KAJA DUNN is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at University of North Carolina Charlotte as well as being an actor, director, and activist. She is the head of EDI for Theatrical Intimacy Education and a consultant on race for Actor’s Equity Association as well as an executive board member of Black Theatre Network and a former Board member of Black Theatre Association. Her work on Equity, Diversity and inclusion as well as Anti-Racism and Decolonization have led to presentations and keynotes workshops including Race and Theatre for Students, Race and Theatre for Faculty, and Teaching in Trauma , Safe Spaces for Theatre Students of Color, and Culturally Competent Pedagogy at University of London Goldsmiths.
She has been invited to consult or present at Princeton University (2021), Blumenthal Performing Arts, Association of Theatre in Higher Education , Spelman College, Emory University, University of Oklahoma, University of Northern Iowa, University of Arizona, Northern Illinois University, The Women’s Theatre Festival, The Michael Chekhov Association, North Carolina Theatre Association (Keynote Panelist) , George Mason University (keynote July 2020), Children’s Theatre Charlotte, Southeastern Theatre Conference and Southeastern Theatre Symposium, Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival, among other places.
Dunn has published articles for National and International publications including the UK’s Theatre, Dance and Performance Training’s Special Issue 11.3 “Against the Canon”, Training Theatre Students of Color in the USA, , Hidden Damage: When Uninformed Casting and Actor Training Disregard the Effect of Character Embodiment on Students of Color. Theatre Symposium, and the forthcoming co-authored chapter Decolonizing Shakespeare on Stage: A Case Study. In Arden Research Companion to Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance. She has appeared in several publications and media outlets to discuss Equity in the Arts and Liberal Arts including: Interview with Leaders in the Emerging Field of Intimacy Direction, Special Issue on Intimacy Choreography, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, “Find Your Light” Podcast, “Forecasts in Black Theatre in 2019” Interviewed with Chris Berry and David Shakes on Up Close and Cultural, WAYO, FM. Rochester, NY. January 22, 2019. “Archipelago and Culturally Competent Production” Interviewed with Caridad Svich and Carlos Alexis Cruz (UNCC) on Up Close and Cultural, WAYO, FM. Rochester, NY. October 2, 2018. “Reshaping Pedagogy for Actors of Color” Guest expert with Dr. Monica Ndounou (Dartmouth) on Up Close and Cultural, WAYO, FM. Rochester, NY. June 26, 2018. “Thomas and Sally Part 2, Black women in the United States, a white supremacist patriarchal society, and theatre that does not harm them.” Guest expert with Reenah Golden on Up Close and Cultural, WAYO, FM. Rochester, NY. November 7, 2017. “A Conversation About Thomas and Sally, Representations of Women and Women of Color in Theatre” Guest expert with Mark Allen Davis (San Francisco State) on Up Close and Cultural, WAYO, FM. Rochester, NY. October 31, 2017. “Understanding Social Justice Through The Arts” Guest expert with Roger Guenveur Smith, on Charlotte Talks, WFAE 90.7. Charlotte, NC. January 10, 2017.
She has performed in over 40 shows and was an associate artist at both Moxie Theatre and Lamb’s Players and has taught and performed internationally. Dunn also directs in educational and regional theatres. Her written monologue was featured in the Billie Holiday Theatre’s 50in50 Letters To Our Sons and performed by Pauletta Washington. She was a 2018 keynote panelist at NCTC. Kaja was previously a Lecturer at California State University San Marcos and toured with Ya Tong Theatre in Taiwan. Other teaching credits include working with homeless and foster youth with Playwrights Project San Diego and as a teaching artist with Young Audiences. Her primary research focus is on using theatre to facilitate complex cultural conversation and Reimagining Theatre Training for Actors of Color. You can follow her on Twitter where she frequently posts about EDI issues under the handle @KajaDunn.
"Culturally Competent and Trauma-Informed Teaching in the Age of MAGA and Brexit."
Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference, Motherschooling in the Academy. April 2021
American Educational Finance and Policy 46th Annual Conference, Black Motherschooling in Dual American Pandemics: Considerations to Inform Policy. March 2021 Goldsmiths University, London, ‘Against the Canon’: diversifying performer training. March 2021
Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Foundations in Race and Intimacy, January -Feb 2021
Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Keynote Panelist, January, 2021
Thomas Schroth Visiting Artist Series, Visiting Artist and Speaker, Kent State University, Virtual, January, 2021 University of Arizona, EDI Consultant, 2020-2021
Summit Organizer, "The Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, & Intimacy Initiative (EDIII) Summit,” Virtual, August, 2020 (originally hosted by Princeton Pre-Covid).
Foundations in Race and Intimacy, Theatrical Intimacy Education, Virtual, August 2020.
Radical Imagination: Marginalization into Resilience, ATHE All Conference Plenary: Envisioning Resilience in Performance, Virtual, July 2020.
Black Women in the American Theatre, Keynote Panel, Women’s Theatre Festival, Virtual, July 2020.
Teaching in Trauma, Keynote, Emergency Virtual Conference on Undergraduate Theater Education, July 2020.
Race and Acting Pedagogy, Keynote Speech, Michael Chekhov Association, July 2020.
Actor’s Equity Association, Workshop Series on Race for Actors NYC, NY, January 2020-Present.
Blumenthal Performing Arts, Community Outreach Talks, Diversity in Theatre, Charlotte, NC, February 2020.
Spelman College, Guest Artist, Atlanta, GA, January 2020.
Emory University, Panelist, Carmen Jones, African American Film Series, Atlanta, GA, January 2020.
Bucknell University, Dalal Consultancy, Lewisburg, PA, December 2019.
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Consultant for Last Stop On Market Street, Kindness Project, August 2017.
Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Talkback Moderator, The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime, Charlotte, NC, February, 2017.
Peer Reviewed Journal Articles
Dunn, Kaja, Sharell Luckett and Daphnie Sicre. “Training Theatre Students of Color in the USA.” Dance and Performance Training’s Special Issue 11.3 “Against the Canon,” 2020.
Baker, Sylvan, Stephen Buescher, and Kaja Dunn. "Culturally Competent and Trauma-Informed Teaching in the Age of MAGA and Brexit." Theatre Topics 30, no. 1 (2020): E-29-E-31. doi:10.1353/tt.2020.0006.
Hidden Damage: When Uninformed Casting and Actor Training Disregard the Effect of “Character Embodiment on Students of Color.” Theatre Symposium, vol. 27, no. 1, September 2019.
Peer Reviewed Book Chapter In Process In Process: Ed. Jordan-Zachary, Julia. Authors Dunn, Kaja, Tehia Glass, Janaka Lewis, Kendra Jason and Candace Brown. “Black Woman and the 'Rona.” “Motherschooling: Building the Brilliance of Blackness in Home Education.”
Eds. Kirwan and Prince. Hartley, Andrew, Kaja Dunn and Chris Berry. “Decolonizing Shakespeare on Stage: A Case Study.” “Arden Research Companion to Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance” London: Arden Shakespeare, 2020.
“Mothers of Color as Activists, Artists and Scholars.” Session Coordinator, Association of Theatre in Higher Ed Conference, Virtual, August 1, 2020.
“Culturally Competent Pedagogy and Practice in the Age of MAGA and BREXIT.” Session Coordinator, Association of Theatre in Higher Ed Conference, Orlando, FL, August 10, 2019.
“Shifting the Landscape: Institutions of Blackness in Theatre, Performance, and Academia” Presenter, Association of Theatre in Higher Ed Conference, Orlando, FL, August 10, 2019.
“Changing Scenes Through Actor Training: Rethinking the Methods of Connecting Black Character Work and European Acting Techniques.” Presenter, Association of Theatre in Higher Ed Conference, Orlando, FL, August 9, 2019.
“Decolonizing Theatre Pedagogy.” Coordinator and Presenter, Black Theatre Network Conference, Winston-Salem, NC, July, 28, 2019.
“Inclusion and Diversity: Casting for your Stage, Staff, Production Teams, and Board.” Presenter, NCTC Producers Gathering, Greensboro, NC, July 22, 2019.
“Highlights of Theatre Symposium 27: Theatre and Embodiment,” Presenter of Paper: “Hidden Damage: When Uninformed Casting and Actor Training Disregard the Effect of Character Embodiment on Students of Color,” Southeastern Theatre Conference 2019, Knoxville, TN, February 27- March 2, 2019.
“Rendering Representation: Incorporating Diversity in Costume Design," Presenter, Southeastern Theatre Conference 2019, Knoxville, TN, February 27- March 2, 2019.
“Creating Safe Spaces for Theatre Students of Color: Part 2, Taking Action,” Session Coordinator and Presenter, ATHE Conference 2018, Boston, MA, August 3, 2018.
“Decolonizing the Acting Classroom: Creating a Culturally Competent Pedagogy,” Session Coordinator and Presenter, ATHE Conference 2018, Boston, MA, August 2, 2018.
“Revolutionizing the Actor's Way In: Rethinking the Methods of Connecting Black Character Work and European Acting Techniques,” Presenter, ATHE Conference 2018, Boston, MA, August 4, 2018.
"Hidden Damage: When Uninformed Casting and Actor Training Disregard the Effect ofCharacter Embodiment on Students of Color," Theatre Symposium, Decatur, Georgia, April 13-15, 2018.
"Reimagining Actor Training for Students of Color," On Whose Terms? Ten Years On... Conference, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, March 22-23, 2018.
“Exploration of ‘Safe Spaces’ for Theatre Students of Color,” Presented with Anjalee Hutchinson (Bucknell)and Ivakristi Pallpier (Teaching Artist, KY), Association For Theatre in Higher Education Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, August, 2017.
“Mentoring Diversity In Performance,” Panelist, Association For Theatre in Higher Education Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, August, 2017.
"Accessing Complex Cross-Cultural Discussion Through Theatrical Technique," The Symposium on Performance of the African Diaspora as Social Change, Georgia College, Milledgeville, Georgia, April, 2016.
“Networking for Women and People of Color,” Kennedy Centre American College Theatre Festival, Region 8 Conference, Honolulu, HI, February, 2016.
“Hairalouges, Dialoguing about Theatre and the Black Hair Experience,” California Centre for The Arts, Escondido, CA February, 2016.
“Raisin In The Sun and Clybourne Park in the Context of Housing Discrimination,” Presented with Dr. Judy Bauerlein (CSUSM), Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention, Chattanooga, TN, March 2015.
“The Sacred in the Profane: Theatre through a Redemptive Lens,” Presented with Dr. Judy Bauerlein (CSUSM), Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention, Chattanooga, TN, March 2015.