Rhonda Blair







Rhonda Blair's areas of interest include theatre and politics, feminism and theatre, alternative performance, and Anton Chekhov. She has directed and performed in over 70 productions and has created original solo and devised performance work. She researches applications of cognitive science to acting, directing and text, particularly in how current research on the brain, body, thought, feeling, language, and cultural “ecologies” informs and empowers us when we make theatre. She has given keynotes and featured talks internationally for, among others, the Giving Voice conference at the Grotowski Institute (2016), the Michael Chekhov Symposium at the University of Zurich (2013), the Dialogues Between Theatre and Neuroscience Conference at Sapienza University in Rome (2013), and at the Symposium on Cognition, Kinesthetics, and Performance at University of Kent (2012).


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

Recent Work


Theatre, Performance and Cognition: Languages, Bodies and Ecologies (co-edited with Amy Cook, Methuen 2016).

Richard Boleslavsky’s Acting: The First Six Lessons: Documents from the American Laboratory Theatre (editor, Routledge 2010).

The Actor, Image, and Action: Acting and Cognitive Neuroscience (Routledge 2008).

Articles (selected)

“Acting and Science.” The Cambridge Companion to Theatre and Science. Cambridge UP, 2020.

“4E Cognition for Directing: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining in Buckinghamshire.” The Routledge Companion to Theatre, Performance, and Cognitive Science, eds. Bruce McConachie and Rick Kemp. Routledge, 2018.

“Theatre and Embodiment,” Theatre Symposium, Vol. 26, 2019.

“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. 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.

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.


American Society for Theatre Research Distinguished Scholar award 2019
President, American Society for Theatre Research 2009-12
SMU Distinguished University Citizen Award 2012
SMU Ford Faculty Research Fellowship 2008
President, SMU Faculty Senate 2006-07

Course list

Blair teaches B.F.A. and M.F.A. courses in Solo Performance, in which we study the work of solo performers and performance artists, and students then generate their own original solo pieces; B.F.A. and M.F.A. Text Analysis, in which we focus how to take the script “off the page” and into performance and embodiment; and B.F.A. Theatre History II, in which we study major figures, movements, and developments from the Restoration to the present.