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Michael M. Chemers

Chair, Department of Performance, Play & Design
Professor, Theater Arts
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Dramaturgy, Theater History, Monster Studies,Theory & Critical Studies and Dramatic Literature.

Michael Chemers researches the “dramaturgy of empathy,” a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary inquiry that seeks to understand how performance culture fosters compassion and kindness (and conversely, fear and hatred). Michael is the creator of the 'Ghost Light' model of dramaturgy: a muscular, creatively engaged, artistically vibrant approach to dramaturgy that requires thorough historical understanding, theoretical training broad and deep, and a passionate dedication to creating powerful, relevant performances of all types. Through his writings, which have been translated into several languages, this model has become popular across the world.


Michael has been at the University of California Santa Cruz since 2012. Prior to that time, he was a professor of Dramatic Literature at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, where he founded and directed the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Production Dramaturgy Program. Michael’s students are working all over the world as dramaturgs, literary managers, scholars, and artists of all kinds. Michael was also the Director of the Digital Arts in New Media Program (DANM) here at UCSC. His work on the dramaturgy of empathy has led him to research and publish in fields as diverse as Disability Studies, New Media Studies, Social Robotics, Shakespearean Studies, Monster Theory, and the Underground Circus Movement. He has also authored chapters in books on South Park, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Game of Thrones.

Education and Training: 
2001 PhD, Theatre History and Theory, University of Washington
1997 MFA, Playwriting, Indiana University
1993 Certificate of Bilingual Education, El Centro Bilingüe, Morelos, Mexico
Selected Publications: 


  • The Monster in Theatre History: This Thing of Darkness. Oxford UK: Routledge, 2017.
  • Towards a Theory of Mime, by Alexander Iliev (English edition, edited by Michael Chemers). Oxford UK: Routledge, 2014
  • Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy. Theatre in the Americas Series. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010. (translations in Korean and Farsí)
  • Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show. Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008. Winner: ATHE Outstanding Book Award of 2009 (Hon. Ment.)

Adaptations of Classic Plays:

  • Lysistrata. with J.A. Ball. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008.
  • The Inspector General. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011.

Book Chapters:

  • "THE GAME OF GAME OF THRONES: Social Network Analysis and Fractal Dramaturgy," co-authored with Andrew Beveridge, PhD, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, Macalester College, for Narrative Ecosystems, Paolo Brembilla
  • "Unfinished Business: How Shakespeare's Ghost(s) came to Haunt the Eighteenth Century." Ashgate Research Companion to Shakespeare and Classical Literature. Nick Cosgrove and Sean Keilen, eds. London: Ashgate, 2015 
  • “Defixio; The Speakable Legacy of John Belluso” for Theatre and Human Rights after 1945: Things Unspeakable; Mary Luckhust and Emilie Moran, eds. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 6,000 words.
  • "Phronesis for Robots: (Re)Covering Dramaturgy as an Inter-discipline." The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy. Magda Romanska, ed. Oxford, Routledge, 2014
  • "Like Unto A Lively Thing: Social Robots and Theater History." Performance and Technology. Kara Reilly, ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
  • "I'm Not Special? Timmy, Jimmy, and the Double-Move of Disability Parody in South Park." with Hioni Karamanos. Deconstructing South Park: Critical Examinations of Animated Transgressions. Brian Cogan, ed. New York: Lexington, 2011
  • "Wild and Untamed Thing: The Exotic, Erotic, and Neurotic Rocky Horror Performance Cult." Rocky Horror and Popular Culture. Jeffrey Weinstock, ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
Honors and Awards: 


  • 2013  Excellence in Teaching Award, UCSC. 
  • 2010  Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy listed in "Significant University Press Titles
  • for Undergraduates, 2009-2010." Choice, V.47, no. 09, May 2010.


Office: 831-502-7571
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