Bess Rowen

Bess Rowen is a graduate of the M.A. Program in Performance Studies and specialized in feminist and gender studies in sorority identity. Bess is an Equity Membership Candidate and has studied acting at Michael Howard Studios, The Berkshire Theatre Festival, and The Gaiety School of Acting (The National Theatre School of Ireland). She has also directed, stage managed, and even done a little playwriting. Recently, she completed her Ph.D. at The Graduate Center, CUNY, with a dissertation titled: "The Lines between the Lines: Stage Directions as Fluid, Affective Collaborations between Theatre Texts and Theatre Makers" and will begin her position as Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University in Fall 2018.


From the minute I was cast as Fairy #4 in A Midsummer Night's Dream my freshman year at Lehigh University, I knew that I would always be a performer. i believed my place was on stage, and I thought of myself as an actor, yet I never really enjoyed the performances as much as the rehearsals. I knew I didn't want the life of an actor, but the theatre was what I knew and loved. An older professor saw me struggling with figuring out my next step as I entered my senior year, and he mentioned that there was a program where I could study all kinds of performance, and where my knowledge base could be useful for something other than acting. I was intrigued, and looked up this "performance studies."

From the minute I saw the website, I knew that I wanted to be there. I wanted to get out of rural Pennsylvania into New York City, to be surrounded by art forms I had never encountered before, and to meet people from all types of intellectual backgrounds. I already knew I loved literary theory, and the opportunity to use those techniques on objects other than just published texts was incredibly exciting. When I went to the open house, I heard people like Richard Schechner, Ann Pellegrini, and Barbara Browning speak, and I made appointments to meet with them one-on-one and talk more about what I was interested in learning. In a few short minutes, these people managed to show me new ways of using my brain and inspired me to expand what I quickly realized had been a limited frame of reference in terms of performance.


  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, Villanova University
  • Co-director, Eugene O'Neill's Marco Millions, Target Margin Theater's Unseen O'Neill Lab, December 2016
  • Adjunct Lecturer, Pace University, Dyson School of Performing Arts
  • Adjunct Lecturer, LaGuardia Community College
  • President of the Doctoral Theatre Student's Association, CUNY, The Graduate Center
  • Associate Producer, The Fulcrum Theater
  • Andrew W. Mellon Center for the Humanities Digital Fellow, 2014-2016, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Lecturer at Purchase College, SUNY


  • “Completing the Sentence with a Gesture: The Deconstructed Dialogue – Stage Direction Binary in the Work of Tennessee Williams,” The Tennessee Williams Annual Review 15 (2016): 127-145. Article.
  • “Undigested Reading: Rethinking Stage Directions through Affect,” Theatre Journal 70.3 (2018): 309-329. (This goes along with a piece of digital content: "'Undigested Reading' and the New York Neo-Futurists," Theatre Journal. Accessed October 22, 2018. 
  • “Crushing Her with the Weight of His Eloquence: Reconsidering the Theatricality of Eugene O’Neill’s Stage Directions,” Eugene O’Neill Annual Review. Forthcoming.


  • Arts & Culture blogger for The Huffington Post and writes for How I Round
  • Graduate Center Dissertation Fellow, 2016-2017

"In a few short minutes, [Richard Schechner, Ann Pellegrini, and Barbara Browning] managed to show me new ways of using my brain and inspired me to expand what I quickly realized had been a limited frame of reference in terms of performance." - Sarah Bess Rowen