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Lesley Ferris

Lesley Ferris

Lesley Ferris

Professor Emeritus


Areas of Expertise

  • Gender and Performance
  • Theatre History, Dramatic Literature and Criticism
  • Carnival


  • PhD University of Minnesota
  • MA San Diego State University
  • BA Mount Union College

Lesley Ferris is a director and scholar. Her research interests focus on gender and performance, carnival, and the use of masks. Her books include Acting Women: Images of Women in Theatre (Macmillan, 1990), Crossing the Stage: Controversies on Cross Dressing (Routledge, 1993 and e-book), and most recently Contemporary Women Playwrights: Into the Twenty-first Century, co-edited with Penny Farfan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She has published numerous essays including "Cooking Up the Self': Bobby Baker and Blondell Cummings 'Do' the Kitchen" in Interfaces: Women / Autobiography / Performance / Image, edited by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (University of Michigan Press, 2002), “Contemporary Ekkeklemas in Site-Specific Performance”, Performing Site-Specific: Politics, Place, Practice, editors Joanne Tompkins and Anna Birch (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), “Contemporary Ekkeklemas in Site-Specific Performance”, Performing Site-Specific: Politics, Place, Practice, editors Joanne Tompkins and Anna Birch (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) “Lear’s Daughters and Sons: Twisting the Canonical Landscape” in Feminist Theatrical Revisions of Classic Works: Critical Essays, edited by Sharon Friedman (McFarland, 2009), “A Discourse on Staging a Writer’s Worlds”, co-authored with Johanna Frank in special issue on Adrienne Kennedy, Modern Drama (University of Toronto Press, Vol. 55, No. 1, Spring 2012), “Incremental Art: Negotiating the Route of London’s Notting Hill Carnival” in Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture (Routledge, Vol. 16, No. 4, July 2010,  Special Issue: Carnival Crossfire: Art, Culture, Politics; Guest Editor: Michaeline A. Crichlow), and most recently “Re-dressing Women’s History in the Special Operations Executive: The Camouflage Project”, co-authored with Mary Tarantino, Working Memory: Women and Work in World War II, editors Marlene Kadar and Jeanne Perrault (Ontario, Canada: Wilfred Laurier Press, 2015).

She served as the head of the drama program at Middlesex University in London in the late 1980's where she helped co‐found the M.A. in Performance Art. In 1982 she received a playwriting award from the Arts Council of Great Britain for her script Subjugation of the Dragon. In the USA she has chaired departments of theatre at Louisiana State University, University of Memphis, and The Ohio State University. Lesley has directed over 50 productions both in London, South Africa and the U.S.A. These include The Crucible by Arthur Miller (South Africa), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White by Adrienne Kennedy (New York City), A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Virginia Arts Festival and the Buffalo Philharmonic. In 2011 she co-created a new work—The Camouflage Project—for the Department of Theatre that  toured to Washington, D.C. in 2012. She served as Artistic Director of Mouth and Trousers Theatre Company in London for four years during which time she produced and directed numerous productions including several seasons of new works. In 2012 the company’s work was selected as one of the first cohort of fringe theatres to feature in a major online archive supported by the UK’s Heritage Fund entitled Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of Alternative Theatre (http://www.unfinishedhistories.com). In 2014 she co-founded Palindrome Productions in London, a company currently producing summer seasons: The First Actress by Christopher St. John and A Land Without People by Brian Rotman.

Professor Ferris directed The Visit, The First Actress, and Enemy of the People.