Jenny Kokai

Jennifer A. Kokai is a playwright and performance historian who has taught at Weber State University in the Theatre Area since 2011. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and was deeply influenced by her playwriting classes at The Youth Performing Arts school and seeing new plays at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville. She attended Butler University where she received a BA in Theatre (High Honors) and Philosophy (Honors) in 2001. In 2003, she received a MA from Washington University in St. Louis and in 2008 a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, a MA in 2003 from Washington University in St. Louis, and a BA from Butler University. 

As a playwright, she is a member of the Dramatist’s Guild, the Utah Playwright’s Collective, and the Plan-B Theatre Company Playwriting Lab. She writes plays for both adults and children. Her Theatre for Young Audiences play Zombie Thoughts, co-written with Oliver Kokai-Means, toured Utah to over 10,000 elementary students with Plan-B Theatre. Zombie Thoughts is touring the Washington DC area with Building Better People Productions, and has upcoming tours in Sydney, Australia with the National Theatre of Parramatta and Montana with Montana Repertory Theatre. It has also been performed or read by St. Andrews Priory, Off-Key Anthem Collective, and State Fair Community College. 

Her play Girl of Glass was included in the Lark Play Development Center’s 2014 Playwright’s Week, where she was one of 7 playwrights chosen from nearly 900 blind submissions for a development workshop and public reading in New York, New York. Girl of Glass was workshopped at Weber State and by TheatreSynesthesia in Austin, Texas, and produced in New York City spring of 2019 with Moxie Theatre. Other notable plays include Singing to the Brine Shrimp (with music by Ken Plain), Lost Land, The Art of Floating, and Ballet for Aliens (with Oliver Kokai-Means and Gerard Hernandez), A Long Way to Fall, and Lucy and the Statue. In addition, she has written a variety of organization specific benefit and gala scripts.  

Her nonfiction writing focuses on popular entertainments in US History, particularly water-based attractions. She is a world expert on mermaid performance, having been invited as a keynote speaker to a mermaid conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2017 and appearing on a Radio New Zealand podcast in 2018. Non-Fiction works include Swim Pretty: Aquatic Spectacles and the Performance of Race, Gender, and Nature (Southern Illinois University Press, 2017) and Performance and the Disney Theme Park Experience: The Tourist as Actor (Co-editor with Tom Robson, Palgrave 2019). In addition, she has published numerous academic essays and articles. 



  • Performance and the Disney Theme Park Experience: The Actor as Tourist, Co-Edited with Tom Robson, New York: Palgrave, 2019.
  • Swim Pretty: Aquatic Spectacles and the Performance of Race, Gender, and Nature, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2017.