Sarah Bay-Cheng

Chair and Professor of Theater and Dance

Teaching this semester

DANC 1500/THTR 1500. The Art of Performance

What is performance? Today it seems as if nearly everything performs: from cars and computers to actors and athletes. Explores the many meanings of performance, particularly art forms such as theater, dance, and media, as well as actions and behaviors in everyday life such as political speeches, rituals, and celebrations. Explores the performing arts as “twice-behaved behavior”—that is, repeatable, embodied activities across both the performing arts and more broadly within culture. Studieswhat defines performance and also askshow we might use approaches to performance as interpretive lenses. Balances this focus on theory with practice via performance attendance and watching films as well as attending nontheatrical events in order to examine them “as performance.” Finally, in order to explore performance as a distinct epistemology or “way of knowing,” students participate in movement workshops in addition to making a culminating performance.

DANC 1505/THTR 1505. From Vaudeville to Hamilton: Introduction to Musical Theater

Among the many forms of live performance, musical theater remains one of the most popular and successful genres from the nineteenth century to today. Echoes of musical theater appear in films, popular television, and circulate extensively through social media (e.g., #ham4ham). Surveys the cultural history of musical theater from mid-nineteenth-century entertainment in vaudeville and music halls, to contemporary productions on Broadway and in London's West End. Focuses predominantly on American and European productions, while also observing how these performances change as productions travel around the world. Students read scripts, listen to cast recordings, and where possible, watch videos and films of performances. Also considers shows that move from stage to screen (e.g., Rent) and from movies to theater (e.g.," Groundhog Day, The Musical").

Sarah Bay-Cheng is Chair and Professor of Theater and Dance, where she teaches theater history and theory, dramatic literature, and digital media performance.  Her research focuses on the intersections among performance and media including histories of cinema, social media, and computer technology in contemporary performance. Recent publications include Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (2015) and Mapping Intermediality in Performance (2010) as well as essays in Theatre Journal, TheaterContemporary Theatre Review, and Performance Research, among others. Her current monograph project explores digital historiography and performance. Bay-Cheng frequently lectures internationally and in 2015 was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She is co-edits the book series Avant-Gardes in Performance (Palgrave) and is an associate editor for the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, and Contemporary Theatre Review. Previously, she served on the governing boards of Performance Studies international and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and she currently administers the ASTR members group for Digital Research and Scholarship. Since 2016, Bay-Cheng can be heard monthly as a co-host for the podcast, On TAP (Theatre and Performance) with Pannill Camp and Harvey Young. She occasionally gets to work as a director and dramaturg with particular interest in intermedial collaborations and a fondness for puppetry. 


  • Ph.D., Theater, University of Michigan, 2001
  • A.B., Theatre and Film Studies, magna cum laude, Wellesley College, 1996

PDF Curriculum Vitae

Personal Website

Research and Teaching

Current Research: Digital Historiography and Performance (book in progress)

Teaching Areas: theater history; digital media performance; American theater; performance studies

Research Interests: avant-garde literature, theater, and cinema; technology and performance; digital humanities; contemporary performance 

Recent Publications


S. Bay-Cheng, J. Parker-Starbuck, D.Z. Saltz. Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (University of Michigan Press, 2015).
S. Bay-Cheng, C. Kattenbelt, A. Lavender, R. Nelson, eds. Mapping Intermediality in Performance(Amsterdam University Press/University of Chicago Press, 2010).
S. Bay-Cheng and Barbara Cole, eds. Poets at Play: An Anthology of Modernist Drama (Susquehanna University Press, 2010).
S. Bay-Cheng. Mama Dada: Gertrude Stein’s Avant-Garde Theater (Routledge, 2004; pbk. 2005).


S. Bay-Cheng, "Pixelated Memories: Performance, Media, and Digital Technology" Contemporary Theatre Review 27.3 (2017): 324-339.
S. Bay-Cheng, "Digital Historiography and Performance" Theatre Journal 68.4 (December 2016): 507-527.
S. Bay-Cheng, “Unseen: Performance Criticism in an Age of Digital Recordings” Theater 46.2 (2016): 77-85.
S. Bay-Cheng, “Postmedia Performance” Interventions - Contemporary Theatre Review (May 2016).
S. Bay-Cheng, “Virtual Realisms: Dramatic Forays into the Future” Theatre Journal 67.4 (December 2015): 686-698.
S. Bay-Cheng, “Global Screen Shots,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 37.1 (PAJ 109/January 2015): 56-63

In the News

Bowdoin Daily Sun, "Studying Fictional Spy James Bond through Lens of Critical Theory" [video] (January 2, 2017)

WCBS - San Francisco, commentary on Hamilton cast response to Vice-President Elect Mike Pence (November 21, 2016)

Academic Highlight, "How Digital Technologies Are Changing Our Relationship to History and Performance" [article] (September 16, 2016)