Work samples

  • MASS/Rabble Teaser Video
    Brief teaser video. Editing and music by Glenn Ricci, footage by Human Being Productions.

  • The Goodies
    "THE GOODIES," a new ensemble-devised piece, directed by Susan Stroupe and produced by Iron Crow Theatre, closed on December 10, 2017. THE GOODIES is a modern re-telling of the Salem Witch Trials, using the high-pressure world of a high school and systemic racism as metaphors to bring the complex history into our modern imaginations. Devised and written by a cast of 8 women of color, THE GOODIES reframed the narrative of history to center on the teenage girl accusers, to give them a chance to be seen as more than hysterical liars. In that process, the show both indicts and invites the audience to look for where we are all complicit, where we all dehumanize, and how we might use history to learn for the future.
  • Trailer for H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum
    This trailer gives a good sense of the movement and characters of the show.

  • The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe - Performance Trailer
    Trailer created by producer and co-director Glenn Ricci. The Mesmeric Revelations of Edgar Allan Poe is an immersive theater experience performed in the spring and fall of 2015 at the Pratt House at the Maryland Historical Society. Devised collaboratively with a group of actors, Mesmeric Revelations took audiences on a journey through the "mesmeric world" of a curiously absent Edgar Allan Poe, focusing on three significant women in his life, along with his greatest fictional creation August Dupin, and several mysterious characters whose journeys revealed themselves throughout the show.

About Susan

Baltimore City
Susan Stroupe is a collaborative theater maker, primarily working as a director, ensemble deviser, and teaching artist, who specializes in immersive and devised works of theater, often performed in non-traditional spaces.  Throughout her career, Stroupe has also worked as a director, performer, writer, puppeteer, teacher, and collaborator in professional and professional community-based projects, with actors and nonactors of many ages and many abilities and disabilities, all around the country… more


As our bodies move, we tell a story. Where we have been, where we are going, what we hold on to, what we let go of. When bodies move in masses, they tell a larger story. Hope, fear, war, famine, the search for a better life. What does it mean to be just one body moving in humanity’s great crowd? This is a movement piece. Prepare to be moved.

Role: Core Creative Team, Dramaturg, Ensemble Perfomer
MASS/Rabble was a devised, immersive, movement work, created by over 30 performers and designers, that explored questions of displacement, migration, borders, and community.  It was performed at the historic Baltimore War Memorial in April 2019.

This was an ambitious and challenging piece for Submersive to undertake: creating a largely wordless, non-narrative piece, collaborating with an international Butoh artist, and working with a much larger cast and audience than we have previously, in a space that was cavernous and a literal sacred place of ghosts.  We stretched all our artistic and community-building skills to make space for a complex weave of ideas, images, and inspirations, and our audience's response was both unexpected and overwhelming--so many have since responded with tremendous gratitude that they were invited to participate in such a different way, and that it moved in them in ways they didn't expect.

The Goodies

"THE GOODIES," a new ensemble-devised piece, directed by Susan Stroupe and produced by Iron Crow Theatre, closed on December 10, 2017.  THE GOODIES is a modern re-telling of the Salem Witch Trials, using the high-pressure world of a high school and systemic racism as metaphors to bring the complex history into our modern imaginations.  Devised and written by a cast of 8 women of color, THE GOODIES reframed the narrative of history to center on the teenage girl accusers, to give them a chance to be seen as more than hysterical liars.  In that process, the show both indicts and invites the audience to look for where we are all complicit, where we all dehumanize, and how we might use history to learn for the future.

From Stroupe's Director's Notes:
“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”  William Faulkner’s simple wording encompasses the complex breadth and height of America’s relationship to its own foundation, and few events from our early days continue to haunt our imaginations more than the Salem Witch Trials.  As we embarked on this devising journey, we discovered that as much as we believe we have distanced ourselves from those literal dark days, the Puritans are much closer than we think.  We often associate the Puritans only with their theology, but in reality their philosophy of work and behavior is so close to our current desire to prove we are living a good life, that some phrases in the primary sources of our research could have been written by contemporary wellness bloggers. 
We also discovered that at the root of these events, so often explained away by a simple single source, stemmed in many ways from the complex pain of teenage girls wanting to have a voice in their society and being censored by authority figures.  The difficult reality was that their silencing and censoring wasn’t really because of lack of belief in them, but because their truth would bring the entire precarious social contract of Puritan society to its knees.  So we started from a place of believing those girls.  We found a deep kinship between those teenage girls of Salem and teenage girls of color in our own time, and grew this story from that seed.
In his play The Crucible, Arthur Miller simplified this history by making it about a Good Man (aged down), a Vindictive Teenage Girl (aged up), and government too blinded by doctrine to see what was right in front of them.  We do not intend to nullify Miller’s great work, but to add to it, and to suggest that if we continue to simplify our past, we will forever be haunted by it in the present.
  • The Goodies 1.jpg
    The ensemble cast of THE GOODIES. From left to right: Dana Woodson, Christine Canady, Elizabeth Ung, Rachel Reckling, Jess Rivera, Danielle Harrow, Alex Reeves, Aladrian Crowder Wetzel. The main narrative was bookended by a prologue and an epilogue, imitating the Bible's "In the beginning," and Book of Revelations, about the creation and journey of the teenage girl, a nod to the devotion of the Puritans (and of our modern times) to mythology and doctrinal texts to form our moral compasses.
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    Each actor created their own "Goodie" character, a teenage girl at the center of the narrative. In adapting the Salem history, each actor discovered how their character would be haunted by the world around them, an intersection of racism, sexism, and dogmatic adherence to what it means to be "good."
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    Each "ghost" was accompanied by a projected illustration by Justin Johnson, giving the audience a glimpse into how the specters of the girls' worlds lived in their imaginations.
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    Because we set the world in a modern high school, the role of social media was a huge character in the narrative, and a metaphor for the "new world" from the times of Salem, as the internet for us is also dark, unknown, and its laws are still being written.
    In order to bring the effects of social media into a theatrical form, we used post-it notes as a literal representation of social media posts, a clever gimmick that turned deadly when the Goodies later become inundated with posts they cannot control.

HT Darling's Incredible Musaeum

Conceived by Lisi Stoessel, Musaeum invited viewers to the Grand Opening of the Exhibit of New Galapagos, a far-off realm visited by intrepid explorer HT Darling.  Dramaturgically, we have been exploring and deconstructing Enlightenment philosophy and the "natural order of the universe," working with ideas of owning narrative, seeking legacy and immortality, time and memory, undermining status quo structures, and seeking new ways to explore difficult histories of colonialism, misogyny, and appropriation.  The show weaves in narrative, puppetry, museum studies and practices, dance, and interactive environments to create one immersive experience.
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    Devising for a major scene of Musaeum. Part of our devising work is finding the relationship between the performer and other physical elements of the space: architecture, light/shadow, sound, and topography.
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    Because we don't begin with a script, each actor becomes the primary creator of their narrative. Pictured here is our method of beginning to create a full show "script" by having the actors place moments and scenes on sticky notes in a relative chronology of their character's journey. This allows us to update, add, subtract, and move around plot points as needed.
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    One of the joys of group devising is that the whole cast gets to participate in each character's development. The fluid, nontraditional process of collaboratively devising in a non-theater space means discoveries about character, narrative, and dramaturgy often occur in random moments and in unorthodox places.
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    Our collaborative cast in an initial character devising workshop. From left: Sarah Olmstead Thomas, Francisco Benavides, Trustina Fafa Sabah, Lisi Stoessel, David Brasington, Alex Vernon.

Harry and the Thief

HARRY AND THE THIEF, a play by Sigrid Gilmer (USA Ford Fellow), was directed by Susan Stroupe and produced by Strand Theatre Company in April 2016.  A comedy about Harriet Tubman, time travel, and revolution, it is a genre-bending dark comedy that reclaims, chews up, and turns the traditional slave narrative on its head. 
Read an interview with Stroupe here:
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    Aladrian Crowder Wetzel as Mimi.
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    Javier Ogando as Knox, Trustina Fafa Sabah as Shiloh, and Madison Sowell as Maddox.
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    Aladrian Crowder Wetzel as Mimi and Samy El Noury as Anita.
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    Monique Ingram as Harry (Harriet Tubman).
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    Frank Mancino as Orry Main, Mike Smith as Jeremy
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    Javier Ogando as Knox and Alexander Scally as Overseer Jones
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    Zipporah Brown as Vivian.
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    Monique Ingram as Harry, Javier Ogando as Knox, Trustina Fafa Sabah as Shiloh, Zipporah Brown as Vivian, and Madison Sowell as Maddox.

Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe

Role:  Co-Director, Original Deviser/Creator

The first of its kind in Baltimore:  a full-length, full immersive and ensemble-devised theatrical experience co-directed by Susan Stroupe and Glenn Ricci (Ricci, who came up with the concept, received a Rubys grant for the project), performed at the Pratt House at the Maryland Historical Society in a sold-out run in the spring of 2015, revived in the fall of 2015 for a total of 62 shows.  Mesmeric Revelations received numerous accolades, including Best Concept and Best New Work from the Bad Oracle's B.U.L.S.H.I.T. Awards, and was voted Best Theatrical Experience in City Paper's "Best of Baltimore."

Mesmeric Revelations, as a fully devised work, gave agency to the original cast of actors to create their characters and the narrative that shaped the show.  Over the course of a nine-month rehearsal process, all ensemble members researched together, trained together, and devised together, creating a show with a tight-knit ensemble built on on trust, listening, and attention to intricate details in each others' performances.  Mesmeric Revelations took a special look at the women in Poe's life, and much of the devising process revolved around deconstructing the male-gaze infused myths surrounding Poe's wife, mother, and later loves, allowing the actors to create full human beings out of women who have become mythologized and sidelined.

Read an interview with Stroupe and Ricci here:
  • Mesmeric1.JPG
    Jenna Rossman as Eliza, David Brasington as Auguste, and Shannon Graham as Sarah, performing the seance with audience members. The seance was a moment that we asked ourselves: "we want audience members to fully participate in this, so how can we have them fully engaged without explicitly giving instructions?" The actors work on how to subtly engage audience members to do what we needed them to do through physical cues.
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    Susan at the "Dramaturgy Wall." In our first month of rehearsal, our goal was to accomplish two things: to build the ensemble with our actors, and to discover and develop the focus of the characters. Part of this was the research the whole team had been doing throughout the summer, which culminated in a giant wall of pictures, writing, articles, etc that we made in the first few weeks of rehearsal.
  • Mesmeric3.JPG
    In December 2014 we moved into the Pratt House, which deeply informed the remainder of our devising process. While we had made many decisions about the characters, the space provided the final key to their narratives. The relationship between the actors and the architecture was essential to finishing the devising process.
  • Mesmeric4.JPG
    This is "the Ball" scene, created as a meeting point for the end of "Act 1," in which the characters were, for the first time in the show, all in the same space at the same time. One challenged we worked with in devising was how to tell six (and then nine in the second run) different narratives without leaving the audience in the cold. Part of our solution was to create "touchstone" scenes like this one in which the audience could see everyone at the same time and put some narrative pieces together.
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    Natanya Sheva Washer in rehearsal as Virginia, in her "parlor." One of the greatest challenges for the actors was the physical challenge of performing in such close quarters with the audience. There were no breaks, no intermissions, and, essentially, no faking. Because every moment had the possibility of audience witnessing in close proximity, the performance choices had to be sculpted so they were both sincere and sustainable.
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    Lisi Stoessel as Barkeep (Fall 2015 cast). Throughout the devising process, we left room for each character to grow in its own way, and gave support to each actor to discover how the character wanted to live in the world we were creating. No character followed the same performance style, and the Barkeep was one of the most mysterious, both in devising and performance. With little spoken text and few outright narrative revelations, the original Barkeep Jessica Ruth Baker, along with the actors who came along in the fall, Stoessel and Caitlin Bouxsein, worked diligently to find ways to give concrete narrative clues to the audience without being able to speak directly to them. Barkeep was one of the most challenging but most satisfying characters.
  • Mesmeric7.JPG
    Matthew Payne as V. and Alexander Scally as Auguste. Since we did not start with a written script, the majority of our spoken dialogue came from Poe's text, which in their original form were not meant to be theatrical dialogue. Our actors were challenged to find the physical life of the often dense text, and how to show narrative clues to the audience through physical dialogue while allowing the text to inform the audience in different ways. The "Chess Match" as this came to be called, was created from Poe's opening passages in "Murders in the Rue Morgue."
  • Mesmeric8.jpg
    In our remount of the show in the fall of 2015, we increased our cast from 6 to 16, creating 3 new characters and doubling the actors for the existing parts. A large challenge in the remount was having the original actors teach their parts to the new actors, because the characters were not created from a script, but from the minds of the original actors, and therefore their individual humanity was infused into them. The new actors had to find out where their own selves existed in the characters, often resulting in us needing to adjust scenes or moments to fit with the new actor's mind, body, and voice. We worked with our original actors to create a sense of generosity about their original creations, and essentially deputized them as directors to help their counterparts.

All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret

The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret, written by Mariah McCarthy, directed by Susan Stroupe, produced by Glass Mind Theatre in April 2014.  A joyful, ensemble-driven comedy about living in and exploding stereotypes of gender in all the complex ways it manifests itself in our lives.  Nominated for 3 Bad Oracle B.U.L.S.H.I.T awards, including Best Director, Best New Work, and Best Ensemble (won).
What Weekly's article about the production and process:
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    Jessica Ruth Baker as Kate, who starts out as a "man-hating feminist," and has a slogan of "pussy up," which she explains as a campaign-like speech early in the show.
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    Alexander Scally as DJ and Siobhan Beckett as Gwen. Part of our work in AAGC was not just to explore gender, but to explore what types of bodies are typically allowed to portray certain types of characters, and celebrating the complexity that comes when we intersect multiple cross-sections of stereotypes.
  • AAGC3.jpg
    Jarrett Ervin as Dick. One of the most fun parts of the show was having fun discovering how the most outlandish gender stereotypes manifest in these characters, while figuring out how to have the audience connect with the characters in order to go with them on their transformative journey.
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    Sarah Weissman as Devon and Sarah Lloyd as Allegra. Despite having "realistic" storylines for the characters, the script often deviated in surrealism and dreamworlds. Part of our ensemble work was discovering how to weave these two worlds together so that even when the actors were enacting something outside their character's storyline, the character itself was still informed.
  • AAGC5.jpg
    Siobhan Beckett as Gwen, Samy El-Noury as Benji. One challenging aspect of the show was how to mock the intentionally stereotypical and trendy set-ups of the scenes through a sense of love and integrity, rather than to just tear them down. We attempted to explode the setting McCarthy wrote into being as joyfully silly as possible, like in the "Ladies Brunch" scene that we combined with doing yoga, and the scene became affectionately known as "Yoga Brunch."
  • AAGC6.jpg
    M. Hicks as emcee Taylor (inspired by performer Taylor Mac) provided the thread that wove the episodic show together, creating a lifeline between the audience and the characters, and often participating in the narrative themselves. The challenge we faced in working with the script was how to see Taylor as fully human, even as the other characters (and ourselves) wanted to see them as a magical unicorn, and as they had to act out the archtype of the emcee.
  • AAGC7.jpg
    One of my favorite parts of this script was the amount of dancing (and we added a lot more in production). As a director, I find dancing and choreographed movement in "straight" plays to be one of the most joyous and unnerving ways to contribute to the story. It adds a different, less tangible layer of narrative that cannot necessarily be exactly interpreted--a little bit of sacred mystery that I find essential to any show.

Brainstorm 5: The Ties That Bind

Role:  Festival Director

Brainstorm is Glass Mind Theatre's almost annual short play festival.  In the spring of 2015, following the unrest that came after Freddie Gray's unjust death, we decided to use that year's Brainstorm as a way to quickly respond theatrically to what was going on in our Charm City.  Theater is a slow process because it is so collaborative and has so many different kinds of artistic mediums in it, so responding to current events in a meaningful way is difficult in this work.  We knew that the structure already built into Brainstorm as a short play festival in which commissioned playwrights are given a few weeks to write a play based on a prompt, and a company of actors to perform all the plays, would allow us get the initial thoughts and complexities of artists ready to speak into the open, knowing that what we could contribute would not be the complete conversation, and in some regards would be a failing endeavor.  What resulted was an evening of plays that ranged from comedy to heavy drama, from realistic scenes to abstract surrealism to absurdism, and all coming from different angles of where we were at the time.   Nominated and won 1 Bad Oracle B.U.L.S.H.I.T. award, the Justice For All Award, for staging work for social change.
The review from The Bad Oracle:
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    "Deep Reverence" by Rich Espey, directed by Trustina Fafa Sabah. "Deep Reverence" linked the Orioles "closed" game after the uprising to an imagined childhood of Freddie Gray, using baseball metaphors and abstract movement.
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    "Theatre Games" by Julie Lewis. Lewis used the structure of a theater class playing traditional "theater games" to re-create scenes associated with the uprising incidences as well as with the arrest of Gray.
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    "Chalked" by Alexander Scally, directed by Joshua Thomas. Scally veered away from the unrest itself and literally into gentrified territory, in which a white couple and black real estate agent must confront the realities of buying a "fixer upper" in a "developing" neighborhood.

Peter Pan

Role:  Director

In one of my out-of-state projects, I worked with All-of-Us-Express Children's Theatre, the resident theater company of East Lansing, MI, to direct their summer production of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.  All-of-Us-Express is a long-standing company with a well-organized Guild program, teaching practical theatrical skills of all sorts to children of all ages, so that each department of the show, including all designed elements, are primary created on by young people.  With a cast of 50 young actors ranging from 6-16, and a crew of almost as many, we created a production that highlighted the necessity of imagination and the grief that comes with growing up.  Reported to be the third best-selling production in All-of-Us-Express' 28-year history. 

From the director's notes:  "One central idea we discovered in our early rehearsals is that, in Neverland, anything can happen and anyone can be anything if they simply imagine it to be so.  Unlike the “real” world, where gravity, money, and society govern our everyday existence, the citizens of Neverland make their own rules.  People can fly.  Food is plentiful.  Everyone is accepted for who they are, even the pirates.  Even the violence of war comes from the imagination of what children think it should be like.  It is a magical place.
To complicate matters, however, is the underlying conflict of Peter Pan:  not the inevitable battle between Hook and Peter, but the unsettling question to the adults and young adults in the audience:  what do we lose between childhood and adulthood?  Why do we have to start seeing the world “as it is” and not how we wish it would be?  Why do we have to start following the rules of the real world?  Peter Pan irritatingly doesn’t answer those questions for us.  Instead, for both children and adults, it forces us to confront, when we walk out of the theater, how we might recapture the use of imagination, and how we can use our imaginations to make real the kind of world we want for our children, and their children, and generations to come."
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    The full cast and crew of Peter Pan.
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    The Lost Boys await Peter's return. A fun and interesting part of the rehearsal process was allowing the young actors to choose how masculine or feminine each of their "Lost Boys" were. We decided that in Neverland, it didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl, but that the rule was that if you were one of them, you were called a Lost Boy.
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    I made the executive decision to change the "Indians" to Wildcats, because socially the racist depiction of the Neverland Indians has no place on stage anymore (nor did it ever), but also dramaturgically, if each group on Neverland is a type of character that children make believe themselves to be, then Indians no longer fit, as few children now continue to perpetuate this mythical version of Indians in their imaginative play. I decided to update the group to something that more children in our audience might relate to.