Dr. Michelle Cowin Gibbs
Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts
Head of the B.A. Theatre Arts Program
Dr. Michelle Cowin Gibbs teaches a wide variety of courses in the School of Theatre
Arts including theatre history and criticism, contemporary theatre studies and acting.
Her scholarly research interests include a spectrum of interdisciplinary studies situated
in Black performance including autoethnographic performance, dance criticism, performativity
and critical identity studies in and around early 20th century Black modernist theatre.
As a solo performance artist, Dr. Gibbs uses her body as a site for inquiry into how
racialization and Black female sexualization manifest into performances of affect—teetering
between the spaces of tragic/comical and repulsive/alluring. Recent solo performance
works include: "They Don’t Really Care About Us: PO-lice, PoPos, Sandra, and Me,"
a performance movement exploration of the relationship among police, policing and
Black women as told through a reimagining of the last day of Sandra Bland’s life;
"A Thing Held in Full View," a commentary on race, gender, and women's reproductive
rights in Texas; "Blunt-Force Trauma: A Mother's Performance in Empathy," an autoethnographic
performance that explores the relationship among motherhood, cruelty, and forgiveness;
and "Dancing with my/Self: The Selfie Monologues," an exploration of Selfie culture
that self-reflexively challenges how we attempt to hone-fetishize-dominate perceptions
Dr. Gibbs serves as board chair of Brownbody, a performing arts company located in
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Using a blend of African diasporic perspectives in modern
dance, theatre, and figure skating, Brownbody seeks to build artistic experiences
that disrupt biased narratives.
Visit Dr. Gibbs' professional website.
Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, M.F.A., University of California-Irvine, B.A.,
Western Michigan University
Certificate in Performance Studies, Bowling Green State University
Black Theater Association in Association with American Association for Theatre Education
(ATHE), Black Theatre Network, American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), The Honors
Society of Phi Kappa Phi Honors, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated.
Awards and Select Grants
- National Endowment for the Humanities Hurston on the Horizon Summer Institute (2021)
- Healing Illinois Grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership
with The Chicago Community Trust (2020)
- To Include is to Excel Grant, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Project: People of Color
Ole Ensemble Theater Initiative (2019).
- “The Stoney Silence: Negotiating Empathy and Audience Expectations in Solo Autoethnographic
Performance in Audience Research" Impacting Theatre Audiences: Methods for Studying
Change. Eds. Matt Omasta and Dani Snyder-Young, Routledge. “Toward a Black Feminist
Dramaturgy: Honoring the Theatrical Legacy of Zora Neale Hurston” The Journal of American
Drama and Theatre. Spring 2021. (pending publication)
- “Celebrating Black Feminist Divinity in Leslie Parker Dance Project’s crystal, smoke
n’ spirit(s)...” Fourth Wall Online Magazine. Walker Art Center. Web. 5 Aug. 2019.
- “Bad Bitches and the Disruption of Black Masculine Supremacy at the Ultimate White
Party 2014 Midwest Edition.” Ideas and Their Influences. 4th ed., Ed. Aprilfaye T.
Manalang and Andrew T. Arroyo, Kendall Hunt, 2017.
- “An Act of Terrorism: Performative (His)trosities and the Eradication of the Black
Body.” Cultural Studies – Critical Methodologies. (2015). 1-5 Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
Visit Dr. Gibbs' full bibliography.