Catching up with...Dan Venning

Publication Date

Dan Venning is an assistant professor of Theater and Dance, teaches in the Department of English, and is a core faculty member in the interdisciplinary programs in American Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies. His work on theater history, dramatic literature and performance criticism interrogates the intersections between theater, national culture and personal identity. He joined Union in 2017 and lives in Schenectady with his spouse, Emma. He grew up in Oakland, Calif.

Dan Venning

Dan Venning in London during Union's winter mini term in 2019.

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: It varies. Sometimes it's the New York Times app over breakfast, but other times it's my calendar to remind myself of what I'm doing for the day, the weather app, or, on a beautiful day when I go for a walk before breakfast, Pokemon Go! (I know, that should have gone out of style years ago...).

ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES: I teach dramatic literature, so this really isn't a fair question. The work I've probably read most frequently is Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (a play I love to teach, and on which I wrote my master's thesis. Make of that what you will).

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: An undergraduate advisor, Professor David Krasner, suggested I play to my strengths when choosing my senior project and this led directly to my career in academia. He also suggested I apply to the doctoral program I ultimately chose to attend. I absolutely wouldn't be where I am without his thoughtful and conscientious advising. I try to live up to his example with my own advisees.

FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS: My office, or the Henle Dance lobby right outside of it. Both have beautiful views of Jackson's Garden. I get to spend most of my time on campus in a beautiful place. (I also love getting to make London and its vibrant culture part of Union's campus during the winter mini-term abroad I lead every couple years.)

GO-TO BREAKFAST: Two eggs soft boiled, half an avocado and hot sauce. Coffee with oat milk and stevia. A glass of grapefruit juice. Vitamins.

NETFLIX OR AMAZON: Netflix. “BoJack Horseman” is my favorite show ever. Also, I'll recommend the German-language Netflix show “Dark” to anyone. Only three short seasons - don't spoil yourself at all, just watch it (with subtitles, not dubbing).

FAVORITE PODCAST: The Magnus Archives. Hat tip to my amazing students for this one.

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: Electrics, mechanical repair and basic construction. I'm pretty helpless with tools and anything do-it-yourself. I know it would only take a while to learn, but I do so many other things and there's a limit on my headspace. In “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman has some pretty harsh words for any man who can't put up a new ceiling by himself, but none of us should think like Willy Loman.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PANDEMIC DIVERSION/ACCOMPLISHMENT: My diversion was that I spent the entirety of winter break relaxing on the island of Kauai. As for accomplishments, I'm very proud of the scholarly work I have been able to do when conferences were canceled, archives were closed and we're all constantly exhausted. I did a solo writing residency in California at Eugene O'Neill's Tao House over summer 2020 and that was very productive. Traveling and accomplishing that safely was a highlight of the pandemic. I'm also quite proud of having taken part in a Phase 3 vaccine trial to help end this crisis. Although I was initially given the placebo before the FDA's emergency use authorization of the drug, this meant traveling to Binghamton about every two months for blood draws and other tests.

ANOTHER SUBJECT YOU WISH YOU COULD TEACH: What I teach is so interdisciplinary that I often find myself intersecting with the social science fields of sociology, anthropology, history and politics. Whenever I do, I'm invigorated by the ways these fields, in which I am a visitor, help demonstrate how theatrical performance and dramatic literature can really have impact in societies past and present. I'd love to teach more in these fields.

MOST CREATIVE EXCUSE YOU HEARD FOR A LATE ASSIGNMENT: I encourage my students to be honest, not creative, when they have to submit assignments late. This has, on occasion, led to situations of extreme TMI. I'll leave it at that.