Henry Bial

Senior Associate Director of the University Honors Program
Professor of Theater
Primary office:
Nunemaker Center
Room 201
Second office:
Murphy Hall
Room 421


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 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. A proud member of the Buran Theatre Company, he last appeared as The Man in the Purple Suit in 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., Performance Studies, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts

M.A., Performance Studies, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts

A.B., Folklore and Mythology, Harvard University, Harvard College


  • Theatre History and Criticism

Research Interests

  • Performance Theory
  • Religious Performance
  • Jewish Popular Culture

Selected Publications

Bial, Henry, Brady, Sara (Ed.). The Performance Studies Reader. 3rd ed. London: Routledge, 2016.

Bial, Henry. Playing God: The Bible on the Broadway Stage. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2015.

Bial, Henry. "Performance Studies 3.0." Performance Studies in Motion: International Perspectives and Practices in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Ati Citron, Ed. Sharon Aronson-Lehavi, Ed. David Zerbib. London: Methuen, 2014. 30-41.

Bial, Henry. "Hot Pursuit: Researching Across the Theatre/Film Border." Journal of American Drama and Theatre 26.2 (15 Jun. 2014): 90-101.

Bial, Henry. "Jew Media: Performance and Technology in the 58th Century." TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies 55.3 (Fall 2011): 134-143.

Bial, Henry. "Today I Am a Field: Performance Studies Comes of Age." The Rise of Performance Studies: Rethinking Richard Schechner's Broad Spectrum. Ed. James Harding, Ed. Cindy Rosenthal. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 85-96.

Bial, Henry, Magelssen, Scott (Ed.). Theater Historiography: Critical Interventions. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.

Bial, Henry (Ed.). The Performance Studies Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2007.

Bial, Henry. Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Bial, Henry (Ed.). The Performance Studies Reader. 1st ed. London: Routledge, 2004.

Martin, Carol, Bial, Henry (Ed.). Brecht Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2000.

Selected Work

Performer, The House of Fitzcarraldo, (devised theatre piece), The Brick, New York City, NY, USA, 01/01/2012 - 01/31/2012

Selected Awards & Honors

Member, College of Fellows of the American Theatre
2018 - Present

Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award
Hall Center for the Humanities

John W. Frick Book Award
American Theatre and Drama Society

Jewish Studies Program statement in solidarity with protests against police brutality

Beloved community,

As an academic program in the University of Kansas, we stand in solidarity with Black Americans -- including Black Jewish people -- and everyone hurting after the senseless, brutal murder of George Floyd and all people targeted by systemic racism and injustice in our country. We continue to be committed to our core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This morning, the Association for Jewish Studies sent out an email reminding us that as scholars of Jewish Studies, we are keenly aware of the devastating impact of discrimination and violence against minority groups. Dr. Cécile Accilien, the Chair of the KU Department of African and African-American studies, shared with us the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The Jewish Studies academic community is rich and diverse – it includes scholars and students who are Jewish and non-Jewish, scholars and students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and from multiple denominations and creeds, people who are immigrants (like myself) and those who are American-born. The Bible commands: צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף tzedek tzedek tirdof, which translates into English as “Only justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). In this well-cited verse, the Hebrew word tzedek, or justice, repeats twice. There can be many explanations of the repetition – textual interpretation in all its many forms is a beloved pursuit for many of us. Today, I am going to give you my own interpretation -- though I am sure that it already exists somewhere in the treasury of Jewish exegesis. One tzedek, or justice, you must pursue for yourself and for people like you; that is, perhaps, the justice that is easiest to understand, because we keenly feel injustices committed against ourselves and people like us. The other tzedek is the justice you must pursue for the sake of people who are not like you. It is often a harder lesson, but a necessary one. The justice, or tzedek, which we pursue thus also becomes a gift of chesed, of lovingkindness that enriches all of us.


In solidarity,

Dr. Renee Perelmutter,

Director of the Jewish Studies Program

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