Skip to main content

Meet Juliana Kleist-Mendez

Tell us a bit about your background: I was raised in Iowa City, Iowa and consider myself to be an Iowa-born Cuban American. At Cornell University, I studied theater for social change with a focus on the performance of identity. In New York, I dedicated my work to immersive new work collaborations. I participated in “Far From Canterbury: A New Musical” (Winner of Best Musical: New York International Fringe Festival; Encores! at The SoHo Playhouse) and “King Lear: A Radio Play” (The Framework Theatre, Chicago).

What are you studying/researching? I am currently pursuing a master’s of fine arts in Theatre and Dance (Directing) in the Department of Theatre and Dance and expect to graduate in 2021. As part of my research, I am exploring the relationship between audience, performer and historical spaces through immersive theater-making.  I believe that we are always in relationship with the history of the spaces that we inhabit, and my work aims to break the fourth wall of the traditional theater experience to create places where spectator and actor can exist together. Rather than a passive bystander, I am interested in exploring audience members as allies, agents of change whose actions have wonderful consequences. I believe theater should be a tangible invitation for audiences to step into and empathize with other stories beyond their own.

Talk about your career experience and community involvement at UC San Diego: So far, I have been a teaching assistant for ”Introduction to Acting” and “Introduction to Theatre.” My collaborators and I are currently working on an immersive, site-specific exploration of California history entitled “Calafia at Liberty” to be presented in October 2019 as part of La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival happening at Liberty Station. Throughout the piece, the audience will follow historian Edward Everett Hale as he searches through layers of California's history for the elusive, Amazonian Queen Calafia, after whom he believes this great state was named.   

Why UC San Diego? Is sunshine and proximity to the ocean a decent answer here? In all seriousness, I chose UC San Diego because of the caliber of students and faculty. This was the place where I found myself in the most interesting conversations with people who are passionate about their research and art. So far, this has stayed true.