Communication and Media


The on-campus Interpreters Theatre program began in 1976, when the former Words and Voices program was redirected into primary emphasis on group performance of literature. Today our curricular and production emphases are on the exploration of contemporary and evolving forms of group performance, based on scripts from a variety of texts, including fiction, oral history, diaries, and folklore.


In the mid 1990s, the Iowa Board of Regents designated Lang Hall, the oldest building on campus, for a complete renovation. The Department of Communication Studies was then selected to be the “anchor’ academic department in the building following its renovation. As a part of the renovation process, designated spaces for brand new state of the art Interpreters Theatre production facilities were included in the Lang Hall design.


Interpreters Theatre Photo



Our new production spaces, completed in 2001, include a black box theatre for staging performances, a state of the art technical booth, a fully equipped scene shop for storage and construction of sets, a green room, and a makeup and costume changing room.


In addition, the program was provided with state of the art lighting, audio and multimedia equipment, scene shop hand and power tools, and audience risers and chairs to further facilitate exceptional work in the areas of research and creative work.



Factors such as these state of the art designated spaces for Performance Studies production, our Performance Studies faculty, and the quality of the Performance Studies undergraduate and graduate classes we offer make our production program one of the finest in the country.



Dr. Paul Siddens, Professor Emeritus



Dr. Paul Siddens (Ph.D.; Southern Illinois University; 1989) was a Professor of Communication Studies and Department Head at the University of Northern Iowa, where he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the analysis and performance of texts, scripting and directing for the stage, history and criticism of graphic novels and comic books, film analysis and criticism, and interpersonal and nonverbal communication. He was a Producer and Faculty Designer and Technical Director for the UNI Interpreters Theatre, and he was active in professional, educational and community theatre throughout the Midwest for over forty years.  He has owned and operated his own theatre and multi-media production company, and also has professional experience in 16mm film and video production, including cinematography, film editing and audio production.

Dr. Siddens’ pedagogical style in all his classes centers round relating course theories and concepts to the everyday lives and experiences of his students, providing them with ways to interpret and understand the world around them. The influence of performance and drama in our everyday lives plays a large part in this process.



Dr. Phyllis Scott Carlin, Emerita Founder

Dr. Phyllis Scott Carlin

Dr. Phyllis Scott Carlin (Ph.D; Southern Illinois University; 1976) is a professor emeritus of communication studies at the University of Northern Iowa. She teaches courses in cultural performance, qualitative research (ethnography and oral history), conversation and discourse analysis, community and communication, and performance as social action. An active member of the National Communication Association, she has served as the secretary and as an executive board member of the Performance Studies division, and has served on the editorial boards of Text and Performance Quarterly, Central States Communication Journal, and Literature in Performance.

Her current research focuses on disaster narrative, environment and social change, including the relationship of expressive communication and place, and the creation of community. Recently her research on Disaster Narrative Performance appeared in a Text and Performance Quarterly co-authored essay (January, 2012). Her creative work includes a touring production of James Hearst’s farm poetry, which was sponsored by a grant from the Iowa Humanities Board. She completed ethnographic photography/video and qualitative research on rural women for the American Folklife Festival and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C). Other published research includes an article on rural women’s narrative in The Future of Performance Studies: Visions and Revisions, an article on farm crisis narratives in Culture, Performance and Identity, and an essay on evolving changes in performance studies in Renewal and Revision: The Future of Interpretation. She has also conducted research with hospice volunteers, published in Texts and Identities. In 2002, she was guest editor of an Iowa Communication Journal special issue on the topic of performance, communication, and ethnography. Her current research focuses on disaster narrative, environment and social change, the relationship of expressive communication and place, and creation of community. She is developing an ongoing project "Performing Place: Story, Community, and Environment to engage students and researchers with social issues and local/global communities in collaborative application of research in communication and performance studies. She has presented her research at conferences, including the International Qualitative Research (Canada), National Communication Association, and the National Women’s Studies Association.

Dr. Carlin was the creator and director of the Interpreters Theatre program at UNI for 17 years (1976-1993), and initiated involvement of UNI students in scripts, productions, and curricula based upon folklore, oral history and ethnographic research, advocacy, and social action. These instructional themes continue in her current teaching and curriculum development projects.