Scholar, Writer, Dramaturg
Charles O'Malley (he / him / his) is currently a Guest Researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam.
Charles is a doctoral candidate in Dramaturgy & Dramatic Criticism at Yale, where he previously received his MFA. At Yale, he has served as the Artistic Fellow at the Yale Repertory Theatre and was co-convener of the Performance Studies Working Group, an interdisciplinary group of scholars working in Performance Studies at Yale. He has taught at Yale College, Connecticut College, and the University of Amsterdam.
Charles has two research works currently in progress. His dissertation, Insurgent City: Performance, Radicalism, and Queer Liberation in 1970s San Francisco, traces new aesthetic forms developed during the early years of queer liberation as artistic and sexual movements sought to create utopic spaces. He's also working on a history of the '70s performance group the Cockettes, drawn from archival materials, which places the group in their rightful place on the foreground of gender experimentation and radical performance practices. He is currently editing the collection Toward a Just Pedagogy of Performance: Historiography, Narrative, and Equity in Dramatic Practice for Routledge. In 2020, he created the LGBTQ+ Archive Project, a digital assembly of resources for LGBTQ+ study.
As a theatre maker, Charles has worked at the Yale Repertory Theatre, the Yale Cabaret and Summer Cabaret, the Goodman Theatre, the Bay Area Playwright's Festival, Jackalope Theatre, and many other theatres. His critical writing has been published in TDR, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Republic, Theatre Survey, The New England Theatre Journal, QED, and on Indiewire, Lambda Literary, the DailyKos, and elsewhere.
Current Research Projects
Insurgent City: Performance, Radicalism, and Queer Liberation in 1970s San Francisco (dissertation)
This project is a history of queer performance in San Francisco throughout the 1970s, as citizens fought for political, economic, racial, and gender justice, as expectations of sexual behavior collapsed, and as the political wave of queer Leftism crested across the West Coast. The project uses archival materials as well as contemporary reportage and subsequent theory to construct a narrative of queer life in San Francisco in the decade of queer liberation.
The performance groups the project examines have largely not been subject to scholarly study, and this project both mines their work for extant information on their lives and communities and argues for the significance of these radical artists. Through contextualization and analysis of the artistic work of these marginalized artists, this dissertation argues that a coherent, complete art movement, propelled by the twinned forces of queer liberation and Leftism of a brand particular to San Francisco, created theatrical possibilities unique in performance history. In situating this development alongside the more-studied artists of the New York performance tradition, it exposes not only a distinct politic and articulate it fully for the first time, but to demonstrate the historicity of this moment and argue for its place in the narrative of avant-garde art.
Book Project on the Cockettes
Originating in the research conducted for the dissertation, this project takes a different aim and methodology: To create a history of the Cockettes and their influence on American performance. Beginning with the performance group's first performance on New Year's Eve of 1969, this project retraces the narrative of the Cockettes--a multi-gendered radical performance group popular in San Francisco from 1970 to 1972. The Cockettes were a group of queer people creating art in poor and working-class communities and their lives and work offer a vision of the dispossessed not just surviving, but thriving, and this vision resonates with many liberation movements today. Their work, alongside that of activists in other movements for justice, articulated a new political vocabulary not possible even five years prior. During the three years that the collective performed, societal awareness of queer issues developed rapidly. This project returns to a moment when ideas of queer desire, gender fluidity, racialized gender expectations, and gender performance were first being discussed openly in artistic practice, and it gives new consideration to these artists and the lasting implications of their work. This history consults a wide archive and theorizes the queer sublime: the fabulous moment of passing through as one seeks the spectacular in the mundane.
Toward a Just Pedagogy of Performance:
Historiography, Narrative, and Equity in Dramatic Practice
(Editor for Routledge, under contract)
This book—a collection of works from artists, scholars, students, and activists from around the world—is a compendium of resources for those interested in engaging in conversations of justice, diversity, and historiography in the fields of theatre and performance studies. The project seeks to reconsider and reframe issues that are endemic in our field and comes at the request of our students. Feeling disserved by narratives of history and formats of discussion with which they have been presented, students have come to us to ask what alternatives are possible as our field moves forward. This book is an offering to them.
For these students, and for the present and future instructors in our field who will use this book, we hold a tripartite hope: to expand, to enable, and to provide access. To expand: we hope to grow the idea of what performance history is and can be. To enable: we aim to offer tools to students and teachers who wish to further explore alternate histories and methods of historiography. To provide access: we hope to lift up modes of thought and creation not regularly prioritized in the fields of drama and performance studies.
As a whole we intend for this book to provoke its readers to question the narratives of history that they’ve received (and that they may promulgate) in their artistic and scholarly work. We aim to question methods and ethics of reading that are present in the western mode of studying drama and performance history. In hearing from students, artists, and specialists about their experiences in drama pedagogy, we hope to provide structures that instructors and students can use to pursue greater wisdom. This book is not a textbook that provides instruction, but rather a collection of ways of thinking—about organizing curricula and presenting resources to give students new ways of seeing the past and present of performance.
LGBTQ+ Archive Project
In acknowledgement of the difficulty of conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic, Charles assembled this database of materials for researching, studying, and teaching LGBTQ+ studies. The Project assembles a worldwide list of archives and collections dedicated to LGBTQ+ materials, resource guides for study, and online archives of queer newspaper and periodicals. The Project is open to sharing for all. The work is a living document so please do not hesitate to get in contact with additions or corrections.
(condensed; contact for complete CV)
D.F.A. Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism (in progress), Yale School of Drama
M.F.A. Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism (2018), Yale School of Drama
B.A. Drama & Art History (2011), Vassar College
Guest Researcher, University of Amsterdam (2020-2021)
Teaching Fellow, Yale College (2018-2020)
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Connecticut College (2019)
Professional Experience in Theater and Performance (selected)
Artistic Fellow, Yale Repertory Theater (2019-2020)
Literary Associate, Yale Repertory Theater (2018-2019)
Co-Convener, Performance Studies Working Group, Yale University (2018-2020)
Managing Editor, Theater Magazine, (2016-2017)
Education Assistant & Lead Guest Services Associate, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (2012-2013)
Literary Intern, About Face Theatre (2012)
Literary Management & Dramaturgy Intern, Goodman Theatre (2011- 2012)
Professional dramaturgy credits include work for the Yale Repertory Theater, Yale School of Drama, Yale Cabaret, Yale Summer Cabaret, the Goodman Theater, Jackalope Theater, and others.
Written Work (Articles and Creative Work--Selected)
“Remembering Stonewall as It Actually Was—and a Movement as It Really Is.” With Scott W. Stern. The New Republic. June 2019.
The Other World (world premiere production). Produced at the Yale Cabaret, April 2017.
“Why I’m Not Excited for The Normal Heart” On Indiewire. May 2014.
Written Work (Book Reviews--Selected)
“To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle Against HIV / AIDS” (Dan Royles, University of North Carolina Press, 2020), Los Angeles Review of Books (December 2020)
“Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal” (Kate Dossett, University of North Carolina Press, 2020), New England Theatre Journal (2020)
“Other Books,” TDR. Forthcoming, 2020.
“The Bodies of Others: Drag Dances and Their Afterlives” (Selby Wynn Schwartz, Michigan 2019). Theatre Survey. Vol. 61, Issue 2, 2020.
“One-Dimensional Queer” (Roderick A. Ferguson, Polity 2019). QED: A Journal in LGBT Worldmaking. Vol. 7, No. 1, 2020.
“Stage Fright: Plays from the San Francisco Poets Theater” (Kevin Killian, Kenning 2019). Lambda Literary. June 2019.
“A Childhood of No Happy Memories” (review of The End of Eddy, Édouard Louis, DailyKos, November 2017.
Conference Presentations (selected)
“A Very Specific Anarchy: The Cockettes' Subversion, Critique, and Celebration of Gender,” American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Fall 2019, Arlington, VA
“Arousal of Body and Spirit in "Crimes Against Nature," American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Fall 2018, San Diego, CA
“Space Unsafe: Queer Grief After Pulse” Performance Studies International (PSi), Summer 2017, Hamburg, Germany
“Localizing Practices of Human Trafficking in Cora Bissett’s Roadkill,” American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Fall 2016, Minneapolis, MN
“Reclaiming Homosexual Intimacy in a World Beset by AIDS: Affection, Immorality, and Community in Robert Chesley’s Jerker,” Comparative Drama Conference (CDC), Spring 2016, Baltimore, MD
“Robert Chesley’s Jerker” Research Methodologies Graduate Student Conference, Yale School of Drama, Spring 2016.
Represented About Face Theatre (Chicago, IL) at Black Women’s Playwright’s Group Conference on Cyber Narrative Project at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Winter 2012, Washington DC
“Performance Studies: The Key Concepts,” Ford Scholar’s Research Symposium, Vassar College, Fall 2009
Invited Lectures (selected)
“Insurgent City: Performance and Leftism in 1970s San Francisco,” University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), Amsterdam, NL (Fall 2020)
“Specific Anarchy: Subversion of Gender in 1970s San Francisco” for the Performance Studies Working Group. Fall 2019, Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale.
“Angels in America” for Sources of World Drama. Spring 2019, Vassar College.
“On Brecht” for Survey of Theater and Drama. Spring 2019, Yale College.
University Service (selected)
Graduate Affiliate, Branford College, Yale University (2015-present)
Student Representative, Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism Hiring Search, Yale University (2017, 2018)
Artistic Associate for Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism, Yale Cabaret (2016-2017)
Research Assistant, Prof. Gabrielle Cody, Vassar College (2007-2011)
Awards and Fellowships (selected)
Writing Fellowship, Yale School of Drama (2020) (for doctoral work)
G. Charles Niemeyer Award, Yale School of Drama (2019) (for doctoral work)
Yale Repertory Theatre Doctoral Fellowship (2018) (for doctoral work)
Adolph Sutro Fellowship, Vassar College (2016) (for study at Yale)
Dorothy Evans Fellowship, Vassar College (2015) (for study at Yale)
Molly Thatcher Kazan Prize for Excellence in Theatre Arts, Vassar College (2011)
Departmental Distinction for Senior Thesis, Vassar College (2011)
Ann Cornelisen Fellowship for Foreign Language Study Abroad, Vassar College (2010)
Ford Scholar Grant for Summer Research, Vassar College (2009)
Honors Scholar, Grinnell College (2006)
California Arts Scholar Award, California Institute for the Arts (2005)