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LaRonika Thomas

LaRonika Thomas

Graduate Student, School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

2810 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
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LaRonika Thomas is a doctoral candidate developing a theory of civic dramaturgy for her dissertation on performances of urban planning, cultural space and cultural policy, and the role of art and culture in 21st century Chicago.  Her other research interests include online archiving and databases in the new play world, site-specific performance, and performance and social justice.  

Her chapter “Temple-Swapping in the City: The Spatial Imaginary and Performances of Place-Making in the Work of Theaster Gates” is in the recently published Makeshift Chicago Stages: A Century of Theatre and Performance, published by Northwestern University Press.  Her essay, “Digital Dramaturgy and Digital Dramaturgs” is included in The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy.  She was the 2016 recipient of the ATDS Graduate Student Travel Award for her paper “Toward a Civic Dramaturgy: Performances of Urban Planning in Chicago from Daniel Burnham to Theaster Gates.”

She was the Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre at Loyola University Maryland for the 2017-2018 year, and has also taught courses at Washington College, Towson University, MICA, Purdue University, Indiana University, and the Community College of Baltimore County.  LaRonika served as the TA for a variety of TDPS courses at the University of Maryland, and was the instructor of record for the foundational theatre history course for theatre majors for four consecutive semesters.  

LaRonika also serves as the LMDA Liaison for Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s (ATHE) Dramaturgy Focus Group (DRFG), and as a Member-at-Large for the Performance Studies Focus Group (PSFG).  She is currently the co-Vice President of Membership for Literary Managers & Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA).  For six years she served as the Vice President for Regional Activity for LMDA, as well as three terms as the Electronic Communications Co-Chair for ATHE’s DRFG, and as the graduate representative for the American Theatre and Drama Society (ATDS) and ATHE’s DRFG for three years.

A professional dramaturg, producer, and writer, LaRonika worked in arts education, literary management, and dramaturgy in Chicago and in the Baltimore/DC area before returning to school for her doctorate.  She has worked in various capacities with the Goodman Theatre, the Public Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Center Stage, The Playwright’s Center, The Neo-Futurists, and Writers’ Theatre, among others.  Her work has been funded by LMDA, the University of Maryland, and the City of Chicago.  

Representative Publications & Research Activities:

Makeshift Chicago Stages: A Century of Theatre and Performance

  • Chapter Contributor, “Temple-Swapping in the City: The Spatial Imaginary and Performances of Place-Making in the Work of Theaster Gates,” 2021.

The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy

  • Chapter Contributor, “Digital Dramaturgy and Digital Dramaturgs,” 2014.

Verge: Studies in Global Asias

  • Collaborative Book Review of Kinesthetic Cities: Dance and Movement in Chinese Urban Spaces by SanSan Kwan, 2016.

The Folger Institute

  • Participant, PIVOT Series for Folger Institute Consortium Graduate Students, 2020.

Harvard University

  • Participant, Mellon School for Theatre and Performance Research, Migration, 2019.

Northwestern University

  • Participant, Summer Institute in Performance Studies, Improvisation, Narrative, and Beauty, 2017.

Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE):

  • Panel Chair and Presenter: “Reframing, Renewing, and Repaving: Dramaturging the Digital City and Planning the Plans of Chicago,” Panel Title: Reckoning with the Digital Dramaturgies of the Pandemic 21st Century, 2021.
  • Presenter: “Civic Dramaturgy and the Real,” Panel Title: Re-Reading Dramaturgy and Sociology: Dramaturgies of the Real World Reading Group, 2021.
  • Round Table Participant: “Temple-Swapping in the City: The Spatial Imaginary and Performance of Place-Making in the Work of Theaster Gates,” Makeshift Chicago Stages: A Century of Theatre and Performance Book Discussion, 2021.
  • Presenter: “Radical Civic Dramaturgy,” Panel Title: Dramaturging the Phoenix, 2020.
  • Presenter, “Civic Dramaturgy and Civic Practice: Michael Rohd and ‘Community-Led Transformation,” Panel Title: Dramaturgy as Public Criticism, 2019.
  • Presenter, “’Radical Spaces of Possibility:’ Liminality in the Classroom and the Syllabus,” Panel Title: (Re)Imagining the Syllabus, 2019.
  • Panel Chair and Presenter, “From Beacon Hill to South Boston High: Protest, Mobility, and the Campus as Civic Stage,” Panel Title: Sites of Performance and Protest: Dramaturging Public Space in Boston, 2018.
  • Presenter, “Cultural Planning, Art-Washing, and Civic Dramaturgy: Performance and Protest in Urban Planning, Public Space, and the First Cultural Plan of Chicago,” Panel Title: Performative Resistance: A Century of Performing Chicago’s Civic Identity, 2018.
  • Presenter, “Questions I Asked in My Twenties and the Twenty Years It Took to Answer Them: A No-Longer-Early-Career-Dramaturg’s Reflections on Bert Cardullo’s What Is Dramaturgy?,” Panel Title: Revolutions in Dramaturgy: Foundations and Futures, 2018.
  • Presenter, “The Spectacular City: Performance, Planning, and the Entertainment Machines of Chicago, Baltimore, and Las Vegas,” Panel Title: Spectacles of Space: World’s Fairs, Storefront Theatre, and Global Destinations in Urban America, 2017.
  • Presenter, “Water in the Desert: Labor, Landscape, and Memory,” Panel Title: Dramaturgies of the Las Vegas Experience: Visiting Small Planets, 2017
  • Organizer, Dramaturgy Focus Group Pre-Conference, 2016.
  • Panel Co-Chair and Presenter, “Toward a Civic Dramaturgy: Performances of Urban Planning in Chicago from Daniel Burnham to Theaster Gates,” Panel Title: A City of Labor and Leisure: Chicago Theatre as History and Chicago History as Theatre, 2016.
  • Panel Chair and Moderator, “Dramaturging [in] Chicago: A Discussion of Theatre, Labor, and History with the City’s Dramaturgs
  • Panel Coordinator and Presenter, “Dramaturging the Foundational Theatre History Course,” Panel Title: Dramaturgy Pedagogy and Dramaturging Pedagogy: Remembering and Reconsidering Theatre in the Classroom,” 2015.
  • Presenter, “[RE]BUILD / [RE]SCRIPT / [RE]PURPOSE: The Spatial Imaginary and Performance of Domestic Place-Making in the Work of Theaster Gates,” Panel Title: The Family Dream House: Re-Dreaming Home in Performance, 2014.
  • Panel Chair and Presenter, “Chicago’s Affair with Culture: (Cultural) Space, (Cultural) Planning, and (Civic) Performance in Chicago,” Panel Title: P[L]AYing Spaces: Cultural Production and the Dramaturgy of Urban Space, 2013.
  • Respondent, “Dramaturgy and Advocacy,” 2012.
  • Panelist, “Dramaturging the Hell House Kit,” 2012.
  • Panelist, “Staging Strife and Solidarity:  Black-Jewish Relations on the American Stage,” 2012.        
  • Debut Poster Paper Presenter, “Dangerous Liaisons:  The Relationship between Theatre Companies and Gentrification,” 2003.

Association for Theatre Research (ASTR):

  • Presenter, “Water in the Desert: Performances of Labor, Landscape, and Memory in Las Vegas,” Working Group Title: In Memoriam: Public Spaces of Performance, Remembrance, Trauma, and Mourning, 2019.
  • Presenter, “From Town Hall to Facebook Wall: Media, Cultural Planning, and the Performance of Chicago,” Working Group Title: Technology Performs: New Media Onstage and Off, 2014.

Comparative Drama Conference (CDC):

  • Presenter, “’An Attractive Place to Live:’ Neighborhoods, Thresholds, and Spatial Imaginaries on the American Stage,” Panel Title: Staging Domestic Space in Contemporary Drama: Ruhl, The Raisin Cycle, and Pinter, 2015.

Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC):

  • Presenter, “What Does It Mean When a City is a Character: Some Initial Thoughts,” Panel Title: Chicago Character: A Study of Who and How of the Chicago Style, 2020.
  • Presenter, “No Little Plans: Lefebvre’s Spatial Triad, Social Drama, and the Performance of Chicago on Navy Pier,” Panel Title: Chi-Town and Its Visions: In Honor of Gus Sponberg and the Chicago Theatre History Project, 2014.

Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA):

  • Presenter: “Firing the Canon – Again!,” Panel Title: University Caucus Presents Hot Topics, 2021.
  • Convener, Digital Civic Dramaturgy/Dramaturging the Digital City, 2020.
  • Presenter, “Fire the Canon – Our Students Light the Fuse,” Panel Title: University Caucus Presents Hot Topics, 2020.
  • Convener, Lunch with Papa Lessing, 2019.
  • Convener, Chicago Through a Dramaturg’s Eyes, 2019.
  • Co-Convener, A Conversation with Michael Rohd, 2019.
  • Presenter, “Towards a Civic Dramaturgy,” Panel Title: University Caucus Presents Hot Topics, 2016.
  • Convener, Dramaturg as Producer/Producer as Dramaturg, 2011.
  • LMDA University Caucus SourceBook, Volume Four, “The Exhibit of Degenerate Art for Fellow Travellers at Stage Left Theatre,” 2011.
  • Panel Chair, Advanced Freelancing, 2009.

Landscapes: Performing Space and Culture Conference, University of Illinois:

  • Presenter, “An Introduction to Space and Performance in the Two Chicago Cultural Plans and the Chicago Cultural Center,” 2013.

Mid-America Arts and Popular Culture Association (MAPACA):

  • Presenter, “Toward a Civic Dramaturgy: Performances of Urban Planning in Chicago from Daniel Burnham to Theaster Gates,” 2018.
  • Presenter, “There is a Name for That: Digital Storytelling, Digital Communities, and the Embodied Phenomenon of ASMR,” 2015.
  • Presenter, “Destination Culture: The Performance of Urban Planning and the Art-Washing of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Chicago’s Navy Pier,” 2014.

Chicago Theatre Symposium: 

  • Co-Convener, with Richard Pettengill, “Chicagoturgy,” 2011.

Selected Production Work:

Dramaturgy:

America-In-Play, New York, NY

  • Project Dramaturg for The Recovery Project

Center Stage, Baltimore, MD

  • Assistant for Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, dir. Derrick Sanders, 2013

Active Cultures, Washington D.C.

  • Chance and Necessity by Jon Klein, dir. Tom Prewitt, 2010
  • ice by Michael John Garces, dir. Mary Resing, 2010

Artists’ Bloc, Washington D.C.

  • Reals by Gwydion Suilebhan, dir. Marcus Kyd, 2010

Association for Theatre in Higher Education (New Play Development Workshop)

  • Morning Song by Ann Magaha, dir. C. David Frankel. 2019
  • The Great Harvest by Dori Robinson, dir. Dennis Schebetta, 2009
  • The View from Mather Point by Natalie Gaupp, dir. Max Hafler, 2008

The Neo-Futurists, Chicago, IL

  • Mr. Fluxus by Greg Allen, dir. Greg Allen, 2007
  • You Asked For It! by Greg Allen, dir. Greg Allen, 2007
  • A Child’s History of Bombing by Greg Allen, dir. Greg Allen, 2006
  • The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen by Greg Allen, dir. Greg Allen, 2005
    • Chosen for the 2005 NYC Fringe Festival
    • Remounted at Northlight Theatre in 2006
  • Evidence by Greg Allen, dir. Greg Allen, 2004

Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL

  • Spirits to Enforce by Mickle Maher, dir. Greg Allen, 2007
    • Goodman Theatre New Stages Series
  • Our Lady of the Underpass by Tanya Saracho, dir. Andrea Dymond, 2006
    • Goodman Theatre New Stages Series
  • Softly Blue by Shepsu Aakhu, dir. Mignon McPherson-Nance, 2004
    • Goodman Theatre New Stages Series

Producing:

Source Festival, Washington D.C.

  • Associate Producer, Full-Length Plays, 2011

Stage Left Theatre, Chicago, IL

  • 365 Days / 365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks, 2007

Assistant Directing:

Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago, IL

  • Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, dir.  Barbara Gaines, 2005

Honors & Awards:

  • UMD TLTC Distinguished Graduate Teaching Fellow, 2016-2017
  • ATDS Graduate Student Travel Award, 2016.
  • ATDS Graduate Student Professional Development Pre-Conference Fellow, 2016
  • TDPS Travel Grant, University of Maryland, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014
  • ARHU Travel Grant, University of Maryland, 2020, 2017, 2014
  • Finalist, Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville, 2012
  • Whip Mix Playwriting Fellowship, Mary Anderson Center, 2008
  • CAAP Grant, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, 2008, 2007, 2006
  • Dramaturgy Residency Grant, LMDA, 2005
  • National Finalist, ACTF Critic’s Competition, The Kennedy Center, 2003

Education & Training:      

  • MA in Theatre, with honors, Purdue University
  • BA in Anthropology and Theatre, with honors, Indiana University

Professional Affiliations:

  • American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR)
  • American Theatre & Drama Society (ATDS)
  • Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)
  • Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA)            
  • Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC)
  • Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Cultural Association (MAPACA)