John Emigh is a professor in the Theatre, Speech and Dance and English Departments at Brown University, where he has been teaching and directing since 1967. He has directed more than 70 plays in universities and in the professional theatre. In 1974-75, he traveled in New Guinea, South Asia, and Indonesia, where he studied Balinese "topeng" masked dance with I Nyoman Kakul. Since then, he has made several other research trips to Asia, investigating the street jesters and court fools of Rajasthan, the use of masks in Eastern India, and the changing dynamics of performance in Bali. He has written extensively on the masked drama of New Guinea, Bali, and India as well as on contemporary theatre practice in the West and has made a film on the life of Hajari Bhand, a Rajasthani street performer and recently prepared a museum exhibit and international conference on the mask and concepts of person for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi. His book, "Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre", has recently been published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, and he is currently working on a book length study of the "Prahlada Nataka" - a devotional form of theatre in Orissa, India. Other current projects include investigating links between the traditional concerns of theatre and recent findings in the field of neuro-science and conducting research on the carnival and Christmas traditions of masked performance in Alpine Europe and Mexico. Articles currently in press deal with performing traditions, cultural models, and the killings that racked Bali in the mid-1960s, a recent Balinese adaptation of Macbeth in the style of Gambuh theatre, and the relation of Yankee gunmaker Samuel Colt's life to Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara."
As a performer, Professor Emigh has acted with leading Balinese artists and has performed one-man shows based on Balinese mask techniques at schools, hospitals, universities, theatres, and festivals throughout the United states and in Bali and India, including The Performing Garage in NYC, The New Theatre Festival of Baltimore, the Indian National School for Drama, the Tibetan School of Drama, and the Balinese Academy for the Arts. His performances have been written about in "The Drama Review" and the "Asian Theatre Journal", as well as in various Asian journals.
He was the founding chairperson of the Association for Asian Performance and chaired Brown's Dept. of Theatre, Speech and Dance from 1987 to 1993. In 1971, he conceived and co-ordinated the RI Festival of New Theatre (the first festival to bring together the work of America's leading avant-garde groups of that period) and in 2005 was Artistic Director for the Performance Studies international's Providence, RI conference and festival: "Becoming Uncomfortable." He served on the steering committees for the founding of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and of Performance Studies international and currently serves on PSi's executive board.