Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Keith Byron Kirk

Second Advisor

Dr. Jesse Njus

Third Advisor

Dr. Kellee Van Aken

Fourth Advisor

Melissa Hill Grande


The art of adaptation in the realm of drama has undergone an easily recognizable evolution in the past couple of decades, from the work of Sarah Ruhl to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. This evolution has opened doors to an altogether new form of adaptation in the theatre: dramatic recontextualization. While the two forms are built upon a foundation of shared aspects, there are certain observable and quantifiable delineations between the two artistic forms. As this trend continues to grow exponentially in the world of theatre, it is important to further research the origins and methodologies of contemporary dramatic recontextualization, both to provide a better understanding of what drives the form and better educate current writers. This thesis project identifies Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra (adapted itself from Aeschylus’ Oresteia) as one of the earliest American examples of dramatic recontextualization, and then proceeds to analyze O’Neill’s script both as its own individual work of early dramatic recontextualization and in comparison to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon, which I consider the benchmark for contemporary dramatic recontextualization. Finally, after identifying the components that easily identify a work of theatre as dramatic recontextualization through multiple lenses (historical, textual, performance, cultural), I provide an excerpt of my work on my own recontextualization of Mourning Becomes Electra, setting it after the United States’ exit of Afghanistan in 2022 and experimentally layering recontextualization upon recontextualization. The result of this thesis project is a detailed examination of O’Neill, Jacobs-Jenkins, Theatre History, and Recontextualization, which provide a framework for future standardization of the recontextualization process, as well as the research required of the writer for such an effort.


© Cameron M. Nickel

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VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission