Roach, Joseph R. 1947–

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Roach, Joseph R. 1947–


Born January 2, 1947. Education: University of Kansas, B.A., 1969; University of Newcastle upon Tyne, M.A., 1970; Cornell University, Ph.D., 1973.


Office— Yale University, 63 High St., Rm. 109, P.O. Box 208302, New Haven, CT 06520-8302. E-mail— [email protected]


Educator, theatre director, and writer. State University of New York, Albany, assistant professor, 1973-75; Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, VA, from assistant to associate professor of theatre arts and chair and producing director of theatre, 1975-82; Washington University, St. Louis, MO, associate professor and chair of performing arts, 1982-87; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, professor of theatre and English and director of the Ph.D. program in theatre and drama, 1987-90, director of graduate studies in theatre department, 1989-90; Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, professor of English, 1990-97; Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, NY, visiting professor and chair of the department of performance studies, 1993; Yale University, New Haven, CT, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley professor of theater and professor of English and African-American studies, 1997—, chair of theatre studies program, 1997-2001, director of graduate studies in English, 1998-2000. Director of more than forty plays and operas, including The Trojan Women and Psycho Hamlet,2006.


American Society for Theatre Research, Modern Language Association, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Shakespeare Association of America, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, American Studies Association.


Mednick Fund Grant, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, 1980-81; Barnard Hewitt Award for Theatre History, American Society of Theatre Research, 1985, for The Player's Passion; Association for Theatre in Higher Education award, 1992, for outstanding article in the field; National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellowship, 1992-93; Joe E. Calloway Prize in drama and theatre and James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Association, both 1997, both for Cities of the Dead; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, 2003; Lifetime Distinguished Scholar Award, American Society for Theatre Research, 2004; Distinguished Achievement Award, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2006-09.


The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting, University of Delaware Press (Newark, NJ), 1985.

(Editor, contributor, and author of introduction, with Janelle G. Reinelt)Critical Theory and Performance, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1992, revised and enlarged edition, 2007.

Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

It, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Issues in Death and Dying, edited by Robert Harvey, Occasional Papers of the Humanities Institute: SUNY—Stony Brook, 2001;The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education, edited by Annelise Mertz, Southern Illinois University Press, 2002;Teaching Performance Studies, edited by Nathan Stucky and Cynthia Wimmer, Southern Illinois University Press, 2002;Land/Scape/Theater, edited by Elinor Fuchs and Una Chaudhuri, University of Michigan Press, 2002;The Global Eighteenth Century, edited by Felicity Nussbaum, John Hopkins University Press, 2003;Notorious Muse: The Actress in British Art and Culture, edited by Robyn Asleson, Yale University Press, 2003;Writing Race across the Atlantic World, edited by Philip Beidler and Gary Taylor, Palgrave, 2005; and Theatre and Celebrity in Britain, 1660-2000, edited by Mary Luckhurst and Jane Moody, Palgrave, 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including African American Performance and Theater, South Atlantic Quarterly, Yale Journal of Criticism, Eighteenth Century Studies, and Theater Studies: Journal of the Japanese Society for Theatre Research. Editorial board member,Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Theatre History Studies and Cultural Studies; advisory committee member,PMLA.


Joseph R. Roach is a theater scholar and noted director of plays and opera. He is also the author or editor of several books focusing primarily on theatre performance. In his first book,The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting, Roach explores the historical and cultural evolution of the theoretical language of the stage. Roach next served as editor with Janelle G. Reinelt of Critical Theory and Performance, first published in 1992 and then revised in 2007. The first edition includes twenty-six essays that focus on issues in performance studies, theatre, history, and dramatic textual studies. "The volume is broken up into eight sections, each representing a particular camp or a group of related camps of critical theory: Cultural Studies, Semiotics and Deconstruction, After Marx, Feminism(s), Theater History and Historiography, Hermeneutics and Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis, and Critical Convergences," according to David J. DeRose in TDR. The editors include an introductory essay to each section, with the essays being written by scholars in various disciplines applying different theoretical models of criticism. DeRose called the editors' introductory essays "meticulously researched and thoughtfully written." The essays by the various contributors focus on works created by American playwrights and examine many aspects of performance studies in American academics. In Theatre Journal, Christopher Balme observed the emphasis on American theatre, asserting that "this volume deserves a wide readership both in and outside the U.S.A. However, the response will be a very different one depending on the reader's geocultural location. Looking in from the outside I am sure many European readers will react with that combination of fascination and bewilderment that has always characterized Europe's response to displays of American culture."

"Although Critical Theory and Performance offers the first comprehensive introduction to critical theory's impact on the study of theatre, drama and performance, the volume is by no means solely relevant to theatre scholars," remarked James M. Harding in Theatre Research International. Harding added: "These essays not only explore the convergence of critical theory and performance studies; the volume as a whole provides a general introduction to critical theory using the study of drama, theatre and performance as an organizing principle." The revised and enlarged edition of the book includes twenty-nine essays. In a review of this edition, a Reference & Research Book News contributor noted that many of the essayists focus on "traditional dramatic texts such as King Lear, The Misanthrope, and works by Bertolt Brecht."

With Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, Roach interweaves an analysis of theatrical, musical, and ritual performance from the eighteenth century onward to explore broad cultural connections and show how they play a role in the intercultural exchange that influences history. The author primarily focuses on the cultural events of London and New Orleans. For example, he draws a connection between the Mardi Gras Indians dancing through the streets and the visit of Iroquois Indians to London in the early part of the eighteenth century. "The book evocatively synthesizes literary theory, historical scholarship, and personal reflection," according to Nancy L. Bayer in the Theatre Journal.

In his 2007 book,It, Roach examines the hard-to-define quality that actors and other people possess that make them extremely interesting. The author takes his title from the designation given to silent-film star Clara Bow as "The It Girl." In his analysis of this charismatic quality, the author writes that the idea of someone having "It," although not designated with this term, goes as far back as the Roman Empire and points to Quintilian, a Roman rhetorician, who discussed the quality of charisma in great orators. In his discussion, however, the author presents his theory that the real origins of "It" began after Charles II of England was restored to the throne and reopened the theatres of London. "One can always trace a phenomenon so powerful back further, and indeed it is transhistorical," Roach told Jennifer Howard in an interview for the Chronicle of Higher Education. "I'm sure the drawings on cave walls represented It. But I see the 18th century as a powerful formation."

Roach points to many instances of It, not only in the theatre and film world but also in politics and beyond, including real people such as Charles II and Princess Diana to fictional characters such as Eliza Doolittle and Captain Hook. The author quotes liberally from the seventeenth-century diaries of Samuel Pepys, in which Pepys provides firsthand accounts of the great events and most notable people of his time. Library Journal contributor Cathy Duhig called It a "unique study of the influence of performance on society" and "an essential purchase for academic libraries." Booklist contributor June Sawyers referred to the book as an "erudite yet very readable volume."

Roach told CA: "My work has been influenced by historians of great and small things, from the French Anales School to my theater-studies mentors: Marvin Carlson, Bert O. States, and Robert Findlay."

When asked to describe his writing process, Roach stated, "I begin by reading a lot. Then I copy the ‘money’ quotes carefully and write on a table too small to hold any books. I always keep a legal pad beside the bed and near the shower.

"Sadly,Cities of the Dead is my favorite of my books because a lot of it came true during and after hurricane Katrina.

"I hope that my books will make room for my students and others to go deeper and farther."



Booklist, April 15, 2007, June Sawyers, review of It, p. 15.

Chronicle of Higher Education. June 15, 2007, Jennifer Howard, "The Undefinable Spirit of ‘It,’" interview with Joseph R. Roach.

Library Journal, March 15, 2007, Cathy Duhig, review of It, p. 84.

New Theatre Quarterly, May, 1994, Mick Wallis, review of Critical Theory and Performance, p. 202.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2007, review of It, p. 77.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2007, review of Critical Theory and Performance.

Shakespeare Survey, annual, 1987, Richard Dutton, review of The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting, p. 221.

TDR, summer, 1994, David J. DeRose, review of Critical Theory and Performance, p. 189.

Theatre Journal, December, 1993, Christopher Balme, review of Critical Theory and Performance, p. 557; March, 1998, Nancy L. Bayer, review of Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, pp. 131-132.

Theatre Research International, spring, 1996, James M. Harding, review of Critical Theory and Performance, p. 89.


Yale University Department of English Web site, (November 5, 2007), faculty profile of Joseph R. Roach.

Yale University Web site, (November 5, 2007), "Joseph Roach Appointed as Dilly Professor."