Cason Murphy organizes and presents at national Mid-America Theatre Conference


Assistant professor of theatre Cason Murphy presented on two different panels at the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC) held in Chicago, Illinois, on March 5-8, 2020.

At the conference, themed around the idea of “Character,” Murphy presented his paper, “‘Spinning the Wheels of ‘Outrageous Fortune’: Two Attempts at Casting Hamlet by Chance.” His research explored the concept of the “perceived universality” of the Shakespearean character of Hamlet by comparing and contrasting two recent American productions—HamletRoulette and Mercury Hamlet—in which the ensemble cast learned every role in the playtext and then drew their respective character by lottery in front of the audience, resulting in a random combination of performer-characters at each performance. The variety of performers involved—often remarked-upon in reviews as “unconventional choices for Hamlet”—forced audiences to constantly negotiate a plethora of theoretical lenses (race, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, acting styles) against the characters of Hamlet in real time.

Additionally, Murphy represented the ISU Theatre faculty by proxy in presenting research about the institutional character needed to commit to radical change in the arts with the paper, “HERoic Character: Producing a Season of Plays Written by Women.” The proceedings were an examination of the processes, hurdles, and lessons learned before and during the current 2019-2020 ISU Theatre mainstage season—featuring works exclusively written by female playwrights, composers and librettists, entitled the “HERoic Season”—as the department has worked toward the immediate incorporation of more inclusive practices throughout the program and the hopes of developing an alternative model of university theatre processes in the future.

Murphy also completed his first year of a two-year term as a co-chair of the Practice/Production Symposium for the conference, and will return as the senior co-chair for the 2021 MATC in Kansas City, Missouri, and take a seat on the Nominations and Appointments Committee for the organization.

MATC is dedicated to the growth and improvement of all forms of theatre throughout a twelve-state region that includes the states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Its purposes are to unite people and organizations within this region and elsewhere who have an interest in theatre and scholarship.

Murphy is in his second year at Iowa State, teaching courses in acting, script analysis, musical theatre and intro to performing arts. He has presented his scholarship at national and international conferences, and published in prestigious journals including Theatre Topics, Theatre Journal, Shakespeare Bulletin, Theatre/Practice, and the Journal of Film and Video, along with the edited collections The Whirlwind of Passion: New Critical Perspectives on William Shakespeare and the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the War Film. Murphy is also currently in his fourth year serving as the Book Review Editor for the Texas Theatre Journal. His production of “9 to 5: The Musical” will run in Fisher Theater in during the 2020-2021 season.