Nick Fesette

Assistant Professor of Theater

Dr. Fesette is a theatre artist and scholar. He has directed productions of Ada and the EngineThe ArsonistsThe Trestle at Pope Lick CreekMiss JulieThe Hunger ArtistTitus AndronicusFriedrich Schiller's Bad Girls Club, and Cornell's annual Ten-Minute Playfest. In New York City he performed with experimental companies in numerous spaces downtown, including Dixon Place, HERE Arts Center, Theater for the New City, Walkerspace, Horse Trade Theater Group, TheaterLAB, and the Incubator Arts Project (formerly the Ontological-Hysteric). He received actor training at the Moscow Art Theatre Studio.

His research focuses on prison performance. For five years he helped facilitate The Phoenix Players Theatre Group (, a grassroots transformative performance ensemble of incarcerated men in Auburn Correctional Facility in upstate New York. His current book project, Cagecraft: Theatre and Performance in Carceral America, studies modern and contemporary performances made with, by, and about incarcerated peoples in order to examine the carceral state as a performing structure that continually re-stages race and class oppression. 

More info can be found on his website:


BA| Hamilton College| 2009

MA| Cornell University| 2016

PhD| Cornell University| 2018

Courses Taught

Introduction to Theater

Reading for Performance

Theater Practicum

Discovery Seminar: Adaptation and Storytelling


"Carceral Space-Times and The House that Herman Built," Race and Performance After Repetition, eds. Soyica Colbert, Douglas Jones, and Shane Vogel, Duke University Press, forthcoming

"Horizons of (Un)Freedom: Reflections on Critical Hope from Behind the Wall" (with the Phoenix Players Theatre Group), PUBLIC: A Journal of Imagining America, Vol. 5, Issue 2, Feb 2019, (peer-reviewed)

“Auburn Prison and Carceral Modernity: A Performance History,” Modernism/modernity, print plus blog post, ed. Debra Rae Cohen, Vol. 3, Cycle 1, 2018, 

"Pedagogies of Self-Humanization: Collaborating to Engage Trauma in the Phoenix Players Theatre Group” (with Bruce Levitt), Teaching Artist Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3-4, 2017,, (peer-reviewed)

“Rehearsing Transformation in an American Prison” (with Bruce Levitt), The Theatre Times, Oct 2017,

“Where the Walls Contain Everything but the Sky: The Birth and Growth of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group” (with Bruce Levitt), Rejoinder: An Online Journal Published by the Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers University, Issue 1, Winter 2016,

“Performance, Prison Strike, Zombie: Steve McQueen’s Hunger and the ‘Reflection Machines,’” Etudes: An Online Theatre & Performance Journal for Emerging Scholars, Vol. 1, No. 2, Sept 2015, (peer-reviewed)


2019    "Fugitive Casting and the Performance of Civility," Theatre Symposium, Decatur, GA (accepted)

2018    “Cagecraft,” New Research on Minoritarian Performance Proposal/Grant Writing Workshop, American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), San Diego, CA (cancelled)

2018    Post-screening roundtable discussion of the documentary film Human Again, Performing the World, NYC

2017    José Esteban Muñoz Targeted Research Working Group, “The Transtemporalities of Minoritarian Performance II: Extra/Ordinary Bodies Across Time,” ASTR, Atlanta, GA

2017    “Deathly Technics,” Escape from the Archive: Encountering History through Performance and Theatre, Cornell

2017    “Gender Imprisonment and Intersubjective Drama in Naomi Wallace’s And I and Silence,” Philosophies of Incarceration and the Incarceration of Philosophy, Villanova University, PA

2016    “Resurrecting the Human Doing: The Performance of Carceral Subjectivity in The House that Herman Built,” ASTR, Minneapolis, MN 

2016    Co-curated symposium “From Cell to Cell: The Prison in Television and Performance,” Cornell

2016    Co-organized roundtable “Prison Work: Creating Theatre with Incarcerated Artists,” Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), Chicago, IL

2015    “Prisons, Professors, Zoos, Homegrown Bicycles, Stories, and Verbs: An Embodied Performance Ethnography,” Midwest MLA, Columbus, OH

2015    “New Play Festivals: The Pedagogy of Play Development and Collaboration,” ATHE, Montreal, QC

2015    “A Prison Mural Performs: The Inspiration of Apokaluptein:16389067,” Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC), Kansas City, MO

2014    “Where the Walls Contain Everything but the Sky: The Birth and Growth of a Prison Theatre Group,” Marking Time: Prison Arts & Activism Conference, Rutgers University, NJ

Research Interests

Acting and directing, prison studies, performance studies, modern and contemporary drama, applied and physical theater, critical theory