Associate Professor of Theater Brian Eugenio Herrera has received the 2022 Betty Jean Jones Award from the American Theatre & Drama Society in recognition of his excellence as a teacher and mentor in the Lewis Center’s Program in Theater. The annual award honors individuals who have achieved excellence as college/university teachers and mentors in the field of American theater.
The American Theatre & Drama Society (ATDS) established the award in 1997 to honor and remember Dr. Betty Jean Jones, a founding member of the society and highly respected and admired educator. Internationally recognized for her scholarly expertise in American theater and film, Dr. Jones was also an avid and internationally recognized director. Nominees must demonstrate exceptional teaching and mentorship of undergraduate or graduate students, and one award winner each year receives an honorarium and lifetime Honorary Membership in ATDS.
“Dr. Herrera far surpassed the committee’s expectations.” notes Dr. Andrew Gibb (Texas Tech) in the award citation. “We had the distinct pleasure of reading an abundance of exceptional letters from former students, past and present mentees, and colleagues. A consistent sentiment of gratitude and indebtedness was interwoven through them all…Dr. Herrera’s work as a scholar has been laudatory, ground-breaking, and archive expanding. He is a recognized expert in several areas of research. As stellar as Dr. Herrera’s scholarly contributions are, the committee considered particularly cogent his work as a teacher and mentor.”
In nomination letters for the award, both colleagues and former students commend Herrera for his generous, wise counsel paired with his “deep passion for encouraging emerging scholarly voices.” One writer speaks of Herrera’s special commitment to the work of transforming theater into a more just, accessible field and profession.
Affirming Herrera’s proven ability to reach, inspire, and lift younger generations, the committee notes “Herrera’s personal impact on students is especially resonant for students of color, first generation, and LGBTQ+ students who are buoyed by the ‘representation in action’ that is generated by Dr. Herrera’s highly participatory presence.”
Herrera is a writer, teacher and scholar currently based in New Jersey but forever rooted in New Mexico. Herrera’s work, whether academic or artistic, examines the history of gender, sexuality and race within and through U.S. popular performance. He is author of The Latina/o Theatre Commons 2013 National Convening: A Narrative Report (HowlRound, 2015). His book Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance (Michigan, 2015) was awarded the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and received an Honorable Mention for the John W. Frick Book Award from the American Theatre and Drama Society. With Stephanie Batiste and Robin Bernstein, he serves as co-editor of “Performances and American Cultures” series at NYU Press. Also a performer, Herrera’s autobiographical storywork performances (including I Was the Voice of Democracy and TouchTones) have been presented in venues large and small across the United States, as well as Beirut and Abu Dhabi. Herrera is the Inaugural Resident Scholar for The Sol Project, an initiative dedicated to producing the work of Latinx playwrights in New York City and beyond; he also serves as part of the Core Facilitation Team with ArtEquity. He is presently at work on two scholarly book projects: Next! A Brief History of Casting, a historical study of the material practices of casting in US popular performance, and Starring Miss Virginia Calhoun, a narrative portrait of a deservedly obscure early 20th century actress/writer/producer. In addition to the Program in Theater, Herrera is also a core faculty member in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies and a faculty affiliate with the Programs in American Studies, Music Theater and Latino Studies.
This fall, Herrera serves as interim Director of the Program in Theater.