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, Associate Professor Mechele 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) as Artistic Director of the University Theatre (2009-2012). Dr. Leon's area of specialty is the history of French theatre, with a focus on cultural politics and national identity. Her book, "Molière, the French Revolution, and the Theatrical Afterlife" (University of Iowa Press, 2009) is winner of the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History. She edited the anthology "A Cultural History of Theatre in the Enlightenment" (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her current research explores 20th-century French cultural diplomacy through the work of French language theatre in the United States. She wrote and performs the solo theatre piece "Bladder Interrupted: A Self-Story About Cancer" which aligns with research interests in illness, narrative, and performance. Her articles and reviews have been published in Theatre Journal, French Historical Studies, Comparative Drama, and European Studies. She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Co-convener of the Historiography section of the International Federation of Theatre Research, and member of the American Society for Theatre Research. She is translator and adapter of plays by Molière, most recently Impromptu at Versailles and The Imaginary Invalid. Other plays and musicals she has directed include Shakespeare in Hollywood, Man Is Man, Shiloh Rules, The Maids, George Dandin, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Adding Machine: A Musical, and Spring Awakening: The Musical 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 at KU, The French Institute in Washington D.C., and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University. 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 in English at the University of Paris. Dr. Leon has professional experience as a performer and an arts administrator. A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, her acting experience includes the National Shakespeare Company, the Manhattan Ensemble, and the Hangar Theatre. She was formerly business manager for Theatreworks/USA in New York City. She served on the Board of Directors for the Kansas City Fringe Festival. 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. Her bachelor's degree in theatre is from the State University of New York, Empire State College.


Research interests:

  • Theatre History
  • French Culture
  • Translation
  • Enlightenment


Teaching interests:

  • Theatre History
  • Acting/Directing
  • Public Speaking

Selected Publications

Leon, Mechele. 2017. “‘Environment of Theatre: Power, Resistance, and Commerce.’” Book Chapters. In A Cultural History of Theatre in the Age of Enlightenment, edited by Mechele Leon, 77–96. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Leon, Mechele. 2017. “‘Les Précieuses Ridicules’ by Molière.” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. The Literary Encyclopedia. Vol. French Writing and Culture of the Seventeenth Century: Classical and Baroque, 1600-1700.
Leon, Mechele, ed. 2017. A Cultural History of Theatre in the Age of Enlightenment.  . Books. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Leon, Mechele. 2015. “Review of the Book Controversy in French Drama: Molière’s Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence by Julia Prest.” Book Reviews. Ecumenica.
Leon, Mechele. 2015. “‘Before Jacques Copeau: Le Théâtre Français d’Amérique of New York, 1913-1917.’” Book Chapters. In La Scène En Version Originale, edited by Julie Vatain-Corfdir, 115–26. Paris: Presses de l’université de Paris-Sorbonne.
Leon, Mechele. 2013. “Review of the Book Molière On Stage: What’s So Funny? By Robert W. Goldsby.” Book Reviews. Comparative Drama.
Leon, Mechele. 2013. “Review of the Book Staging the French Revolution: Cultural Politics and the Paris Opera, 1789–1794 by Mark Darlow.” Book Reviews. French Studies.
Leon, Mechele. 2010. “Corpsing Molière: History as Fiasco.” Book Chapters. In Theatre Historiography: Critical Questions, edited by Henry Bial and Scott Magelssen, 177–85. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Leon, Mechele. 2009. Molière, the French Revolution, and the Theatrical Afterlife. Books. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.
Leon, Mechele. 2000. “Molière and the Revolution: A Tale of Three ‘Dandins.’” Journal Articles. European Studies Journal XVII–XVIII: 147–62.

Selected Presentations

Leon, M. (1/31/2018). Is 'Culture' Still a Useful Category?. Theatre Historiography Today: Symposium. London, England UK
Leon, M. (11/30/2017). Cancer, Storytelling, and the Narrative Body. American Society for Theatre Research. Atlanta, GA
Leon, M. (7/31/2017). Radical Adaptation: Moliere's Impromptu at Versailles. International Federation for Theatre Research. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Leon, M. (7/31/2015). Theatre and Environment in the Enlightenment. International Federation for Theatre Research. Hyderabad, India
Leon, M. (7/31/2014). Creating the Canon of French Theatre in the United States. International Federation for Theatre Research. Warwick, U.K
Leon, M. (7/31/2013). Real French: Cultural Authenticity and the Théâtre Français d’Amérique. International Federation for Theatre Research. Barcelona, Spain
Leon, M. (10/11/2012 - 10/13/2012). Avant Copeau: Le Théâtre français à New York, 1913-1917. V.O. La Scène en Version Originale. Institute for Theatre Studies, Maison de la Recherche, Paris
Leon, M. (6/30/2012). French Theatre in New York. Conseil International d'Etudes Francophones. Thessaloniki, Greece
Leon, M. (1/31/2011). Interview, L.A. Theatreworks for radio production of Molière’s The Bungler. NPR and CD
Leon, M. (7/31/2008). La Langue du théâtre: French Theatre Vocabulary and Translatability. Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Denver, CO

Creative Works

Bladder Interrupted: A Self-Story About Cancer. Mechele Leon. Performances in Kansas City (July 2017); New York (October 2017). 1/1/2016 - 12/31/2017
The Rehearsal & The Hypochondriac. by Molière. In an original adaptation by Mechele Leon. 7/1/2015 - 3/31/2016
Shanghai Ghetto: Music and Memories. Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, in collaboration with KU’s Center for East Asian Studies, Confucius Institute, and School of Music. 10/31/2014
A Midsummer Night's Dream (KU University Theatre Production). 11/30/2013
The Adding Machine: A Musical. by Loewith & Schmidt. Based on the play by Elmer Rice. 11/30/2013
Staged Reading of And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, by Marcus Gardley. 4/30/2013
All My Sons (Touring Production). Arthur Miller. 11/30/2012
Shakespeare in Hollywood. Ken Ludwig. 10/31/2011
Man Equals Man. Bertolt Brecht. 4/30/2011
Shiloh Rules. Doris Baizley. 7/31/2010
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Jack Weinstock, Abe Burrows, and Frank Loesser. 2/28/2009
The Maids. Jean Genet. 3/31/2007
George Dandin. Molière. 5/31/2004

Grants & Other Funded Activity

National Endowment for the Humanities. (1/1/2005 - 12/31/2006). Federal. Status: Funded. Faculty Fellowship
Edouard Morot-Sir Research Fellowship. French Institute of Washington. $1500.00. (1/1/2005 - 12/31/2006). Not-for-Profit (not Foundation). Status: Funded
Bourse Chateaubriand. Ministère des Services Culturelles de l'Ambassade de France aux Etats-Unis. $16700.00. (1/1/1997 - 12/31/1998). Foreign (company, govt, agencies, etc.). Status: Funded. Bourse Chateaubriand.
Institute for European Studies, Cornell University. (12/31/1996). Other University. Status: Funded. Sicca Pre-Dissertation Research Travel Grant.