Nick Fesette

Assistant Professor of Theater

Dr. Fesette is a theatre artist and scholar. He has directed or performed in over 50 productions in professional, academic, and community-based settings. At Oxford he has directed productions of Rachel Cusk's Medea, Jaclyn Backhaus' Men On Boats, Lauren Gunderson's Ada and the Engine, and Max Frisch's The Arsonists.

He's currently revising his dissertation into a monograph for publication, titled Cagecraft: Performance, Race, and Trauma in Carceral America. This project studies modern and contemporary performances made with, by, and about incarcerated people in order to understand how the carceral state itself is a performance structure continually staging racist and classist violence. In part, this book project draws upon his five years experience working with the Phoenix Players Theatre Group, a company of incarcerated writers and performers located in Auburn Correctional Facility in Upstate New York.


BA| Hamilton College| 2009

MA| Cornell University| 2016

PhD| Cornell University| 2018

Courses Taught

Introduction to Theater

Discovery Seminar: Adaptation and Storytelling

Theater Practicum

Reading for Performance

History of Drama and Theater II

Prison Media and Performance

Theater for Social Justice in Times of Social Distance


"Prison Theatre and the Right to Look" (with Bruce Levitt and Jayme Kilburn), Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Vol. 26, Issue 3, July 2021

"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, 2020

"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

“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

“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


"Imprisonment and the Theater," Academic Minute, Dec 11, 2019

Research Interests

Acting and directing, critical prison studies, abolition, performance studies, modern and contemporary drama, theatre and social justice, trauma theory