Faculty & Staff Profiles

Amy E. Hughes

Professor of Theatre & Drama

Amy E. Hughes (she/her), professor and head of the Bachelor of Theatre Arts (BTA) program, joined the Department of Theatre & Drama at the University of Michigan in 2019. Her expertise and interests include nineteenth-century U.S. theatre, material and visual culture, disability studies, animal studies, digital humanities, documentary editing, and collaborative learning.


Her first monograph, Spectacles of Reform: Theater and Activism in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Michigan Press, 2012), delves deeply into print, visual, and artifactual archives to explore how theatre producers and reformers harnessed the power of spectacle to promote or resist social change during the 1800s. The book received the 2013 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History from the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR).

In 2018, University of Michigan Press published A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century US American Actor, coedited by Hughes and Naomi J. Stubbs—a critical edition of the pre-Civil War diary of U.S. actor, playwright, and stage manager Harry Watkins (1825–94). In collaboration with Scott D. Dexter, Chris Powell, and more than twenty undergraduate and graduate students on three university campuses, Hughes and Stubbs also created The Harry Watkins Diary: Digital Edition, an open-source, fully searchable transcription of the entire diary hosted by U-M Library Digital Collections. The Harry Watkins Diary Project also incorporates innovative forms of public engagement, including a web site, Facebook page, and Twitter Feed (@WatkinsDiary) that tweets snippets of the diary every day. In recognition of their work, Hughes, Stubbs, Dexter, and Powell received the 2019 ATHE-ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Theatre and Performance Scholarship.

In addition, Hughes has published articles, essays, and reviews in American Literature, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Journal of American Culture, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, New England Theatre Journal, Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, Theatre Survey, and Theatre Topics as well as several edited collections.

Hughes is currently working on a monograph, An Actor’s Tale: Theater, Culture, and Everyday Life in Nineteenth-Century US America, an “alternative history” of nineteenth-century U.S. theatre culture centered on workaday labor (under contract with University of Michigan Press). Hughes is also developing a book-length study about changing views toward dogs during the 1800s, focusing on the transatlantic enthusiasm for “dog dramas” England, France, and the United States. To support these and other projects, she has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), American Antiquarian Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Winterthur Library and Museum, among other organizations.

As a teacher, Hughes believes in the transformative power of collaboration to facilitate students’ intellectual, ethical, and professional growth. By employing Team-Based Learning (TBL) as well as Reacting to the Past (in which students engage in role-playing “games” inspired by classic texts in the history of ideas), she encourages students to take ownership of the classroom and their learning. Prior to joining the SMTD faculty, Hughes taught for thirteen years at Brooklyn College (CUNY), where her creativity and effectiveness as a teacher were recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award (2010) and a Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation Fellowship for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities (2011). In 2014, her former students in the BC Managers for the Arts alumni association honored her with the Award for Outstanding Service to BC’s MFA in Performing Arts Management program; and in 2019, The Graduate Center of CUNY recognized her accomplishments with its Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award.

PhD, Theatre, The Graduate Center, CUNY
MFA, Performing Arts Management, Brooklyn College, CUNY
BFA, Acting, New York University

Last update: August 2019

Illuminating Our Own Moment (Nineteenth-Century American Drama): A Conversation with Professor Amy E. Hughes

Interview: Dr. Hughes discusses “Reacting to the Past”

The Theatre History Podcast with Michael Leuger logo


Interview: “Theatre History Podcast #37: Examining the Diary of the 19th-Century Actor Harry Watkins,” (podcast)

All faculty profiles