Mechele Leon

Mechele Leon
  • Professor
  • Director of Graduate Studies
  • Theatre History, French Theatre, Acting & Directing

Contact Info

Murphy Hall, Room 339


A member of the KU faculty since 2002, Dr. Leon teaches theatre history, dramatic theory, acting, and directing at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She served as Chairperson of the Department of Theatre (2012-2017) and as Artistic Director of the University Theatre (2009-2012). Her current research focuses on performance and tourism, with specific interests in Jewish heritage tourism. Working for more than two decades on the history of French theatre, her books include A Cultural History of Theatre in the Enlightenment and Molière, the French Revolution, and the Theatrical Afterlife, winner of the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History. She has been published in Theatre Journal, French Historical Studies, Comparative Drama, and European Studies. She served on the editorial board of the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism and was former co-convener of the Historiography section of the International Federation of Theatre Research. She has translated and directed several of Molière’s plays and directs plays in the European and American tradition. She wrote and performed the solo theatre piece Bladder Interrupted: A Self-Story About Cancer. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities faculty fellowship, a Bourse Chateaubriand from the French Government, and grants from the Hall Center for the Humanities, The French Institute in Washington D.C., and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. Living in France from 1996-2001, she taught theatre history, theory, and acting at the American University of Paris and held a post as lecturer at the University of Paris. Dr. Leon received her Ph.D. in Theatre Arts from Cornell University and a D.E.A. in Théâtre et arts du spectacle from the University of Paris.



Research interests:

  • Theatre History
  • French Culture
  • Performance
  • Tourism


Teaching interests:

  • Theatre History
  • Stage Directing
  • Public Speaking
  • Performance & Tourism

Selected Publications

“Molière as National Hero.” In Molière in Context, ed. Jan Clarke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.

“Cancer, Narrative, and the End of Telling,” Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques 17 (June 2018).“Molière at Versailles,” The Mercurian: Theatre in Translation 7:1 (Spring 2018), 51–122.

A Cultural History of Theatre in the Age of Enlightenment. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

“Before Jacques Copeau: Le Théâtre Français d’Amérique of New York, 1913–1917.”In La Scène en Version Originale, ed. Julie Vatain-Corfdir, 115–126. Paris: Presses de l’université Paris–Sorbonne, 2015.

“Corpsing Molière: History as Fiasco.” In Theatre Historiography: Critical Questions, eds. Henry Bial and Scott Magellsen, 177–185. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.

Molière, the French Revolution, and the Theatrical Afterlife. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009.

“The Poet and the Prince: Revising Molière and Tartuffe in the French Revolution.” French Historical Studies, 28:3, 447–465 (2005).

Selected Presentations

“(No) Return to Sefarad: Performing the Landscape of Jewish Spain” KU Jewish Studies Colloquium.

“Molière as National Hero.” Univ. of Missouri Kansas City Emeritus College.

“Theatre and Cultural Diplomacy.” International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR), Belgrade, Serbia.

“Is 'Culture' Still a Useful Category?” Theatre Historiography Today symposium, University of Exeter & Royal Holloway, London, England.

“Cancer, Storytelling, and the Narrative Body.” American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Atlanta, GA.

“Radical Adaptation: Moliere's Impromptu at Versailles.” IFTR, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Theatre at Universities in the United States: Resources for Collaboration.” Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, Shanghai.

"Avant Copeau: Le Théâtre français à New York, 1913-1917." Institute for Theatre Studies, Maison de la Recherche, Paris.

"French Theatre in New York." Conseil International d'Etudes Francophones. Thessaloniki, Greece

Creative Works

As You Like It, William Shakespeare, directed and sound designed by Mechele Leon. University of Kansas University Theatre (February 2020).

Spring Awakening: The Musical, Sater and Shiek, directed by Mechele Leon. University of Kansas University Theatre (Apr. 2018).

Bladder Interrupted: A Self-Story About Cancer, written and performed by Mechele Leon. Various venues, 2016-2017.

The Rehearsal & The Hypochondriac, Moliere, adapted from the French and directed by Mechele Leon. University of Kansas University Theatre (Feb. 2016).

Adding Machine: A Musical, Loewith & Schmidt, Elmer Rice, directed by Mechele Leon. University of Kansas University Theatre (Nov. 2013).

Man Equals Man, Bertolt Brecht, adapted and directed by Mechele Leon. University of Kansas University Theatre (Apr. 2011).

Grants & Other Funded Activity

International Affairs Office, Univ. of Kansas, Summer Humanities Grant, 2023.

Open Education Resource Grant, Univ. of Kansas, 2020-2023.

Hall Center for the Humanities, Univ. of Kansas, Faculty Research Fellow, Spring 2019.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Research Fellowship, 2005–2006.