Rhonda Blair researches applications of cognitive science to acting, directing and text, particularly in how current research on the the brain, body, thought, feeling, language, interpersonal dynamics and cultural “ecologies” can inform and empower us when we make theatre. Her areas of interest include performance studies, acting theory, theatre and politics, feminism and theatre, alternative performance and Anton Chekhov. She has directed and performed in over 70 productions and has done original solo and collaborative performance work since the 1980s. She has given keynotes and featured talks internationally for, among others, the 2016 Giving Voice conference at the Grotowski Institute (Wroclaw, Poland), the 2013 Michael Chekhov Symposium at the University of Zurich, the 2013 Dialogues Between Theatre and Neuroscience Conference at Sapienza University in Rome and at the 2012 Symposium on Cognition, Kinesthetics, and Performance at University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. Prior to coming to SMU in 1995, she was on the faculty at the University of Kentucky (1980-84) and Hampshire College (1984-95). She directs in the Division of Theatre season.
Ph.D. Theatre (theory and criticism, directing, Russian theatre), University of Kansas, 1982
M.A. Slavic Languages and Literature (Russian), University of Kansas, 1978
M.A. Theatre (Acting and Directing), University of Kansas, 1976
B.A. Theatre, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, 1973
THEA 2322 Text Analysis
THEA 3382 Theatre History (Restoration-present)
THEA 4381 Solo Performance
THEA 6215/6315 Text Analysis
THEA 6325 Solo Performance
Co-editor, with Amy Cook. Theatre, Performance and Cognition: Languages, Bodies and Ecologies (Methuen 2016)
Editor. Richard Boleslavsky’s Acting: The First Six Lessons: Documents from the American Laboratory Theatre. Routledge 2010.
Author. The Actor, Image, and Action: Acting and Cognitive Neuroscience. Routledge 2008.
“Notes on Empathy, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Theatre/Education.”
Special Issue of p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e, Spring 2015.
“The Multimodal Practitioner.” Affective Performance and Cognitive Science, ed. Nicola Shaughnessy. London: Methuen, 2013.
“‘Active Analysis – More Active than You Know’: Stanislavsky and Cognitive Science.” The Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky. Routledge, 2013.
Co-editor. Special section on cognitive science, theatre and performance. Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. Volume XXVI, No. 2, Fall 2011. Primary author of introduction.
"Stanislavsky and Cognitive Science" (interchange with John Hill). TDR: A Journal of Performance Studies, T207, Vol. 54, No. 3, Fall 2010.
President, American Society for Theatre Research 2009-12
SMU Distinguished University Citizen Award 2012
President, SMU Faculty Senate 2006-07
Selected Grants and Fellowships
SMU Ford Faculty Research Fellowship 2008
University Research Council – multiple awards for research and travel
Meadows School of the Arts – multiple awards for research and travel
International Research and Exchanges Board Travel Grant for research in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 1991.
People to People University Theatre Educators Delegation to Prague, Moscow, and Leningrad, March-April, 1991.
Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities Grant, Split Britches Company residency.
Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities Grant, Stewart Sherman residency, 1987.
National Endowment for the Arts Writers-in-Residence Grant, author and administrator, 1985-86.
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar in Avant-Garde Theatre in Europe and the U.S., participant, 1985.
Canada Council Grant for Playwrights' Readings, author and administrator, summer 1985.
National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Polish and Soviet Theatre and Drama, participant, summer 1982.