Honors student Elijah Punzal: creating a diverse and inclusive performance culture

Elijah Punzal

Honors senior and Drama and Education Studies double major, Elijah Punzal, is passionate about creating a space of belonging and representation for all students. In particular, Elijah leverages his position as a performer to bring important issues to light. Recently, Elijah had the opportunity to perform in a reading of M. Butterfly at a UCI Illuminations event that brought the renowned playwright, David Henry Hwang, to campus.

“It was absolutely electrifying! I was very touched by the more personal conversations I had with David Henry Hwang,” said Elijah when describing the experience. The event was created in partnership with Theatre Woks, of which Elijah is Student Chair. Of the group, he says, “Theatre Woks is UCI’s Asian Pacific Islander student theatre group with a mission to cultivate talents, raise multicultural awareness, and create a diverse and inclusive performance culture.”

A candidate for Honors in Dramatic Literature, History, and Theory in addition to Campuswide Honors, Elijah is conducting research by studying the UCI student theatre groups and their ability to foster a sense of belonging. He looks at theatre groups that specifically center their mission and vision on social identity groups: Brown Bag Theatre Company (Latinx), Theatre Woks (Asian Pacific Islander), Brick Theatre Company (LGBTQIA+), and Black Door (Black/African-American).

In addition to his research, Elijah has been impacted by his participation in the first cohort of Campuswide Honors students to take the Sustainable Societies curricular track, “The curriculum I encountered felt meaningful and truly rooted in addressing the problems that we as humans face at varying levels, and it left me with a sense of purpose as well as actionable goals for contributing to a more sustainable future.”

When he isn’t busy with school, research, and performing, Elijah works at the UCI LGBT Resource Center as their Engagement Intern, where he run programs that help protect and uplift the UCI LGBTQIA+ community. He is also the Executive Officer for Queer & Asian which is a community, education, and social justice based club operating at the intersections of various QTAPI (Queer Trans Asian Pacific Islander) identities.