ISM Fellows in Conversation | Dr. Carla Neuss on the Transformative Power of Theater

December 3, 2021

Part of the ISM Fellows in Conversation Podcast.

Interviewed by Vienna Scott (M.A.R. ‘23) 

Introduction by Clare Byrne (M.A. R. religion & music ‘22)

Dr. Carla Neuss, interviewed here by ISM student Vienna Scott (M.A.R. ’23), is an ISM Fellow with a Ph.D. in theatre & performance studies from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2021. She sees a fluid connection between the disciplines of theater and teaching: As a director, playwright, and educator, her work on the stage and in the classroom assembles temporary communities who embark on investigative and transformative journeys. 

Neuss’s project as an ISM Fellow explores modern-day adaptations of European medieval mystery cycles. In looking at these astonishing plays, which compacted cover-to-cover biblical narrative into three or four days of marathon performance, Neuss’s research is driven in part by questions into the educational and transformative power of theater. What was taught to medieval and modern audiences through these performances? What transformations may have happened, especially during turbulent periods of history and political rupture? In overview, Neuss asks, “When theater accomplishes something, or does something within us or within an audience, how does it actually DO that?”