Dissertation

Olivia's current research reapproaches figures and storylines from her childhood musical training. Performing instrumental arrangements of pieces from shows like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Evita, and West Side Story prompted her interest in musical theatre, especially its characters, icons, and mythologies, which were often implied by the music, but not visually present on stage.

Graduate work in English, gender studies, disability studies, and performance allows her to revisit the bodies performing and being performed in musical theatre now through multiple modes, including music, lyrics, plot, and choreography. Reviewing her favorite musicals with attention to the performers and the characters they perform has prompted her curiosity in U.S. women icons who play Latin American icons--whether Madonna playing Evita, Natalie Wood performing Maria in West Side Story, or several U.S. women performers playing Frida Kahlo in opera. She is interested in the extent to which cast, crew, and audiences permit or presume certain kinds of mobility for these actresses in order to make performative crossings of identities possible on a grand scale. 

Subsequently, her project considers how and with what implications 20th century U.S. musicals, operas, and ballets configure iconic Latin American bodies alongside U.S. popular notions of how nationality, class, gender, and disability show up on the body.