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 Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation, Shakespeare's As You Like It, Rachel Cusk's Medea, Jaclyn Backhaus' Men On Boats, Lauren Gunderson's Ada and the Engine, and Max Frisch's The Arsonists, as well as two projects devised during the pandemic: a digital theatre performance for social justice, titled Fragments and Connections, and the Isolation Performance Project, a collaboratively created series of 12 original theatre experiments staged for an audience of one.

His writing is published in Theatre JournalPerformance ResearchResearch in Drama EducationPUBLIC, and Teaching Artist Journal, as well as in the volume Race and Performance after Repetition. His current book project examines the prison state as a performing structure that continually re-stages race and class oppression. He not only considers how performance contributes to resistant, liberatory, and abolitionist movements, but also how performance has historically served to support and circulate the logics of imprisonment. In part, this 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



“A Play is a Vehicle to Incite: An Interview with Playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza,” Into Abolitionist Theatre: A Guidebook for Liberatory Theatre-Making, Routledge, 2024

"Carceral Space-Times and The House that Herman Built," Race and Performance After Repetition, Duke University Press, 2020


"Abolition Dramaturgies: Reformance, Waywardness, and the End of the World," Theatre Journal, Vol 74, No 2, June 2022

"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

"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

"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

“Performance, Prison Strike, Zombie: Steve McQueen’s Hunger and the ‘Reflection Machines,’” EtudesAn Online Theatre & Performance Journal for Emerging Scholars, Vol 1, No 2, Sept 2015


"'The great contraband a person can sneak into a prison is joy,'" Performance Research, Vol 26, Issue 5, 2022


"Abolition in Theater & Performance," zine (with Courtney Colligan, Aaron Ellis, Donatella Galella, Megan Geigner, Lindsay Livingston, James McMaster, Leticia Ridley, Misty Saribal) 2023

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

“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


"Tech & Society Salon: Stop Cop City," Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Jan 19, 2024

"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