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Northwestern School of Communication

Danielle Bainbridge

Assistant Professor


Danielle Bainbridge

Danielle Bainbridge is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University, where she also holds courtesy appointments in Performance Studies and Black Studies. She was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Black Studies in the 2018-2019 academic year (also at Northwestern University). Her ongoing book project Currencies of Cruelty: Slavery, Freak Shows, and the Performance Archive examines the lives of African American sideshow and freak show performers who were also enslaved and is currently under contract with NYU Press. Her project received the support of a Ford Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship (2014-2017). In addition to her academic research, Danielle is a creative writer, playwright and web series host and creator. From 2017-2020 she was the co-creator, researcher, writer, and host of the PBS Digital Studios web series "The Origin of Everything" which focused on highlighting unusual and under-told history and streams on YouTube and Facebook Watch.

Her creative nonfiction and fiction appear in Moko Magazine, Killens Review of Arts & Letters, and The Mechanics’ Institute Review Online. She was the inaugural winner of the 2015 Barry Lopez prize for creative nonfiction from Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts (judged by Nick Flynn) and a semi-finalist for the Kore Press 2016 memoir award. She received a 2016 scholarship from the Tin House creative writing workshop in Portland, Oregon. In 2022 she received the Anne LaBastille Writers Residency presented by the Adirondack Center for Writing to support her creative work. Her first play "Curio" premiered at the University of Pennsylvania in April 2018 and appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2018. She served as a host and recurring talent on two 2021 Daytime Emmy Nominated web series: PBS Self-Evident and YouTube Originals “Booktube.”

Her essay “The Future Perfect, Autopsy, and Enfreakment on the 19th Century Stage” published in TDR, received an Honorable Mention for the 2021 Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize from the American Society for Theatre Research. Her essay “Staging Aural Fugitivity Through Nineteenth-Century Freak Show Archives” received an Honorable Mention for 2023 Outstanding Article Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. From 2021-2022 she served as a host and consulting producer on PBS “Historian’s Take.” Historian’s Take received nominations for the 2023 NAACP Image Awards and 2023 Daytime Emmy Awards. In the 2022-2023 academic year she was a faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. In 2023 she will complete her first short documentary based on her 2018 piece “Curio” with $55,000 in grant support from Northwestern’s Office of the Provost.



  • PhD Yale University, American Studies and African American Studies
  • MPhil Yale University, American Studies and African American Studies
  • MA Yale University, American Studies and African American Studies
  • BA University of Pennsylvania, Theatre Arts and English 

Research Interests

  • Black Feminist Theory
  • 19th-21st century Black arts and culture
  • Performance Studies
  • Theatre History
  • African American Literature (19th c to Contemporary)
  • Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Performance (18th c to Contemporary)
  • US & Anglophone Caribbean History
  • Postcolonial Theory

Recent Publications

  • “Ruination and a Dramaturgical Reading of Jamaican Women’s Transnational Literature in 1980s North America.” Anthology chapter in African-American Literature in Transition, 1980-1990. Cambridge University Press. (Forthcoming 2020).
  • “Stomaching It: A Black Performance Art of Endurance.” Anthology chapter in A Companion to Performance Art. Bloomsbury Press. (Forthcoming 2019).
  • “Autopsy and Enfreakment on the 19th Century Stage.” (Under revision 2019, TDR).
  • Book review of Aimee Meredith Cox’s Shapeshifters. Winter 2016 Issue. TDR (The Drama Review 2016).
  • “Things to Throw in the Fire.” Mechanic’s Institute Review Online. October 2016. (Fiction 2016)
  • “The Hospital: The Spit in My Mouth Heals the Wounds on My Tongue.” The Best of Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts. March 2016. (Creative Nonfiction 2016)
  • “Strikethrough Ghostlight.” Killens Review of Arts and Letters. Fall/Winter 2015 (2015). (Creative Nonfiction 2015)
  • “Cyar.” Moko Magazine 6 (2015): Web. (Creative Nonfiction 2015)


  • AFAM 236-0-20: Intro to African American Studies
  • AFAM 335-0-20: Race and Literature in 19th Century America
  • Theatre 345: African American Theatre, MW 11-12:20
  • Theatre 340: Performing the Freak in Pop Culture, MW 3:30-4:50
  • Theatre 341: State Funded Theatre of the Americas, MW 11-12:20