College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of English

Michelle Gibbs

Primary office:


Michelle Cowin Gibbs, Ph.D. M.F.A. (she/her) is an assistant professor and head of the B.A. program in Theatre Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University. Her scholarly research interests include a spectrum of interdisciplinary studies in Black theatre, dance, and performance. As a Zora Neale Hurston scholar, Michelle is interested in tracing the relationship among Hurston’s work as an anthropologist, ethnographer, and playwright. Her current work is a digital project that cross-references Hurston’s play text and her other digital archives to examine Hurston's perceptions of early 20th century Black women identities. As a solo performance artist, Michelle uses her body as a site for inquiry into how Black racialization and Black female sexualization manifest into performances of affect - teetering between the spaces of tragic/comical and repulsive/alluring. Recent solo performance works include: A Thing Held in Full View, a commentary on race, gender, and women's reproductive rights in Texas and Blunt-Force Trauma: A Mother's Performance in Empathy, a feminist autoethnographic performance that explores the relationship among motherhood, cruelty, and forgiveness. Michelle received a Ph.D. in Theatre from Bowling Green State University. She holds an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of California, Irvine and a B.A. in Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
KU Today