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Jacob Juntunen

Jacob Juntunen, Associate Professor, Dramatic Theory, Criticism, and Playwriting

Jacob Juntunen is a playwright and theatre scholar whose work focuses on theatre’s role in forming national imagined communities, paying particular attention to marginality.

His first book, Mainstream AIDS Theatre, the Media, and Gay Civil Rights: Making the Radical Palatable, was published by Routledge (2016). It shows ideological change over time by examining receptions of plays with an AIDS focus from 1985-2000. It intervenes in the notion that mainstream theatre, because it relies on capitalism, must be inherently conservative. He published related research in three different McFarland anthologies, two articles on, and an article in the journal Peace and Change. He also gave invited talks on the subject at Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznań, Poland), Ohio University, and SIU. Based on this work, he was named the 2016 James Fisher Fellow in the American Theatre and Drama Society (ATDS).

His current book project, Journeys to Impossible Places: Tadeusz Kantor, Post-Holocaust Art, and the Ghosts of Multicultural Poland, examines Kantor’s theatre as a representation of Poland’s taboo diversity. Using Thing Theory, he describes how Kantor’s performing objects blurred the lines between “human,” “object,” and “thing” to resist false genocidal logics of ethno-religious purity. A chapter from this research is forthcoming in Magda Romanska’s anthology The Theatre of Tadeusz Kantor (Northwestern University Press). A 2012 article arguing that Kantor’s performing objects were memento mori allowing his plays to be effective in non-Polish-speaking contexts was published in Puppetry International. In 2011, Dr. Juntunen published an article in Polish-AngloSaxon Studies that argues U.S. reception of Kantor’s performances at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics exaggerated Kantor’s role as a political dissident fighting against the USSR. He has also presented this research at several conferences, including the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). Research support for this book has come from the Polish-American Fulbright Commission, Kraków’s Międzynarodowe Centrum Kultury, and SIU’s Collaborative Seed Grant.

Dr. Juntunen’s playwriting stems from a mix of scholarship and social responsibility. Therefore, his playwriting and academic writing are a constant symbiosis. Both focus on understanding the political function of theatre, and this focus is demonstrated in his plays, which, overall, are meant for those “who want to leave the theatre changed and moved,” as one Chicago critic described. His play Hath Taken Away (O’Neill Playwrights Conference Semi-Finalist; Source Festival Finalist) was read at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Chicago Dramatists, and Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, and had a workshop production at Contraband Theatre. His play In the Shadow of his Language (Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Contest Finalist; O’Neill Playwrights Conference Semi-Finalist; Princess Grace Fellowship Semi-Finalist; AACT finalist) was read at Chicago Dramatists, the Alliance Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and in Chicago’s DCase “In the Works” series. Other produced full-length plays include Joan’s Laughter and Under America. Jacob’s ten-minute play See Him? was in the Belarusian Dream Theater: eighteen theaters in thirteen countries simultaneously producing plays to raise awareness about human rights violations in Belarus. His ten-minute play Saddam’s Lions—published in Plays for Two (Vintage)—examines the disquieting memories of an African-American female Iraq War veteran and her struggles to come to terms with war-time trauma. Jacob based this play on interviews with a veteran. This process combined his desire for politically relevant work, his dedication to diverse casting opportunities, and his scholarship about the politics of performance. He hopes to inspire in students a similar yearning for intellectual curiosity, social activism, collaboration, and playwriting.

Dr. Juntunen has extensive experience in the Chicago storefront theatre scene, as an alumnus Senior Network Playwright at Chicago Dramatists, as the founding managing director of Mortar Theatre, as a dramaturg, and as a recipient of a Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council.

He studied at the Interdisciplinary Program in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern University (PhD), the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University (MA), Reed College (BA), and Clackamas Community College (AA).

Jacob Juntunen
Phone: 618-453-5741
Office: Comm 1033B
Personal Website:
Short Plays:


A.A. Creative Writing, Clackamas Community College
B.A. English, Reed College
M.A. Theatre, Northwestern University
M.A. Playwriting, Ohio University
Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Program in Theatre and Drama, Northwestern University


Playwriting, Play Analysis, Theater History, Politics of Performance, Performance Theory

Research and Creative Interests

Playwriting, U.S. theater, world twentieth-century political theater, Central/East European theater, performing objects