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Drama professor receives career achievement awards

Penny Farfan's accolades bring international awareness to university's theatre research


The editing and scholarship awards tie in with Farfan’s teaching and graduate supervision, for which she recently received a Faculty of Graduate Studies GREATsupervisor Award.

By Aurelie Maerten
October 29, 2015

2015 has been a great year for drama professor Penny Farfan. This summer, she received the U.S.-based Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s (ATHE) Excellence in Editing Award and the ATHE Women and Theatre Program’s Achievement Award for Scholarship.

“I was surprised and really honoured to receive these two awards,” says Farfan. “It’s a career highpoint for me, and the awards bring international awareness to excellence in theatre scholarship at the University of Calgary.”

Both awards celebrate Farfan’s body of work. A past recipient of ATHE’s Outstanding Article Award, Farfan is the author of Women, Modernism, and Performance, as well as many essays and book chapters on modernism and performance and on contemporary women playwrights.

She is also the co-editor with Lesley Ferris of Contemporary Women Playwrights: Into the Twenty-First Century and a recent past editor of Theatre Journalthe top journal in the field, for which she published special issues on such topics as rethinking intercultural performance; queer research in performance; and modernism, including many award-winning essays.

Farfan’s research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, and the Killam Trust, as well as a university professorship. The University of Calgary also provided support for her work on Theatre Journal.

Research showcases her expertise in drama, theatre history and feminist theatre

“The funding I’ve received from SSHRC, the University of Calgary, and beyond has given me time to focus on my research and enabled me to travel to archives, work with graduate research and editorial assistants, and attend conferences to present my work and meet with other scholars,” says Farfan. “This research support has been invaluable.”

The editing and scholarship awards tie in with Farfan’s teaching and graduate supervision, for which she recently received a Faculty of Graduate Studies GREATsupervisor Award. Her work as a supervisor is informed by her expertise in modern and contemporary drama, theatre history, and feminist theatre, but also by her approach to editing.

“The key to being a good editor is finding the most interesting material by the most interesting scholars, and helping them to get it into the best possible shape,” says Farfan. “When you’re supervising graduate students, you’re working similarly to help them clarify their ideas and do their best work.”

Upcoming projects include a project on recent plays by Canadian women playwrights

Farfan’s most recent editing project involved commissioning theatre and drama entries for The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, which is forthcoming in 2016.

“People tend to think about editing as sitting at your desk fixing other people’s writing," she says. "There is a certain amount of that, but the fun part is conceptualizing and curating projects.” 

Farfan is currently completing a research project on queer modernism. She is also working on book chapters on feminist modernism and theatre between the wars and starting a new project on recent plays by Canadian women playwrights based on controversial news stories about women.