Elliot Leffler

Elliot Leffler
Assistant Professor, Program Director
Telephone number
Building HW 420
Theatre and Performance


Elliot Leffler is scholar and artist who investigates how Applied Theatre can be used as a catalyst for intercultural dialogue and coalition-building. He has led theatre projects with Jews and Palestinians in Israel, with Kurdish and Arab Iraqis, with white, black and coloured South Africans, and with racially-diverse houses of worship in North America. His book, Applied Theatre and Intercultural Dialogue: Playfully Approaching Difference, examines many of these experiences.  His scholarship also includes articles in The Drama Review, Theatre Topics, Research in Drama Education, Theatre Research International, and Contemporary Theatre Review.  
Elliot's research and Applied Theatre projects have been supported by a Connaught New Researcher Award, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, a Dorot Fellowship, a Frank M. Rarig Fellowship, and a University of Minnesota Global Spotlight Grant, among other grants and awards from within the University of Toronto, the University of Minnesota, and Reed College. 
Elliot has taught a broad range of classes, including Introduction to Theatre, Theatre and Social Justice, Acting, Directing, Improvisation, Devising Theatre, and Theatre History ("Roots and Traditions"), in addition to teaching within his specialization on Applied Theatre.  In productions on college campuses, Elliot has devised and directed plays that have actively engaged audiences in dialogue about 9/11, capitalism, tax policy, and racial and class inequity.


PhD in Theatre, University of Minnesota (2014)
MA in Applied Theatre, University of Cape Town (2008)
BS in Theatre, Summa Cum Laude, Northwestern University (2002)


Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies, University of Toronto (St. George)
Flourish: Community-Based Arts for Social Wellness
Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)
American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR)
Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO)

Teaching Interests

Applied Theatre, Theatre and Social Justice, Devising, Acting, Directing

Research Interests

Applied Theatre, Community-Based Theatre, Intercultural Dialogue, Play, Oberammergau Passion Play

Awards and Grants

SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (2022-24, with the "Flourish" collective)
IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, & Sustainability) Grant, 2022
Connaught New Researcher Award (2021)
UTSC Experiential Education Grant (2019, 2021)
Equity and Diversity in the Arts Grant (2019, 2021)
Dorot Fellowship (2009-2010)
Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship (2007-2008)


Applied Theatre and Intercultural Dialogue:

Leffler, Elliot.  2022.  Applied Theatre and Intercultural Dialogue: Playfully Approaching Difference.  Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
ISBN: 978-3-030-98514-1

Leffler, Elliot. "Performing Protest and Protesting Performance: The International Circuits of Touring Political Theatre." Theatre Research International 46.1 (2021): 53-69.
Book Chapter
Leffler, Elliot. "Bursting the Bubble of Play: Making Space for Intercultural Dialogue." In Megan Lewis and Anton Kruger, eds, Magnet Theatre: Three Decades of Making Space. Intellect Books, 2016.
ISBN 9781783205370



theatrical performance


By Steven Cosson and Michael Friedman
Directed by Elliot Leffler
Scenic, Lighting, and Video Design by Peter Ksander
Costume Design by Jenny Ampersand
Sound Design by Sharath Patel
Dramaturgy by Autumn Wheeler
Reed College Diver Studio Theatre
November 2016
Photos by Stacia Torborg

theatrical performance


Devised by The Cast
Directed by Elliot Leffler
Scenic, Lighting, and Video Design by Peter Ksander
Costume Design by Chloe Chapin
Sound Design by Sharath Patel
Dramaturgy by Kate Bredeson and the Spring 2016 Dramaturgy Class
Reed College Diver Studio Theatre, April 2016
Photos by Dale M Peterson
Gatlin Newhouse has written about In/divisible in the Reed College Quest.

play at a tea party


Devised by The Cast
Director - Elliot Leffler
Set Designer/Props - Jonathon Offutt
Costume Designer - Jesslane Fantauzzi
Light Designer - Jesse Cogswell
Sound Designer - Aaron Newman
Co-Sound Designer - Jerry Hsiao
Sarah Harper has written about Tea Party in the Minnesota Daily.

makeup artist applying on actor


Devised by The Cast
Directed by Elliot Leffler and Michael Mellas
Sceneography by Jonathon Offutt
Created with an ensemble of undergraduate students and performed on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Remembering 9/11 was an interactive theatre piece that took audiences through multiple spaces and culminated in a big community dialogue.  It encouraged the campus community to think together about how, when, and why we want to remember the events of 9/11/2001.
Co-directors Elliot Leffler and Michael Mellas have written in detail about the process and performance in a 2016 article in Theatre Topics
Sarah Harper has written about Remembering 9/11 in the Minnesota Daily.


Playful Encounters

A long-term, multi-sited, ethnographic project investigating Applied Theatre projects that foster intercultural encounters.

Impassioned Public: A Study of the Oberammergau Passion Play.
An ethnographic study of the amateur artists who create the world’s most famous passion play.
  • This project has received support from the 2020 Jackman Humanities Institute’s Scholars-in- Residence program, a Connaught New Researcher Award, an RCPP grant, and and IDEAS grant.
  • I taught a Summer 2022 course in relation to this project, with support from the UTSC Dean’s Office and Experiential Learning Fund, that engaged a group of 11 UTSC undergraduate students, taking them to Oberammergau, Germany, to witness the Passion Play and conduct interviews.
  • This project has engaged two undergraduate research assistants through the University of Toronto’s work study program, and one graduate research assistant, with support of the “Flourish” research cluster.

Professional Practice

theatre performance


From 2015-2018, I was an Artistic Associate at Living Stages, a non-profit organization in Portland, OR that uses “Theatre of the Oppressed” methodologies to advocate for greater racial and economic justice. I worked with Living Stages to develop interactive theatre events and facilitate those events.

theatrical performance


From 2015-2018, I was an ensemble member of Portland Playback – a Portland-based company practicing an interactive, improvisational form of performance called Playback Theatre. With its roots in drama therapy, Playback Theatre companies solicit real stories from their audiences, and dramatize those stories in ways that stimulate audiences to look at those experiences anew.

Theatrical performance


In 2012-2013, I worked with a black Baptist church and a Reform synagogue to co-faciliitate a theatre program in which congregants studied Biblical narratives together by dramatizing them. Using a methodology called Bibliodrama, my co-facilitator Brian Smith and I catalyzed a year-long, interracial and interfaith conversation about partnerships based in Biblical narratives and unlikely relationship-building. For more information on this project, please see my PhD dissertation or my 2016 article in Research in Drama Education.

group circle outside


In Summers 2011 and 2012, I ran drama workshops at Global Youth Village – a summer camp for teenagers who come from all over the world to practice intercultural dialogue and study peacebuilding. My workshops used methodologies associated with Playback Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to open up a space in which personal stories could be shared in a fully-embodied way, promoting intercultural understanding. I have published an article in The Drama Review based on some of my experiences at GYV, and I will be writing more about these experiences in my upcoming book.

Pollsmoor sign


In 2007, I ran an intercultural theatre program with juvenile inmates of Pollsmoor Prison, in Cape Town, South Africa. I worked with them to create original pieces of theatre about schools, gangs, crime, and HIV. I have written about this process in my MA thesis, and I will be writing more about it in my upcoming book.