PhD, University of Texas at Austin
MA, Louisiana State University
BA, Lees-McRae College
Tessa Carr earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin with an interdisciplinary focus on theatre and performance studies and a portfolio in women’s and gender studies. She holds a master’s degree in theatre history and criticism from Louisiana State University and a bachelor’s in theatre and history from Lees-McRae College. Before teaching at Auburn, Dr. Carr taught for eleven years at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, where she also served as the chair of the Division of Creative and Fine Arts. She is currently the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Auburn University.
At Auburn, Carr teaches a variety of theatre courses and regularly directs productions. She has been the director of Mosaic Theatre Company for nine years and has been co-director for the last two alongside Abdul-Khaliq Murtadha. The College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Theatre and Dance sponsor Mosaic. The company’s mission is creating original work fostering conversations about inclusive excellence and equity. Mosaic Theatre Company performs at various campus and community venues numerous times each semester. In Mosaic’s first decade, the company performed over one hundred shows nationwide.
Throughout her career, Dr. Carr has examined what it means to be a performance-maker focusing on productions that explore difficult social and cultural questions. Whether the piece is a collaged script of poetry performed for a small group or a full-scale production of an original work, the means and ethics of making are as important as the finished product.
Dr. Carr has created two full-length documentary plays built from archival research. The first of these plays, The Integration of Tuskegee High School: Lee v. Macon County Board of Education, ran for fourteen sold-out shows, with community talkback following every show. Carr and student dramaturgs created the play from oral history interviews with community members and students who lived through the desegregation, local, national, and state newspaper articles, direct quotations from government speeches made by George Wallace, and excerpts from Busride to Justice: The Autobiography of Attorney Fred Gray. The second play, Alabama Love Stories, traces key moments across two hundred years of Alabama history and was compiled solely from archival documents. This project was a collaboration with the Alabama State Archives to recognize the two-hundredth anniversary of Alabama’s statehood. The work was selected as the Page to Stage Spotlight for the Southern States Communication Association Conference in 2020, but unfortunately, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the conference.
Her print and performance research focuses on making intersectional feminist documentary performance in practice and theory, autobiographical performance, and intersectional feminist performance strategies. Her autoethnographic performance, Hauntings: Marking Flesh, Time, Memory, is an original work co-written and performed with Deanna Shoemaker. The duo performed the work at California State Northridge, Monmouth University, the Patti Pace Performance Festival at Southern Illinois University, The National Communication Association Conference, and Villanova University. A contextualizing essay and the full script can be in TPQ, and a video of the production is available on Liminalities.
Dr. Carr has served on the editorial board of Southern Theatre Magazine and as a reviewer for Text and Performance Quarterly, Theatre Topics, and Women’s Studies in Communication. She has published articles in Southern Theatre Magazine, Text and Performance Quarterly, and Theatre Symposium and presented her work at numerous national and regional conferences. Dr. Carr is regularly invited to universities around the country for workshops and lectures. She is currently co-authoring a book for Routledge with Dr. Deanna Shoemaker about performance as a communicative social justice intervention strategy. The book explores the ethics and practices of intersectional feminist performance-making and shares methods and techniques for practical application.
Photo credit: Jessi Rogers
autobiographical performance, feminist performance strategies