Henry Bial

Henry Bial
  • Professor
  • Chair
  • Performance Theory, Religious Performance, Jewish Popular Culture

Contact Info

Academic Office:
Murphy Hall, Room 356-B


A KU faculty member since 2005, Henry Bial's research and teaching specialties include performance theory, religious performance, Jewish popular culture, and theatre historiography. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University and a BA in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University.

Dr. Bial is the author of Playing God: The Bible on the Broadway Stage (University of Michigan Press, 2015) and Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen (University of Michigan Press, 2005). He is also the editor of The Performance Studies Reader (Routledge, 2004; 2nd Ed. 2007; 3rd Ed. 2015), co-editor with Chase Bringardner of The Great North American Stage Directors, Volume 4: George Abbott, Vinnette Carroll, Harold Prince (Bloomsbury Methuen 2021), co-editor with Scott Magelssen of Theater Historiography: Critical Interventions (University of Michigan Press, 2010), and co-editor with Carol Martin of Brecht Sourcebook (Routledge, 2000).

He has published articles in TDR , Theatre Topics and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre as well as several book chapters. He has served on the editorial boards of Theatre Survey, Theatre Topics, Ecumenica, The Journal of Religion and Theatre, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Stage Actors and Acting .

In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Dr. Bial has worked in a variety of capacities — director, performer, designer, playwright, dramaturg, and lighting operator — in university and professional theatres in New York, Kansas City, Boston, Minneapolis, and Albuquerque. He originated the role of The Man in the Purple Suit in Buran Theatre Company's The House of Fitzcarraldo .

Dr. Bial is a former President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), a comprehensive non-profit professional membership organization. Founded in 1986, ATHE serves the interests of its diverse individual and organizational members, including college and university theatre departments and administrators, educators, graduate students, and theatre practitioners.


Ph.D. in Performance Studies, New York University
B.A. in Folklore and Mythology, Harvard University


Research interests:

  • Performance Theory
  • Religious Performance
  • Jewish Popular Culture


Teaching interests:

  • Theatre History and Criticism

Selected Publications

Bial, Henry, and Sara Brady, editors. The Performance Studies Reader. no. 3, Routledge, 2016.
Bial, Henry. Playing God: The Bible on the Broadway Stage. University of Michigan Press, 2015.
Bial, Henry. “Hot Pursuit: Researching Across the Theatre/Film Border.” Journal of American Drama and Theatre, vol. 26, no. 2, May 2014, pp. 90–101.
Bial, Henry. “Performance Studies 3.0.” Performance Studies in Motion: International Perspectives and Practices in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Ati Citron et al., Methuen, 2014, pp. 30–41.
Bial, Henry. “Jew Media: Performance and Technology in the 58th Century.” TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies, vol. 55, no. 3, 2011, pp. 134–43.
Bial, Henry. “Today I Am a Field: Performance Studies Comes of Age.” The Rise of Performance Studies: Rethinking Richard Schechner’s Broad Spectrum, edited by James Harding and Cindy Rosenthal, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 85–96.
Bial, Henry, and Scott Magelssen, editors. Theater Historiography: Critical Interventions. University of Michigan Press, 2010.
Bial, Henry, editor. The Performance Studies Reader. no. 2, Routledge, 2007.
Bial, Henry. Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen. University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Bial, Henry, editor. The Performance Studies Reader. no. 1, Routledge, 2004.
Martin, Carol, and Henry Bial, editors. Brecht Sourcebook. Routledge, 2000.

Creative Works

The House of Fitzcarraldo. (devised theatre piece). The Brick. New York City, NY, USA. 1/1/2012 - 1/31/2012. Remounted and revised version of 2010 production, Actor and Co-Writer

Awards & Honors

Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award
Hall Center for the Humanities
John W. Frick Book Award
American Theatre and Drama Society
Member, College of Fellows of the American Theatre
2018 - Present