This spring, the Department of Theater and Dance will welcome internationally renowned theater and dance artist Sarah Bay-Cheng, now Professor of Theater and Dance will teach courses about the intersections between live performance, digital media and performance scholarship.

Bay-Cheng is currently at Utrecht University in the Netherlands as a Fulbright Senior Professor in American Studies.

“She’s at the top of her field; she has an international profile, and she has terrific experience as the acting head of the theater program at Colgate,” Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance Paul Sarvis said. 

Amongst talk of integration of digital media and new technologies into the department and course registration for next semester, Bay-Cheng comes at a perfect time to offer classes that look at the intersection among theater, performance and media. 

In the upcoming semester, she will teach two classes, “Theater as Social Media” and “Performing America: Identities on Stage,” the latter of which is co-listed with the English Department.

“Basically one of the ways we can understand society is by the representations that it makes of itself. And theater is an interesting and unique example of this,” said Bay-Cheng. “This idea of an American identity is one that had to be performed into being because it was made up of people who had largely come from other places. So a lot of the class is looking at this intersection of performance and identity and how that helps us understand the history of a culture.”

Bay-Cheng’s other class, “Theater as Social Media,” will be looking at the use of social media as a theatrical art form.

“We start by looking at Facebook and how theatricalized Facebook is, how the construction of identity in social media is in some ways everybody’s little mini performance of themselves. So the lens of performance studies can be a really interesting way to look at what makes something effective on social media, what makes social media compelling,” said Bay-Cheng. 

As a graduate of Wellesley College, another small liberal arts school, Bay-Cheng is excited to come to Bowdoin because of the atmosphere of the student body. 

“I loved the environment on campus. I loved the vibrancy among the faculty and staff in the department,” said Bay-Cheng. “When I taught a class here, the students were really quite remarkable, so the atmosphere around theater and dance was really exciting.”
Bay-Cheng is also a strong advocate for the study of theater and dance as part of a complete liberal arts education.

“I think the challenge here and in most places is to continually make the case for why theater is relevant and why we should study theater and dance. And I really believe it is of significant value regardless of what you want to do with the rest of your life,” said Bay-Cheng. “I think it is a fundamental part of who we are as human beings and that understanding and appreciating that whether you like to attend certain forms of theater or dance or not.”