Autumn Wheeler ’18

Theatre major investigated dance as a political activity.

September 1, 2018

Hometown: Santa Cruz, California

Thesis adviser: Prof. Catherine Ming T’ien Duffly [theatre 2012–]

Thesis: Moving Between Nightshade and Sunlight: Transformative and Violent Representations of Disability in Performance and Protest

What it’s about: My thesis investigates representations of disability and relationships across ability in various performance contexts. I analyze an AXIS Dance Company piece and a recent protest organized by ADAPT to demonstrate how these organizations both reinvent representations of disability and mobilize harmful representations of disability in order to work for disability justice.

What it’s really about: Bringing disability into the conversation at Reed.

Cool stuff: Acted in Reed’s first devised faculty theatre production. Worked for Prof. Kate Bredeson [theatre 2009–] documenting diaries written by Judith Malina (a cofounder of the Living Theatre). Worked as a dramaturg on several Reed theatre productions. Covered myself in pink milkshake for a class performance. Worked for SEEDS (Students for Education, Empowerment, and Direct Service). Led a SEEDS Orientation Odyssey.

Student groups: I was involved with the Reed Air force (Reed’s aerial group), the Feminist Student Union, and Weapons of Mass Distraction. I lived in the Spanish House and in the Garden House, and worked as an intern for Radicle, which is Reed’s student-led anthro journal.

Obstacles I have overcome: I finally settled on my major after officially declaring it three different times (I was torn between anthropology, psychology, and theatre).

Influential book: The Dance that Makes You Vanish by Rachmi Diyah Larasati.

Favorite class: In Dance Ethnography I studied negotiations surrounding femininity and beauty in contemporary circus. Prof. Victoria Fortuna [dance 2015–] is an incredible conference leader.

How Reed changed me: My classes at Reed demonstrated to me that making art is a political practice and inspired me to self-identify as an artist.

What’s next: Moving to Vermont to attend circus training at the New England Center for Circus Arts.

Financial aid: I decided to go to Reed because of the generous financial aid package I received, and am deeply grateful for the financial support that made my education possible.

Awards, fellowships, grants: Commendations for academic excellence all four years. A paper I wrote on Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum was published in Radicle. I received funding through a Reed College Undergraduate Research Initiative Grant to attend a workshop on dance and disability for my thesis and received funding from the Career Advancement Fund to attend circus school auditions.

Desired superpower: To make the sun shine in my window every morning.

Actual superpower: Ability to escape the Reed bubble.

Pet peeve: When people assume that classes in the performing arts aren’t academically rigorous.