Lisa Biggs is an actress, playwright and performance scholar. Since 1993, she has developed and toured original theatre/dance pieces to venues across the United States. Recent performances include productions at CULTURAL ODYSSEY, LINKS HALL, BALTIMORE THEATRE PROJECT, JOE'S MOVEMENT EMPORIUM, SHADOWBOX THEATRE for the NEW ORLEANS FRINGE, NATIONAL BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL, NATIONAL HIP HOP THEATRE FESTIVAL, RENEGADE THEATRE FESTIVAL, AMHERST COLLEGE, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY, LANSING COMMUNITY COLLEGE, DC ARTS CENTER, and many more.
Lisa is a Chicago native, born and raised on the Southside of the city. She holds a B. A. in Theatre and Dance from AMHERST COLLEGE and an M.A. in Playwriting and Performance Studies from the GALLATIN SCHOOL at NEW YORK UNIVERSITY. In addition to her formal training, she credits much of her creative intellectual work, approach to playwriting, teaching and scholarship to the time she spent as a member of the LIVING STAGE THEATRE COMPANY (1999-2001).
LIVING STAGE was one of the preeminent Theatre for Social Change programs in the U.S.. There, under the direction of Oran Sandel, Lisa trained in improvisational theatre technique and appeared as an actor in hundreds of improvisational theatre pieces developed for workshop participants. In addition to appearing in performance works, with the company she developed two original theatre works -- OCEANS and BUTTERFLY BELONGINGS -- both directed by Rebecca Rice. Working with students aged 3-103, she learned to facilitate theatre for social change workshops, and witnessed the power of the imagination to transform individual lives, families, institutions and communities.
In addition to developing new work and teaching, Lisa has appeared in numerous theatre productions at venues across the U.S. She won the first ever Chicago BLACK THEATRE ALLIANCE AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS for her work in FAITH AND THE GOOD THING, produced by the Chicago Theatre Company. Subsequent appearances at the KENNEDY CENTER, ARENA STAGE, LOOKINGGLASS THEATRE, WOOLLY MAMMOTH, CITY LIT, CHICAGO THEATRE COMPANY, THE AFRICAN CONTINUUM THEATRE, and many more have established her as a talented working artist.
In 2013, Lisa earned a Ph.D. in Performance Studies at NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY.
Performance Studies is a relatively new academic discipline, having been birthed in the wake of Civil Rights, Women's Liberation and the LGBTQ rights movements. Lisa has a particular interest in the performance of justice, law and punishment, and has been researching the impact of theatre and dance programs for women incarcerated in the U.S. and in South Africa. Texts, events and phenomena that may or may not be conventionally considered performances constitute the objects of her research. These may include plays, songs and dances, as well as rituals, political rallies, public lectures, court proceedings, and transcripts of everyday conversations that are intended to produce justice on both sides of the prison door. In particular, Lisa uses oral history and critical performance ethnography methodologies (complemented by historiographic archival work) to understand the broad spectrum of performative labor that animate prison systems and other racialized and gendered systems of punishment. For her, performance functions as an object of study, as well as a method and an analytic.
Currently, Lisa serves as an Assistant Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY. There, she teaches theatre and performance studies (http://rcah.msu.edu/people/faculty-staff/biggs). Her courses include histories and practices of THEATRE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE as well as opportunities for students to develop their own PERFORMANCE PROJECTS.
A proud member of Actor’s Equity (AEA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG- AFTRA), she is the founding artistic director of Drapetomaniac Theatre Productions.