#FeatureFriday: Meet the Area Chair! Kathleen Potts, Theater & Performance Studies

👩 My name is Kathleen Potts (she/her), and I am a transplanted New Yorker (Atlantic coast to the Hudson River!). This fall I received tenure and promotion (woo-hoo!) and am an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre & Speech at The City College of New York, CUNY.

❓ Explain your history and involvement with SWPACA.
My first conference was in 2017, when I presented on a Supernatural (TV Series) panel. I immediately fell in love with the people at SWPACA. Those of us who work in Popular Culture Studies can be anomalies in the traditional Humanities and Arts disciplines. We are often seen as smart and experts in our fields (in my case, Theater & Performance Studies), but with this quirky love of exploring how our disciplines intersect with popular culture. That definitely describes me, and I was happy to find other scholars who share their knowledge and passions at SWPACA. The next year (2018) I became the moderator for my panel – again on the Supernatural (TV Series) – and in 2020 I was recruited to take over as Area Chair for Theater and Performance Studies.

❓ How did you become interested in Theater & Performance Studies?
I have been a theatre geek since elementary school, when I first played Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas. In high school, I acted in numerous plays and talent shows and won the service award for our drama club, The Deering Players. In college, my focus began slowly shifting from acting to playwriting, an area where I had more control over my creativity. After achieving some national recognition, I was accepted into Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Upon earning my MFA, I began focusing on balancing my playwriting with teaching, leading me to pursue a doctorate in Theatre History because I understood that the extra credential (MFA + PhD) would give me more options for employment as a college professor.

❓ What do you hope folks will gain from participating in Theater & Performance Studies in the future?
I believe that folks will gain confidence and community by participating in my subject area – or really any subject area at SWPACA – and my hope is that spending time with us will lead to presentations and publications that they can list on their CVs. That first presentation – my first presentation at SWPACA – was a disaster! It was too technical and detailed, but the audience was kind and shared gentle and constructive feedback. As a tenure-track scholar who needed to publish or perish, the feedback helped me to eventually get that paper published as a chapter in SUPERNATURAL Out of the Box: Essays on the Metatextuality of the Series. I am grateful to all who took the time to listen to or read my work.

âť“ What is your current pop culture passion/obsession?
The “Supernatural (TV Series)” area continues to appeal to me, so I am sure that I will keep attending their panels. I would love to write something for the “Buffy and Beyond” subject area in the future. For my own area of “Theater and Performance Studies,” Broadway musicals are very much of interest to me. The study of musicals and plays can overlap with so many of the subject areas featured at SWPACA, from “Stardom and Fandom” to “War and Culture.” The possibilities are limitless, even if the time that we have available to pursue these passions is not…

📢 Join Kathleen and the Theater & Performance Studies folks at SWPACA24! Proposals now being accepted through 10/31 at https://southwestpca.org/conference/call-for-papers/