Work samples

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  • 8 Short Plays Excerpts
    "8 Short Plays" is a surreal vaudevillian variety show with a narrative woven through.
  • Flood of Emotions Excerpts
    What was so strange about the dress in the dream?
  • Thinking it Over
    Our Character wonders if she spends too much time thinking about what already happened, in Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh

About Theresa

Baltimore City

Theresa’s creative focus for over 25 years has been in Milwaukee, WI and Baltimore, MD, where she has been organizing as well as writing, directing, producing, touring, and performing in plays, solo pieces and films. She collectively founded Darling Hall in Milwaukee where she was a member of the “Tingle Troupe,” a group of four women who hosted many variety shows called Tingle Showcases. In Baltimore she helped to initiate and organize two shows called Kidult: the Kid and Adult Show! which… more

Variety Show the Musical Play

This theater piece was created by Theresa Columbus and 8 writer/performers: Izaak Collins, Cliff Doby, Ruby Fulton, Myles Hamilton, Caitlin Weaver, Jacob Zabawa, Francisco Benavides and Allison Clendaniel. Their process challenges the traditional roles of writer/director and actors. The play contains short plays, performance art, and songs, producing the effect of a surreal vaudevillian variety show, even though several narrative and formal through-lines connect the “variety” of pieces. Different theatrical forms bump up against and expand each other, splashing into the poetry of everyday conversation.

Set design by Mika Nakano, costumes by Nikki LeFaye, and stage managing by Lauren Kane!

  • Variety Show the Musical Play
    Video clip of the "Opening Experiment," the ending of Caitlin Weaver's "Art of Conversation," and "The Final Song" of Variety Show the Musical Play
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8 Short Plays

Written by Theresa Columbus , with individual acts by Cliff Doby, Malaika Aminata Clements, Rae Red and Megan Livingston
Co-directed by Sarah Jacklin and Theresa Columbus  The cast: Malaika Clements, Theresa Columbus, Cliff Doby, Sarah Jacklin, Elvis Karegeya, Megan Livingston, Parker Matthews and Rae Red Music by Allison Clendaniel Costumes by Nicolette LeFaye Set by Mika Nakano Lighting by Chris Allen Video shot by Andy Shenker and Tom Kessler Performed  for 3 weekends, 9 shows at the Mercury Theater in Baltimore, and performed in part at the Space Gallery in Pittsburgh and Rhizome in DC (2019)

8 Short Plays is a surreal vaudevillian variety show. The plot of this poetic dialogue is performed by an ensemble of 8 and held together with a wild emotional logic. These passionate stories explore relationships to memory, art, and song. 

A live experiment holding the audience responsible for absorbing a universe where frolic & logic exist together, the cast employs humor and storytelling to unfurl unexpected connections and the wonder of humans on stage. In the process traditional forms are celebrated, taken apart, and reinvented.

  • Final Bow
    The cast of "8 Short Plays" takes a final bow.
  • 8 Short Plays Excerpts
    "8 Short Plays" is a surreal vaudevillian variety show with a narrative woven through.
  • People Dressed Sophisticated
    3 people in the cafe (the 3 Fates?) take note as Wingle expresses his concerns and Debonair Man looks irritated in the background.
  • 2 Sisters
    One sister describes how the other gave her a prize by telling her she was really smart.
  • Bean Song
    Artistalapa sings about waking up with "7 Beans" stuck to her leg, and by the end of the song she finally has made bean windows (a metaphor).
  • Cliff Doby
    Cliff Doby performs his ACT!
  • Private Scene
    Blint tells Fathom that repression can be sexy sometimes.
  • All a Song Is
    The cast sings "All a Song Is, is some words that you sing and you memorize them that way."
  • Poster for the Show
  • 8 Short Plays Script

Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh

Written and recorded by Theresa Columbus
Video recording by Dan Zink and Andy Shenker

Performed at the Whole Gallery and the Undercroft, Baltimore (2019)

We encounter Our Character early one morning writing a performance piece in Pittsburgh. Or are we at that actual performance when we encounter her? Well, one thing is for sure, amazing and odd things just seem to happen when she sits down to write. Right before her eyes, with an audience watching her, a gray furry cat has run up a tree and is staring right at her. A large red cat is right behind him, but can’t climb as high- what will happen? It is a little harder to write when other people are in the kitchen, but don’t feel bad- no really, you are invited; she may have seemed a little unwelcoming at first, but there must have been some mix up with the time. Together you can explore what an audience really wants, the importance of thinking events over, the nature of seduction and confidence, and subtleties of creating dance moves in the morning. So, really, you don’t have to leave.

  • Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh Excerpts
    Our Character is reluctant to invite you to join her at the kitchen table when she is on tour in Pittsburgh, though she really wants you there!
  • At the Table
    "I'm at a table in Pittsburgh; we just performed last night."
  • Writing in Pittsburgh
    Our Character seems to enjoy writing with the company of the audience.
  • Thinking it Over
    Our Character wonders if she spends too much time thinking about what already happened, in Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh
  • Power Stance
    She saw it on a TED talk.
  • Standing Still
    Our Character takes on a slightly confrontational tone as she stands still and asks the audience, "What do you want from me?"

Artist House

"Artist House," written and performed by Theresa Columbus
Video shot by Hoesy Corona (stills taken from video)

"Artist House" (with a little wink to Judy Chicago's Womanhouse) is a tale of a woman in her studio/ home/ on a stage where she encounters and faces head-on many challenges: writer's block, self doubt about her stand-up comedy routine being funny, audience members trying to get too intimate, a visit from a friend who won't give her any phoophoo nuts, exposing her intentions too fast, and destroying things she deeply cares about. Luckily, she is able to "wriggle her way out of ensnaring self doubt with some music," and keep it moving. Speaking and singing along with her prerecorded voice, the premeditated mixed with spontaneous quality of her words is magnified, as is oddness of a performer speaking thoughts directly to an audience.  Through speaking, writing, singing, dancing, and a funny costume change, the artist celebrating the difficulty, strangeness, and intense joy of creating and connecting.
  • At the Bathroom Door
    Her heart is knocking yearningly at the empty bathroom door...
  • No Frolicsome Water
    The Artist was so excited to write, but somehow lost her train of thought and confidence this morning, and describes how soft towels are not absorbing the frolicsome water that the shower provides.
  • Self Doubt
    "Forget it!"
  • Dancing in Artist House
    "Time doesn't matter exactly what time it is."
  • Dancing in Artist House
    Artist "wriggles her way out of ensnaring self doubt with some music," singing and dancing!
  • Dialogue with "The Voice"
    "Of course she is the voice that represents you, in my IMAGINATION."

A Flood of Emotions

Written and directed by Theresa Columbus
Comedy sketch written in collaboration with: Jinnene Ross
Music by Aaron Smith, Ruby Fulton, Liz Downing (DC performance) and Theresa Columbus

Cast: Stephanie Barber, Malaika Clements (Psychic Readings performance), Theresa Columbus, John Eaton, Moss Froom, Megan Livingston (Fields Fest and DC performance), Aaron Smith

Stage manager: Lauren Kane
Video shot by: Sonya Norko

What was so strange about the dress in the dream? How can your friends appear at your desk early in the morning? Will there be a flood of emotions? How do you write a song of deep friend love to someone? Can you over-analyze humor? What happens to a dream when you write it down, and what happens when you perform a play on one Wednesday night 25 years ago and it is deep?

First performed as part of the Late Night Series at Psychic Readings in 2016, then at Fields Festival in Darlington MD, and finally at the DC Arts Center in 2017, "A Flood of Emotions" attempts to answer these questions as it bounces back and forth between the studio where the play is being written and the bar the night before that inspired it. People bond through doing and making theater, and also by loving their friendships.

  • Flood of Emotions excerpts
    What was so strange about the dress in the dream?
  • The Dream Notebook
    While cleaning the desk, Zot and Zeg hear mysterious sounds and are drawn to the dream notebook.
  • Backdrop
    The cloth that separates the morning world from the previous night.
  • At Your Desk
    "I will be at your desk, if you just write a little song!"
  • Stand Up Comedy
    I'm with #1 Comedian
  • Singing to Scompaly
    "And I think you oughtta know, right here at my heart's door, you've been a good friend to me."
  • The Musicians
    Musicians play music, creating a flood of emotions.
  • Poses
    The cast freezes in emotional poses.
  • Body Formation
    All the different heads tell about a time in high school when they were in a small ensemble piece with lots of movement where they all wore black turtle necks and it was really good.
  • Musicians
    Musicians play mysterious songs.

The Refrigerator is Making Crazy Noises

Written and performed by Theresa Columbus
Sound recording by Aaron Smith

First performed at the Holy Underground in 2014, then on tour in Pittsburgh, Rochester, Toronto, Quebec and Providence.

The Refrigerator is Making Crazy Noises reflects an arrangement of thoughts a person has when inspired in the middle of the night. These thoughts are stylized and self conscious of the act of writing, and contain musings on editing, promises to self, fashion, and not being in love with everything. With a recurring mystery punchline "This is a full term baby!" and other lines delivered sporadically, we watch our performer navigate through common and uncommon phrases with an urgency to translate something. Garnished with song, dance, and even a flailing sock puppet, she narrates these phrases and also connects with the audience by talking about and delivering letters to them.

  • Mask and Sock Puppet in Action
    The Sock Puppet is on the Foot, and is singing and flailing with a hairy flower.
  • Putting the Mask on
    "This is a full-term baby!"
  • Power Suit
    The performer announces she will deliver letters later in the performance.
  • Letters
    The performer delivers letters to audience.

Theater Room in Rooms Play

Installation and performance by Theresa Columbus
Room constructed with the help of Copy Cat Theater
Costume made by Melissa Webb and Theresa Columbus
Copy Cat Theater, 2010

Rooms Play was an enormous undertaking by the Copy Cat Theater and the artists that participated. The installation/performance stretched across two large art spaces (The Whole gallery at the H + H and the Current gallery) with a walk in between the buildings. Audience members went through 22 rooms 3 at a time, experiencing 22 different installation/ performances, which took them roughly an hour. The second year of its performance, Rooms Play drew inspiration from Joseph Campbell's mono-myth, each room representing a different stage of the story of the epic journey that has been repeated in many cultures throughout history. The performance had the theme of immigration, and the trials and rewards of being an immigrant in a foreign country.
In the room Columbus produced, the hero (audience members) had completed their major accomplishment, and had just been induced by the previous room's character to forget about completing their journey, but instead remain in the comfort of their newly acquired status as a hero in a new place. Columbus's job was to induce them to get back to what they had intended to do. She burst into a room where they had been treated as children by their kindly grandmother, reminding them that they need to be on stage: "the show is starting in 2 minutes!" They warmed up backstage, and then the performers let loose a rendition of a personal memory, all together, to an audience of a lot of papers with writing and drawings on them (and Columbus). The drama of being on stage and pouring out is what they needed to make their heroic decisions with a clear mind.
  • Rooms Play Installation and Performance
    The audience discovers they are being watched by an audience of one human and many drawings.
  • The Theater Room
    In the "Theater Room," the heroes remember who they are and the purpose of their journey.
  • Close-up
    The papers in the "Theater Room" have many drawings and exciting writings.
  • Writing
    Writing about the nervous system and art

Scenes Play

Scenes Play, co-directed by Theresa Columbus and Joy Davis

Starring Autumn Breaud, John Bylander, Theresa Columbus, M. Jane Taylor, and Elizabeth Zacharia; Tiffany DeFoe on saxophone

Costumes made in collaboration with Melissa Webb

Performed at the Annex Theater in June 2009; at the Barn in Brooklyn and PIFAS in Philadelphia in August 2009

Scenes Play jumps between the quality of daring myself to tell people things I kind of don't want them to know, and proclaiming joyfully what I know about friendship, art, family, love, and how things can be put together. The title "Scenes Play" points to the way each scene has its own manner of relaying ideas self-conscious about its structure, yet each uses a colorful combination of characters and interactions between them to convey something often painfully true but also funny about relationships between people or between people and art. Poking fun of my tendency to be overwhelmed by the importance of everything we say and do, my self-reflexive musings are textured and transformed by brilliant actors performing characters, breaking up monologues into random pieces, interacting with costumes which also serve as backdrops, and performing experimental movement. This piece grabs gleefully from different theatrical tropes, presenting sometimes mundane musings in a myriad of lights and shapes.

  • Scenes Play
  • Just Trying to Work
    A character is just trying to work while the others pose dramatically.
  • Dialogue with the Subconsious
    What is the big woop about wordcounts?
  • Motion
    "I've always had a mixed up sense of direction."
  • Taking Turns
    "She said to call it clementine."
  • Interacting
    Discovering each other on the floor.
  • Analyzing Humor
    Characters discuss ways of being funny.
  • End of the Show
    Theater is wonderful, but since the show is over, "Let's have some real life drama now."

Decision is a Choice

Written and performed by Theresa Columbus
Originally performed with: Jenny Sage, Carrie Fucile, John Alex Lind, and Whitney Simpkins.

Performed as part of "Puss Fusst" Nov. 2012, The "12 12 12 Show" in Milwaukee Wisconsin at the Redline, Dec. 12, 2012, as part of the opening of Ink Press Productions in spring of 2013, as part of the Martha Wison exhibit at the INOVA gallery in Milwaukee in Aug. 2013, and as part of Gabfestry in Machias Maine in Aug. 2013. (see

You, the audience member, have entered the artist's private/extroverted space, which has the air of backstage, painter's studio, and bedroom. The artist warms up, draws, works on a piece of art made mostly out of fabric, dances, sings, and makes an audio recording of a play, all with the cherished company of mysterious, mysterious audience members. The audio play is about conversation, how things are very funny and not funny, clarity, and profound longing. The song is about how you can love a lover, friends, and doing different kinds of work.
  • A Plant from the Audience
    A "volunteer" comes to stage and knows all the choreography.
  • Working on Art
    The artist adds color to her "painting."
  • Singing
    The artist sings about getting "the roundabout underwing," or taking care of her art and people in her life.
  • The Technology Room
    The artist has fun with friends in the Technology Room.
  • Sharing a Video
    The artist shares a video of a dialogue she made in Greece.
  • Performing a Play
    Artist asks "volunteer" if she would like to perform a play during the performance.

Chaza Show Choir

Film co-directed by Theresa Columbus and Didier Leplae
Music written by Didier Leplae, Columbus and the Chaza Orchestra: Peter Barrickman, John Fletcher, Jen Emma Hertel, and Jason Tucker

Cast: Stephanie Barber, Peter Barrickman, Sara Boland, Theresa Columbus, Peter DiAntoni, John Fletcher, Karyn Halmstad, Jen Hertel, Anna Diantoni, India Lathon, Micca Leider, Alyssa Leighton, Didier Leplae, Xav Leplae, Kiara McFarland-Caldwell, Melissa Scherrer, Sativa Silver,  Sheila Spargur, Thidapha Thongsavanh, Jason Tucker, Eric Ziegeweid

"Chaza Show Choir" was created in 1999 as a 90 minute play with a cast of more than 20 that performed in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and Providence. The play was written and directed by Columbus, with music written by Didier Leplae, Columbus and the Chaza Orchestra: Peter Barrickman, John Fletcher, Jen Emma Hertel, and Jason Tucker. A spirit of collaboration filled the process of creating this narrative over a 6 month period, with countless volunteers creating costumes, sets, props and offering ideas for the play. The group went on tour in the summer of 1999. Upon return, Columbus and Leplae immediately started the process of creating a film version of "Chaza Show Choir," a feature length black and white 35mm film which was released in 2004 and won a first place award at the Madison Film Festival. In 2015 "Chaza" was shown at the Anthology Film Archives in New York and the Charles Theater in Baltimore.

(A complete list of film credits can be requested at [email protected])

  • The Spring Concert
    Little do these high school students know that they are about to be invited to perform in an International Show Choir Competition by an ominous character.
  • The Mime is Confronted
    Is there room for a mime in a show choir?
  • The Principal Posts the List
    Chaza's principal posts the list of who "made it" into the Show Choir on the door.
  • Anticipation
    Peoia realizes that in a few short moments she will know if she got into the Chaza Show Choir.
  • Shame Exercise
    The Chaza High School Show Choir does a shame exercise.
  • Men's Locker Room
    The guys sing curiously about one of their peer's first sexual experience.
  • Women's Locker Room
    Women sing and dance about Ritti's sexual experience.
  • Performing Around the World
    After escaping the Weinerschnitzel Factory, Chaza Show Choir performs around the world.
  • Clips from Chaza Show Choir movie
    Clips from the feature length black and white film version of "Chaza Show Choir"
  • Diptych
    Diptych of the cast (doubled!) by Peter DiAntoni