Michelle Granshaw’s research focuses on impoverished, disenfranchised, and migrant communities and how they shaped and were influenced by the embodied and imaginative practices within theatre and performance. As a theatre and cultural historian, her work explores how theatre and performance functions within poor and migrant communities in several ways: as strategies for practical and imaginative community building; cultural institutions that express group identity as well as reinforce dominant social and cultural expectations and prejudices; and methods of social and cultural resistance, adaptation, and survival. Her research interests include American and Irish theatre and popular entertainment, diaspora and global performance histories, performance and the working class, dramaturgy, and historiography.
Her book, Irish on the Move: Performing Mobility in American Variety Theatre (University of Iowa Press, 2019) argues that nineteenth-century American variety theatre formed a crucial battleground for anxieties about mobility, immigration, and ethnic community in the United States. She analyzes how what she calls “dramaturgies of mobility” -- repeated narratives, types, images, strategies, and performative practices -- participated in systems of meaning pertaining to mobility and informed systematic oppression as well as served as strategies for survival. She is working on two new book projects. The Fight for the Right to Amusement: Race, Freedom, and the American Theatre is a narrative history of the fight for the right to amusement and black civil rights after the Civil War. Transatlantic Dialogues: Sectarian Violence and Popular Performance in Nineteenth-Century Belfast analyzes the relationship between transatlantic Irish popular performance and the emergence of modern urban sectarian violence in Belfast.
Granshaw’s work has been recognized and supported through awards, grants, and fellowships. Irish on the Move was named a finalist for the Theatre Library Association's George Freedley Memorial Award. The book also received support through the Hibernian Research Award from the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, American Theatre and Drama Society Faculty Travel Award, and a Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship. In 2014, Granshaw was awarded the American Theatre and Drama Society Vera Mowry Roberts Award for Research and Publication for her Theatre Survey (January 2014) article “The Mysterious Victory of the Newsboys: The Grand Duke Theatre’s 1874 Challenge to the Theatre Licensing Law.” "Inventing the Tramp: The Early Tramp Comic on the Variety Stage,” part of Irish on the Move’s first chapter, also won the 2018 Robert A. Schanke Theatre Research Award at the Mid-America Theatre Conference.
Granshaw’s articles have appeared in Theatre Survey, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, Popular Entertainment Studies, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Topics, and the New England Theatre Journal. Her reference articles have appeared in The Atlas of Boston History: The Making of a City and BlackPast.org. She has presented her research at the American Society for Theatre Research, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and Mid-America Theatre Conference. She has served on committees for the American Theatre and Drama Society, American Society for Theatre Research, and Mid-America Theatre Conference.
She teaches in the BA, MFA, and PhD programs. She is affiliate faculty with the Global Studies Center, the European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center, Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies Program, and Cultural Studies.