David Bisaha is a theatre scholar and practitioner with primary interests in performance design, theatre space, and the history of theatrical creativity.
David is an Assistant Professor of Theatre History and Theory at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
I have a deep love for the embodied, sensory worlds of theatre and performance, and so my research uses design as a basis for studying theatre-making processes and their products from the late nineteenth century to today. I specialize in the history of scenic design in the United States, mostly in the first half of the twentieth century, and in the more recent history of immersive and participatory performance.
At Binghamton, I teach theater and performance history, dramaturgy, and theater theory in the MA and BA programs. I am the Curator of the Theatre Collection of the Department of Theatre, and am affiliate faculty and a steering committee member of the Material and Visual Worlds Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence (TAE). I hold a PhD and an MA in Theatre History in Performance Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BA from the College of William and Mary.
My current book project, American Scenic Design and Freelance Professionalism, is a cultural labor history of scenic designers and designing in the United States. It argues that scenic designers constructed the career of the freelance, professional scenic designer in extra-theatrical locations. By combining archival research in with sociology and the history of theatre labor and economics, the project shows how the history of American scenic design intersects with important national issues: the expansion of post-secondary education, the rise of unionism and challenges to its vision for American labor, and the emergence of knowledge work careers and the creative class. With this book, as in my other research projects, I am arguing that performance history need not be simply a series of entertainments, but is also the study of a crucial socio-cultural process that sustains artists, brings audiences together, and reshapes the world.
My research articles have appeared in Theatre & Performance Design, Etudes, and Text & Criticism, and I recently contributed a history of New Stagecraft to The Routledge Companion to Scenography (2018). My performance and book reviews have been published in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and Theatre Annual. My research has been awarded an Andrew Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the American Theatre and Drama Society Graduate Student Travel Award, and the Binghamton University Dean’s Research Semester. In 2014, I was an invited seminar participant in the Mellon School for Theatre and Performance Research at Harvard University, "Locations of Theater."
I have presented my research at national and international theatre and performance conferences, including those convened by the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), and the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC). I am currently serving as the ATHE Conference Planner for the American Theater and Drama Society (ATDS), and I am a Reviews Associate Editor for the journal Theatre & Performance Design.
I am also a director, dramaturg, and lighting designer. At Pittsburgh, I directed Jeffrey Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty and created a new adaptation of Euripides’ The Bacchae, entitled Sparagmos. I have been the dramaturg on productions at Binghamton University (Dancing at Lughnasa, Bells are Ringing) and CAP 21 Conservatory (On the Town). Lighting design work includes productions of Matt & Ben, Cleansed, and All in the Timing. I have also worked with the Center for Talented Youth as an administrator and teacher of writing and drama, and as a dramaturg and literary assistant at the Florida Studio Theatre and the Philadelphia Theatre Company.