Shayoni Mitra

Shayoni Mitra

Senior Lecturer




333D Milbank Hall


Shayoni Mitra works at the intersection of performance and politics. Her interest in political theatre stems from her years as an actor with Delhi based street theatre group Jana Natya Manch. She is currently revising toward publication her manuscript, “Contesting Capital: A History of Political Theatre in Postcolonial Delhi,” which interrogates the ever shifting, adapting expressions of political theatre under different configurations of power. It is a historical look at both proscenium and street theatre from the decade of Independence in the 1940s to the twenty first century. The manuscript covers a range of styles including folk and revolutionary singing troupes,  large open-air performances, topical agit-prop plays, intimate and improvized activist pieces and feminist performances. This understanding of what it means to be political in changing times, is linked fundamentally with the life and profile of a city. New Delhi, the new capital of postcolonial India offers a unique nexus of local, regional and national power from which to understand and interrogate the ways in which cultural policy functions in creating identity for a new nation and its multiple peoples. Read this way, the history of political theatre in Delhi becomes metonymic for the oppressed and marginalized populations of this ever expanding global city.

Prof. Mitra has taught courses on Indian, Asian and non-Western performances as well as modern Theatre History and Performance Studies. Her teaching bridges the gap between the global North and South, putting into dialogue the histories of Western Realism with classical, folk, stylized, avant garde and improvized forms from around the world. She actively embraces the scholar-practitioner-activist role encouraging the connections between pedagogy and praxis. Before coming to Barnard, she taught at Brown and New York University in the United States and conducted lectures and theatre workshops in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Milia University and Delhi University in India. Among her current projects is her collaboration with a group of sex workers in Sangli, Maharashtra, India examining the ways in which they use theatre for their political mobilization.

  • B.A., M.A., St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University
  • M.A., Ph.D., Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

  • Non-Western Performance
  • Performance Studies
  • Gender and Feminist Studies

  • World Theatre
  • Traditional Indian Performance
  • Modern Asian Performance
  • Theories of Performance Studies
  • Theatre History II

  • Global Symposium Faculty Fellow to Mumbai, Barnard College, 2012.
  • Deena Burton Dissertation Research Award, Department of Performance Studies, New York University, May 2009.
  • Paulette Godard Summer Fellowship, Department of Performance Studies, New York University, 2006.
  • Corrigan Doctoral Fellowship, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, 2004-2008.

  • Faculty Fellow, Transnational Feminisms Project, Barnard Centre for Research on Women, 2012-13
  • Faculty Fellow, Science and Social Difference Group, Columbia University, 2012-13
  • Faculty Fellow, Shange Willen Seminar, Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies (CCIS), 2012-13
  • Association for Asian Performance, 2012-13

The (Im)Possibilities of a Hindustani National Theatre,” keynote address for International Mother Language Day Conference, LaGuardia College, April 2012

“Violating Performance: Women, Law and the State of Exception,” Lecture at Barnard Centre for Research on Women, March 2011

“Playing in the Here and Now: Site Specificity in Street Theatre," Theatre Archeology Group Conference, Brown University, May 2010

“Safdar Hashmi: Marxist/Martyr,” lecture presentation for “Year of India,” Brown University, October 2009.

“Maya Rao: The Art of Activism in the Indian Avant-Grade,” Performance Studies International # 13, New York University, November 2007.

“Theatre and the Movement: Two Feminist Street Theatre Groups in Delhi,” Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin Madison, October 2007.

“Violating Performance: Women, Law and the State of Exception,” in Gender, Space, Resistance, edited by Anita Singh, forthcoming 2013.

Contributor “Juliano Mer Khamis: Murder, Theatre, Freedom, Going Forward,” The Drama Review, MIT Press, T 211, Spring 2011.

“Book Review: Sudipto Chatterjee’s The Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial Calcutta,” Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Duke University Press, Duke University Press, Vol.28: 3, 2008.

“Book Review: Aparna Dharwadker’s Theatres of Independence and Vasudha Dalmia’s Poetics, Plays and Performance,” Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Duke University Press, Vol.26: 3, 2007.

“Badal Sircar: Scripting a Movement,” The Drama Review, MIT Press, Vol. 28: 3, Fall 2004.

In The News

Playwright Achiro P. Olwoch, a writer in exile, delivers lessons about courage, life, and art.

November 13, 2023

In Mitra’s global theatre course, students will immerse themselves in six international theater styles through applied workshops and independent projects. 

November 30, 2020