want a solid training in acting and performance making from experienced international teaching artists, while also developing business, networking, and creative research skills necessary for forging a successful career in the field.

Wood’s initial appointment at Duke University is a four-year contract with a promotional review in the fourth year. It includes a generous annual research fund and private studio space for devising original work.

Wood’s current project is a performance-based, multimedia project called Grandfathered In: a queer re(mix)ology that extends the parade of masks Wood began to develop in his MFA Thesis project at Columbia, Queer Makishi – a short devised film. This project moves away from the triple-consciousness of the author into an embodied investigation of two great-grandfathers from both sides of his biracial family: Johann Georg Käsebier (Dunker) of Germany, who fled religious persecution to Pennsylvania in 1724, and Fuel Williamson, a formerly enslaved Black American, Civil War veteran, and Exoduster who fled racial discrimination and co-founded an all-Black colony in Kansas 1878 just miles away from Wood’s own birthplace. Wood’s appointment at Duke University has a curious resonance with Wood’s Grandfathered In project, as his fourth-great-grandfather, Fuel, was born and enslaved just 45 minutes from the Duke University campus.

In addition to an MFA from Columbia College, Wood holds an MA in Theatre Studies from the University of Central Florida. His creative and research interests explore critical intersections of race and sexuality through devised performance practice and postmodern aesthetics in theatre, music, and dance.