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Doan named 2019-20 Penn State Laureate

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Bill Down

William J. Doan, professor of theatre in the College of Arts and Architecture and artist-in-residence in the College of Nursing, has been named Penn State Laureate for the 2019–20 academic year. As laureate, he will explore the intersections of art, science and health through interactive experiences—including performances, workshops and discussions—that address issues of living with anxiety and depression.

An annual faculty honor established in 2008, the Penn State Laureate is a full-time faculty member in the arts or humanities who is assigned half-time for one academic year to bring greater visibility to the arts, humanities and the University, as well as to his or her own work. In this role, the laureate is a highly visible representative of the University, appearing at events and speaking engagements throughout the Commonwealth. Doan succeeds 2018–19 Penn State Laureate John Champagne, professor of English and chair of the Global Languages and Cultures program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

Doan is a past president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and was recently inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. In addition to articles in scholarly journals, Doan has co-authored three books and several plays. He has created solo performance projects at a variety of venues across the United States and abroad. His current work includes a new performance piece, Frozen in the Toilet Paper Aisle of Life, part of a larger project titled The Anxiety Project. Work from this project includes multiple short graphic narratives published in the Annals of Internal Medicine/Graphic Medicine.

“The intersections of art, science and health are the spaces in which I make performances and graphic narratives, often blending the two into live performances with drawings,” explained Doan. “For me, it is in these spaces where critical questions of aesthetics, ethics and representation lead to sustained collaborations with other artists, scientists, health care professionals and audiences. … Whether these questions have to do with class, race, gender, education, the environment or, most recently, living with anxiety and depression, my commitment to a collaborative approach to making innovative work is what activates me.”

Doan notes that his current position as artist-in-residence in the College of Nursing has considerably expanded his opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration and that he will build on those opportunities in his laureate year through work with nursing programs at Commonwealth campuses. He also plans to use his Anxiety Project, which he started several years ago and now includes more than 300 drawings, four graphic medicine publications in the Annals of Internal Medicine and a 50-minute live performance including 127 of the drawings, to offer a model for understanding anxiety and depression “that is rooted in artistic practice, integrated with science and informed by research.”