Sydney Cheek-O'Donnell

Associate Professor

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 in Salt Lake City, where she teaches and researches new play development, dramaturgy, theatre history, theory, and criticism, and dramatic literature. Dr. Cheek-O'Donnell also served as Interim Chair for the Department of Theatre from 2020 - 2021, at which point she was appointed as Chair. She served in this capacity for two years, stepping down in the summer of 2023. 

Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell’s current research focuses on the application of theatre techniques in non-traditional places, like healthcare settings and STEM education. She is Principle Investigator, 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, Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell regularly collaborates with multidisciplinary teams at the NIH-funded Utah Center for Excellence in ELSI Research (UCEER) to leverage the arts—particularly theatre and storytelling—in the creation of health education and support materials for women and families. Previously, she 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. Dr. Cheek-O’Donnell recently published a title in Emerald Insight’s Arts for Health Series: Theatre (2021).

Before her turn to applied theatre, she served as a dramaturg on more than 20 professional productions in the United States. 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.


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