David Bisaha is a scholar and practitioner who studies performance design, theatrical space and architecture, and the history of theatrical creativity. He specializes in the history of scenic design in the United States, mostly of the twentieth century, and in the more recent history of immersive and participatory performance.
At Binghamton, Bisaha teaches theatre and performance history, dramaturgy, and theatre theory in the MA and BA programs. He is the Curator of the Theatre Collection of the Department of Theatre and is affiliate faculty and a steering committee member of the Material and Visual Worlds Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence (TAE). He serves as the Book Review editor for the journal Theatre & Performance Design.
His book, American Scenic Design and Freelance Professionalism (2022), 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 by working in extra-theatrical locations. Mixing archival research with sociology and labor history, this book shows how American scenic design intersected 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. American Scenic Design… also expands scenic design history by documenting the institutional discrimination women designers and designers of color faced in the mid-twentieth century.
Currently, he is at work on several ongoing projects. The first investigates the history of lighting spectacles in twentieth century United States culture, especially abstract performances which do not use live human performers. His project applies performance studies methods to the study of large-scale lighting events, ranging from electric fountains and color organ performances to laser light shows, theme park spectaculars, and projection mapping. The second project extends his work on freelance professionalism and institutional critique into educational theatre and into further studies of theatre designers’ lives in the early and mid-twentieth century. He also continues to write criticism and histories of US immersive and participatory theatre production.
- PhD, MA, University of Pittsburgh
- BA, The College of William and Mary
- History of theatre and performance design
- Immersive and participatory performance
- Theatre historiography
- Theatre labor studies
- Theatre history
- Performance studies
- Modern and Contemporary Drama
- Acting and Directing Theory