Marvin Carlson Award

The Department of Performing and Media Arts hosts a yearly contest for The Marvin Carlson Award for Best Student Essay in Theatre or Performance. This award honors CUNY Professor Marvin Carlson (CU PhD '61). 

Marvin Carlson is Sidney E. Cohn Distinguished Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature, and Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Centre, CUNY. He earned a PhD in Drama and Theatre from Cornell University (1961), where he also taught for a number of years. Marvin has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens, Greece, the ATHE Career Achievement Award, the ASTR Distinguished Scholarship Award, the Bernard Hewitt prize, the George Jean Nathan Award, the Calloway Prize, the George Freedley Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the founding editor of the journal Western European Stages and the author of over two hundred scholarly articles and fifteen books that have been translated into fourteen languages. His most recent books are Ten Thousand Nights: Highlights from 50 Years of Theatre-Going (2017) and Hamlet's Shattered Mirror: Theatre and the Real (2016). 

The award consists of a cash prize ($250) and certificate and is given to the best essay in theatre and performance by a Cornell student (graduate or undergraduate). 

Submission Guidelines:

  • Essays must be unpublished.

  • Essays should not exceed 25 pages.

  • Students may submit only one entry per year.

  • Only the title page should contain the student’s name and contact email, as this is a blind submission. A PMA administrator will collect submissions via email and redact students' identifying information before forwarding to the selection committee.

  • Submissions are due by 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 1, 2024, to Late entries will not be accepted.

For more information, email Professor J. Ellen Gainor at

Past Winners:

2024: Isabel Padilla Carlo: "Si Tu No Sabe Kokobalé" and The Reclamation of Collective Memory as a Praxis of Liberation

2023: Oona Cullen: "Black Queer Cosmologies, Sonic Geographies, and Embodied Entanglement in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays,” and Andy Colpitts (Honorable Mention): “The Road to Hell/Broadway: Rural Development and Outmigration in Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown"

2022:  Kriszta Pozsonyi: “Aging Vocal Performance in Mae West’s Final Film, Sextette”

2021:  Brian Sengdala: “Listening as Cambodian American Memory Work,” and Samuel N. W. Blake (honorable mention): “Ghosting History: Queer Disappearance, Stage Specters, and Minoritarian Performance in/of the Past”

2020:  Andrew Lorenzen: "Waiting for COVID: Learning from Beckett’s ​Waiting for Godot​ in a Time of Quarantine," and Christian Nielsen (honorable mention): “Gilding Motherhood: The Socio-Economic Restrictions Underlying Mildred Pierce”

2019:  Zhisheng (Ivy) Deng: "Weaving a Nation: Surfaces in the Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony" and Kelly Richmond: "Re-Presenting Decolonial Praxis: Transforming the Terms of Coloniality in Reverb-ber-ber-rations and The Scrubbing Project" (tie)

2018:  Sahar Tavakoli: "The Butcher, the Baker, the Policy Maker: Food Politics and the Making of ‘Camp Nationalism’”

2017:  Caitlin A. Kane: "We Write History on Our Bodies: Queer Archival Performance as an Act of Love,” and Samuel Blake (honorable mention): "Spinning Webs: Queer Myth Making and the Utopian Potential of Queer Youth Theatre”  

2016:  Kristen Wright: “The Killing of My Mother I Shall Claim Myself:  Adrienne Kennedy’s Electra and Orestes, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and the Question of Justice,” and Stephen Low (honorable mention): “The Liberating Theatrical Femininity of Nina Arsenault” 

2015:  Erin Stoneking: “(Re)Performing the American Civil War: Time, Memory, and Nation-making in Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas” 

2014:  Nick Fesette: "Performance, Prison Strike, Zombie: Steve McQueen's Hunger and the 'Reflection Machine'"

2013:  Graduate winner: John Robbins: “‘A modest virgin hath no choice’: Joanna Baillie’s The Brideand the Staging of Foreclosure.” Undergraduate winner: Olivia Powell: “Waiting for Recognition: Misrepresentation in Review and Scholarship of Odets’s Waiting for Lefty”

2012:  Andrew Bielski: “Spectatorship in the Theatres of Althusser and Badiou”  

2011:  Jimmy Noriega: "Performing Latin American Responses to 9-11 and Iraq: Political Theatre and Popular Resistance in the Age of Terror" 

2010:  Alex Black (Gonzales) 

2009:  Lindsey Cummings: "The Dialects of Affect in Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare," and Nicholas Tobin Roth (honorable mention): “(Hitch)cock on the Mind: Queer Paranoia and the Practice of Viral Paronomasia in Joe Orton’s Loot"