Ms. Jenna Neilsen, MFA

Theatre Faculty
BA - Ohio Northern University
MFA in Theatre Pedagogy - Virginia Commonwealth University

My name is Jenna Neilsen, and I am an Associate Professor of Theatre at Adams State University. I received my BA from Ohio Northern University and my MFA in theatre pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University. I teach all levels of acting, voice, movement, costume design and construction, and business of theatre here at Adams State.

Every year that I spend working with actors and theatre creators I become more acutely aware of the reason why I was drawn to theatre in the first place. Theatre creates empathy in a world where we are often told that compassion for others is dying. You cannot judge another person if you are going to become them, as an actor must. We tell stories which invite our audience on an empathic journey with us… and we all come out of the production more compassionate and more ready to help our fellow man. THAT is why theatre was and forever will be crucial to the human experience.

Before coming to Adams State, I acted and directed in theaters in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic and studied acting at Queen Margaret University College, a leading conservatory in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have presented my research in both theatre pedagogy and theatre history nationally at the South Eastern Theatre Conference, the Mid-America Theatre Conference and the Association of Theatre in Higher Education Conference. My work, Captive Audience: Theatre Presentations at Johnson's Island Federal Prison Camp, is published as a chapter in the anthology Enacting Nationhood; Identity, Ideology and the Theatre, published by Cambridge Scholars Press.

I have studied professionally with Second City Chicago and internationally recognized improvisation teacher Keith Johnstone. I mentor ASU’s student-led improv troupe, The Lost and Found, which performs both on campus and throughout the region. I do not teach improv to train budding comedians (though we have several former ASU students who are now professionally pursuing careers in stand-up, improvisation, and sketch writing around the country). I firmly believe that the skills which are learned in improvisational acting (honesty, active listening, and trust to name a few) are the same skills which when applied to scripted material are the foundation of good acting.

I have directed many productions during my time at Adams State, each time choosing a show which will complement the other offerings of the program and simultaneously challenge our students. Some of the works I have directed include Bright Ideas, Alice in Wonderland, Two Rooms, A Flea in Her Ear, Robin Hood, Getting Out, Marat/Sade, and The Snow Queen. I also performed the one-woman show, My Name is Rachel Corrie and as Lady Croom in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.

Welcome to Adams State University Theatre. We would be happy to have you join our “family” where we know that our art is making a positive difference in our students, our community, and our world.