John Atwater and Diana Nelson Assistant Professor of the Arts and Africana Studies


LISA L. BIGGS, Ph.D., is a performance studies scholar, actress, and playwright whose research, creative work and teaching investigate the role of performance in movements for social justice. 

Her first monograph, The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation (Ohio State University Press, 2022), records and theorizes the impact of theatre programs for women incarcerated in the U.S. and in South Africa. In 2023, the National Communications Association recognized Dr. Biggs's scholarship with the Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies. 

Dr. Biggs worked for more than two decades as a professional actress before joining the Brown faculty. Her stage credits include productions at the Kennedy Center, African Continuum Theatre, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Cultural Odyssey, the National Black Theatre Festival, DC Arts Center, Baltimore Theatre Project, Lookingglass Theatre, Arena Stage, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre. From 1999-2001, Dr. Biggs served as a teaching artist at the Living Stage Theatre Company, the groundbreaking arts and community-engagement initiative at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. She is also the author of several original plays that reflect her passion for using theatre and performance studies to unpack history. They include Where Spirit Rides, Blackbirds, Butterfly Belongings, Vigilante Artist and Memory is a Body of Water (with Tanisha Christie). In 2016, she was awarded a Knight Foundation Detroit Arts Challenge grant to develop and present a new stage play about women and girls in the ’67 Detroit rebellion. AFTER/LIFE premiered in Detroit in July 2017 in conjunction with city-wide events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the ’67 uprising.

In addition to her creative work, Dr. Biggs’s scholarship has been published in The Conversation, Theatre Survey, and in the award-winning edited anthologies Solo/Black/Woman: Scripts, Interviews, Essays (2013) and Black Acting Methods (2016).

B.A. Theatre and Dance, Amherst College (1993)

M.A., Playwriting and Performance Studies, New York University's Gallatin School (2007)

Ph.D., Performance Studies, Northwestern University (2013)

Brown Affiliations

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