- PhD, School of Drama / Theatre History and Dramatic Criticism, University of Washington. Project: "An Extraordinary Life: Franca Rame on the Political Stage"
- B.A., Theater Arts, Carleton College
Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. Her long-time interest in political theatre, social justice, and feminism have led her on a circuitous journey from a dissertation on Italian actress, playwright, and activist Franca Rame, to the application of theatre in unlikely places, including health care and STEM education. She is particularly interested in understanding how the arts impact the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals and communities.
Currently, Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell is writing a handbook called Theatre for Health (Emerald Publishing). It will provide an accessible overview of the field, including case studies, methods of engagement, practical information on how theatre may be used in a variety of settings to promote health and well-being. Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell is co-PI with Dr. Gretchen A. Case on a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a rehearsal framework to improve the interpersonal communication skills of medical learners. This study is funded by a Research Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, she is working with an interdisciplinary team led by Dr. Lauren Clark to create a series of short videos intended to support families of children with Down syndrome. This work is funded by the Utah Center for Excellence in ELSI Research (UCEER). Previously, Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell worked with a multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Nalini Nadkarni and funded through the National Science Foundation to explore using theatre, narrative, and ecological restoration as tools to shift the way people see themselves in relation to science, technology, engineering, and math.
As Associate Dean for Research in the College of Fine Arts, Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell works with faculty seeking resources and extramural funding to support their research, and “translates” the significance of arts research (both creative and scholarly) for colleagues in other disciplines. She is passionate about finding ways to connect artists and arts scholars with unexpected collaborators as a way to increase creativity, solve challenging problems, and improve the quality of life for as many people as possible.
She teaches History of Theatre, New Plays Workshop, Dramaturgy, and a variety of dramatic literature courses, and was head of Theatre Studies from 2005 to 2016.
Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell earned a PhD in Theatre History and Dramatic Criticism from the University of Washington’s School of Drama in 2004, and received her undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Minnesota.