Kelsey Headshot

PhD (Simon Fraser University), M.A. (University of British Columbia), M.A. (University of Toronto), B.A. (University of British Columbia). 

Current: I am a SSHRC-funded postdoctoral researcher in the Department of English at McGill.

Broad Interest Areas: performance studies, theatre studies, physical cultural studies, sport history, socio-cultural study of sport, contemporary cultural theory, community-engaged arts research.

Sub-interest Areas:  performance theory, theatre theory, history of western theatre and drama (1850-present), musical theatre studies, circus studies, performance studies and sport, theatre and performance audience research,  feminist sport history, affect theory, new materialism, practice theory, phenomenology & bodily movement, community-engaged theatre and performance, applied theatre. 

Word Art (3)

Research Description

Using a broad conception of performance as a connective thread for cross-disciplinary inquiry, I research specialized areas of physical culture (athletics, acting, singing, acrobatics) and popular performance genres such as sport, theatre, music-theatre, circus, and spectacle from 1850 to the present in the Global North.

I also theorize enactment, affect, and circuits ordinary urban life in the twenty-first century in Canada and the United States and investigate strategies and outcomes of community-engaged performance, pedagogy, and activism in urban centres in twenty-first century Canada. 


My articles have been published in journals including the Canadian Theatre Review, The International Journal of Sport History, Musical Theatre Studies, Language and Literacy, and Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. I also have  chapters in three forthcoming Routledge edited collections: ‘Shakespeare’s Things’ On Shakespeare, Materialism, and New MaterialismAn Anthology of Performance, Sport, and Physical Culture; Sports’ Play and am a co-editor for Basically Queer: An Intergenerational Guide to LGBTQA2S+ Lives published by Peter Lang.

Below, you’ll find a selected list of current scholarly & public-facing research initiatives.

For more about my community-engaged arts, sports’, and activism projects, see: Art & Activism

Postdoctoral Project: Ordinary Spectacles: Grand Cultural Events in the Early Twenty-First Century

McGill LogoApproaching the practices, activities, and events of contemporary sport through the lens of performance studies, my dissertation — Performance Studies, Sport, and Affect in the Twenty-First Century — proposed new critical concepts for the study of the patterning of behaviour in cultural performance genres (sport, theatre, music, game etc.). My post-doctoral research opens out to investigate professional sport alongside largescale nouveau cirque and music-theatre extravaganzas.

Every day of the week in urban centres across North America, hundreds, and often thousands, of people are drawn to public venues to move in and be moved by regularly scheduled, secular spectacles — what I call “ordinary spectacles.” These spectacles are “ordinary” not only in their steady recurrence; events such as Cirque du Soleil-style “nouveau cirque” shows, professional sporting contests, and arena-housed musical performances also play a critical role in shaping our everyday urban lives: their architectural and infrastructural demands influence civic policy and planning; their
large gatherings draw people into concentrated areas, affecting a city’s temporal rhythms and geographical flows; and their occasions offer opportunities for individuals to interact with each other and develop their civic identities

Centre for Spectatorship 

Centre for Spectatorship Image for Kelsey Website

As of 2019, I am a Director for the Centre for Spectatorship, an interdisciplinary group of scholars, researchers, and artists who meet once per month to discuss and create work that explores the fields of spectatorship and audience research. Our members come from the fields of museum studies, visual art, psychology, education, film, video games, in addition to drama, theatre, and performance studies.

For more, see:

The Activist Classroom

Activist Classroom

I am the curator for the Activist Classroom, a teaching commons populated by a diverse community of curators, contributors, and readers.

We understand pedagogy to be a process, an always-shifting practice that requires regular thinking through and tending; we recognize teachers to be committed, creative professionals, but also imperfect human beings who likewise need regular care, tending, and support.

Our content includes accessible, free, and above all honest responses to the challenges and joys of teaching.