Dr. Lauren McConnell is Assistant Professor in Communication and Dramatic Arts at Central Michigan University. Previously she taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Łódź University (Poland) as a visiting professor and was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Constantine the Philosopher (Slovak Republic) and Plovdiv University (Bulgaria). She received a PhD in theater and drama from Northwestern University, where her dissertation, which was supported by a Boren Graduate International Fellowship, explored censorship and its effect on Czech playwriting under communism. For her Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellowship, she conducted research for her project “The Fireflies: A Children’s Play with Music Produced in Terezín.”
Dr. McConnell is both a scholar and a playwright. Her recent academic publications include “Understanding Paul Robeson’s Soviet Experience” (2010) in Theatre History Studies; “The Dramatic Choice of Cooperation and Non-Violence: Vaclav Havel’s Tomorrow We Will Start Up!” (2008) in Discourses and Spaces of (In)tolerance; and “Daniela Fischerová’s The Massage Table: Politics and Guilt in Post-Communist Czechoslovakia” (2000) in Modern Czech Studies.
Among her recent conference presentations are “Learning from The Fireflies,” Association for Jewish Theatre, Los Angeles (2012); “Entropa R Us,” Comparisons, Interactions, and Contestations within/across Borders, Bucharest University (Romania, 2010); “The Success of Censorship: Czechoslovak Playwriting during the Normalization,” International Federation for Theatre Research, Lisbon (Portugal, 2009); and “Chicago-Czech Diasporic Theatre and Finian’s Rainbow: It’s About Us,” American Society for Theatre Research, Boston (2008).
Productions of Dr. McConnell’s plays include Socrates Was Ugly, Prague Fringe Theatre Festival (2011); My Ántonia, adapted from Willa Cather’s novel, Central Michigan University’s Riecker Literary Series (2010); What I Did For Love, Broadway Theatre, Mount Pleasant, Michigan (2009); Words Are Something Else, Jewish Theatre Ensemble at Northwestern University (2000); The Northern Lights, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville (1998); and Maytags, Harold Clurman Theatre, New York City (1996).
During her tenure at the Center, Dr. McConnell researched The Fireflies, a play with music produced in the Terezín camp-ghetto during World War II. Using witness testimony and archival evidence, she wrote a new version of The Fireflies that incorporates the history of the Terezín production and honors those involved in it. Her goal was to create a play to be performed by today’s children, who will learn about the Holocaust in the process of rehearsing and performing it. She also is writing a book that focuses on the lives of the three women who collaborated on The Fireflies in Terezín: actress/director Vlasta Schönová (later Nava Shean), dancer/choreographer Kamila Rosenbaumová, and artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who coordinated the costumes and set.
Dr. McConnell was in residence at the Mandel Center from May 1 to July 30, 2012.