Isaiah Wooden

Isaiah WoodenAssistant Professor in the Department of Theater Arts



Isaiah M. Wooden, PhD is a director-dramaturg, critic, and assistant professor of Theater Arts at Brandeis. He has published widely on 20th and 21st century African American art and drama in both scholarly and popular venues, including The Black Scholar, Callaloo, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Modern Drama, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Performing Ethos, Theater, Theatre Journal, and Theatre Topics. Wooden is currently at work on a monograph that explores the interplay of race and time in contemporary Black expressive culture and co-edited the book, Tarell Alvin McCraney: Theater, Performance, and Collaboration (Northwestern UP, 2020).

As a director, Wooden has staged new and canonical works in both the U.S. and abroad. Some favorite projects include: In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O’Hara; Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl; Bulrusher by Eisa Davis; No Child... by Nilaja Sun; and Beyond My Circle, the multidisciplinary performance project that he co-devised and directed at the National Theater in Kampala, Uganda. Recent dramaturgy projects include: Native Son by Nambi E. Kelley and the world premiere of Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son by Psalmayene 24 at Mosaic Theater Company in Washington, DC.

Wooden enjoys teaching a range of courses in the history, theory, and practice of theater.


Coedited Book

Tarell Alvin McCraney: Theater, Performance, and Collaboration. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2020.

Selected Scholarly Articles and Critical Essays

“How Bigger Was Born Again: Adaptation, Refiguration, and Double Consciousness in Nambi E. Kelley’s Native Son.Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, 35.1 (2020).

“The Archive and the Dramaturg.” Performing Ethos: International Journal of Ethics in Theatre and Performance, 10.1 (2020).

“Teaching African American Plays as ‘Reality Checks’; Or, Why Theater Still Matters.” Teaching Critical Performance Theory, edited by Jeanmarie Higgins. New York: Routledge, 2020.

“Ogun Size Enters; or, An Introduction.” Tarell Alvin McCraney: Theater, Performance, and Collaboration, edited by Sharrell D. Luckett, David Román, Isaiah Matthew Wooden. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2020. 

Ms. Blakk’s Radical Queer History.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 124 (2020).

“Reppin’ Blackness: Five Beats on the Art of Derrick Adams.” The Black Scholar, 49.3 (2019).

“The Complex Racial Politics of Smart People.” Modern Drama, 62.2 (2019).

“How to Do Things with Stage Directions: Lessons from Contemporary African American Drama.” Theatre Topics, 28.3 (2018).

“Adrian Piper, Then and Again.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 120 (2018).

“Robert O’Hara’s Defamiliarizing Dramaturgy.” The Routledge Companion to African American Theater and Performance, edited by Renee A. Craft, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Kathy A. Perkins, and Sandra L. Richards. New York: Routledge, 2018.

“Jefferson Pinder and the Art of Black Endurance.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 118 (2018).

“Astigmatisms”; “‘The Night Everything Happened’ Gloss”; and, “Touching Touches and Gloss.” Imagined Theatres: Writing for a Theoretical Stage, edited by Daniel Sack. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Gem of the Ocean’s Fugitive Movements.” August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle: Critical Perspectives on the Plays, edited by Sandra G. Shannon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2015.

“Bearing Witness: Intersections of Art and Protest.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 109 (2015).

“Shadows, Acts, and Radical Presence. Theater, 44.3 (Fall 2014).

Selected Scholarly Performance and Book Reviews

Review of The Oresteia by Ellen McLaughlin, Adapted from Aeschylus, Directed by Michael Kahn, Shakespeare Theatre Company. Theatre Journal, 72.1 (March 2020).

Review of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman (W.W. Norton Company, 2019). Theatre Journal, 71.3 (December 2019).

Review of Stolen Time: Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze by Shane Vogel (University of Chicago Press, 2018). Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 32.1 (Fall 2019).

Review of Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, Directed by Yaël Farber, National Theatre, London. Theatre Journal, 68.4 (December 2016).

Review of Coloring Whiteness: Acts of Critique in Black Performance by Faedra Chatard Carpenter (University of Michigan Press, 2014). Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, 30.2 (Spring 2016).

Review of Head of Passes by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Directed by Tina Landau, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Theatre Journal, 66.2 (May 2014).

Review of Bootycandy by Robert O’Hara, Directed by Robert O’Hara, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Theatre Journal, 64.2 (May 2012).

Review of The Scene of Harlem Cabaret: Race, Sexuality, Performance by Shane Vogel (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Callaloo, 35.3 (Summer 2012).

Review of Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance by James F. Wilson (University of Michigan Press, 2010). Theatre Journal, 64.4 (December 2012).

Recent Creative Activity

Production Dramaturg, The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza, Mosaic Theater Company, 2021

Production Dramaturg, That Summer in Sumner by Ifa Bayeza (world premiere), Mosaic Theater Company, 2021

Production Dramaturg, Benevolence by Ifa Bayeza, Mosaic Theater Company, 2021

Director, Penitence by Kia Corthron, Flash Acts Play Festival, 2020

Production Dramaturg, Les Deux Noirs by Psalmayene 24 (world premiere), Mosaic Theater Company, 2019

Production Dramaturg (with Khalid Y. Long), Native Son by Nambi E. Kelly, Mosaic Theater Company, 2019

Artistic/Dramaturgical Consultant, In this Hope by Hannah Hessel Ratner (world premiere), The Welders, 2018