Dr. Bess Rowen is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University. She coined the term “affective stage directions,” which are stage directions written in ways that engage the physical and emotional responses of future theatre makers. Her book, The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment, was published by University of Michigan Press in 2021. She earned her PhD in Theatre and Performance at The Graduate Center, CUNY and her MA in Performance Studies from NYU. While at CUNY, she was the recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Public Humanities as well as a Graduate Center Dissertation Fellowship. She is a member of Actors’ Equity and has studied acting at Michael Howard Studios, The Berkshire Theatre Festival, and The Gaiety School of Acting in Ireland. Recent articles can be found in The Eugene O’Neill Review, Modern Drama, and Theatre Topics. Her avid scholarly interests include intersectional approaches to stage directions, Gender & Sexuality, female playwrights, Irish theatre, and theatrical riots.


Ph.D.   The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2018. Theatre and Performance.

Dissertation: “The Lines Between the Lines: Stage Directions as Affective, Physical Collaborations between Theatre Texts and Theatre Makers”

Dissertation Supervisor: Annette J. Saddik; Committee Members: Marvin Carlson, Jean Graham-Jones.

M.Phil. The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2015. Theatre.

M.A.     New York University, Tisch School of the Arts/Graduate School of Arts & Sciences,

2011. Performance Studies.

B.A.      Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 2009. English and Theatre double-major, Psychology

minor. Magna Cum Laude. Phi Beta Kappa. Honors designations in English and Theatre.


The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment. Under contract with University of Michigan Press. Forthcoming fall 2021.

“Ruhls of the House: Surreal Spaces for Queer Homes in the Plays of Sarah Ruhl,” Modern Drama 63, no. 3 (2020): 330-353. doi: 10.3138/md.63.3.1012. Article.

“Against Chronology: Intergenerational Pedagogical Approaches to Queer Theatre and Performance Histories,” Theatre Topics 30, no. 2 (2020): 69-83. doi: 10.1353/tt.2020.0030. Article co-written with Benjamin Gillespie.

“Burning the Bridge While Bridging the Gap: Riotous Pedagogy in The Plough and the Stars riot of 1926,” in Theatre Scandals: Social Dynamics of Turbulent Theatrical Events, edited by Vicki-Ann Cremona, Henri Schoenmakers, Bess Rowen, and Anneli Saro, 84-100. Leiden: Brill/Rodopi, 2020. doi: 10.1163/9789004433984. Book chapter.

“People Come to the Theatre to Feel Something Old: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Theatre History,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 33, no. 2 (2019): 81-94. doi: 10.1353/dtc.2019.0005. Interview with critical introduction.

“Crushing Her with the Weight of His Eloquence: Reconsidering the Theatricality of Eugene O’Neill’s Stage Directions,” Eugene O’Neill Review 39, no. 2 (2019): 294-312. doi: 10.5325/eugeoneirevi.39.2.0294. Article.

“Undigested Reading: Rethinking Stage Directions through Affect,” Theatre Journal 70, no. 3 (2018): 309-329. doi: 10.1353/tj.2018.0057. Article.

“Completing the Sentence with a Gesture: The Deconstructed Dialogue – Stage Direction Binary in the Work of Tennessee Williams,” The Tennessee Williams Annual Review 15 (2016): 127-145. Article.

“Nobler Womanhood: An Exploration of Sororities and Scripted Femininity,” Emerging Theatre Research 1 (2013): 21-53. doi: 10.12675/etr.2013.1121. Article.

“I Mumble the Body Electric, or (i)Phone, (u)Phone,” Imagined Theatres 4 (2020). Accessed September 5, 2020. http://imaginedtheatres.com/i-mumble-the-body-electric-or-iphone-uphone/. Short play.

Eugene O’Neill and the Tragic Tension,” The Eugene O’Neill Review 41, no. 1 (2020): 92-95. doi: 10.5325/eugeoneirevi.41.1.0092. Book “re-review” of Doris V. Falk’s Eugene O’Neill and the Tragic Tension.

Night of the Iguana,” The Tennessee Williams Annual Review 19 (2020): 143-149. Performance review of Night of the Iguana.

Kirche, Küche, Kinder: At Outrage for the Stage,” The Tennessee Williams Annual Review 16 (2017): 101-104. Performance Review of Kirche, Küche, Kinder.

The Two-Character Play,” The Tennessee Williams Annual Review 14 (2014): 129-131. Performance Review of Tennessee Williams’s The Two-Character Play.

“Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory (2014): 1-3. DOI: 10.1080/0740770X.2014.898424. Book Review of J. Jack Halberstam’s Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal.

“Titled Feminist Review,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 23 (2013): 150-152. DOI: 10.1080/0740770X.2013.827377. Performance Review of Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show.

“The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill: Vol. 1 Early Plays/Lost Plays and Early Plays,” Theatre Journal 64.3 (2012): 409-412. Dual Performance Review of The New York Neo-Futurists’ The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill: Volume 1, Early Plays/Lost Plays and New York City Players’ Early Plays.

“The Spirit of the Age: Orlando,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 21 (2011): 286-287.  DOI: 10.1080/0740770X.2011.607605. Performance Review of Sarah Ruhl’s Orlando.

Blog Posts


    American Society for Theatre Research

    American Theatre and Drama Society

    Association for Theatre in Higher Education

    Eugene O’Neill Society

    International Federation for Theatre Research

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