Jean O’Hara holds a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies at York University. The primary focus of her work is devised ensemble-based theatre that addresses socio-political issues. Jean has collaborated with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She has also studied and applied Augusto Boal’s theatre for social justice both in the community and the classroom. Jean has been directing and teaching theatre for the past fifteen years and her research interests include Indigenous theatre and representation and queer performance.
Jean received her bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College, her master’s from Humboldt State University, and her PhD from York University, with a dissertation that explores how two-spirit plays challenge the dominant narrative about gender and sexuality. She is also the editor of the anthology Two-Spirit Acts: Indigenous Queer Performances, and says that studying Indigenous societies has radically changed the way she views gender.
Jean uses her work to investigate themes of racism, sexism, classism, ableism, transphobia, and heterosexism, and believes in the power and efficacy that theater has to give voice to traditionally marginalized groups. Having worked with both the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed, Jean credits Boal with laying the foundation for her own pedagogy, for seeing students as agents in the classroom. “We need to come from a place of equality in order to freely learn and create, versus working in hierarchical frameworks,” Jean says.
Jean is passionate about using theater as a venue for environmental justice, and for creating and maintaining local food sources. She co-edited and co-directed the play Salmon is Everything, which encouraged unity among farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and Native communities to all work for a cleaner river and healthy salmon runs in California and Oregon’s Klamath Basin.
The primary focus of her work is devised ensemble based theatre that addresses socio-political issues. Jean has collaborated with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre, as well as the Klamath Theatre Project, which addressed environmental justice issues faced by Indigenous communities. In her most recent project, Jean collaborated with Wiyot filmmaker, Michelle Hernandez, to create a film that deconstructs the representation of Native people and “pioneers” via iconic roadside statues. Her research interests include Indigenous theatre and representation, and queer performance.