Ayanna Thompson
Published December 2, 2021

Ayanna Thompson is a professor of English at Arizona State University and the director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She is a Shakespeare scholar, a consultant, and an expert on race in performance, especially in Renaissance drama.

She is the author of several books, including Blackface (2021) and Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (2011). Thompson is working on the new Arden edition of Titus Andronicus. As a theater practitioner, she has served as a consultant and dramaturg for several Broadway, off-Broadway and radio productions. 

Thompson created the conference series RaceB4Race to build a community for scholars and academics of color who are addressing race in medieval history, literature and culture. In 2021, Thompson received a $3.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further RaceB4Race’s efforts on curricular development, field diversification, academic mentorship, and public humanities work around race in premodern humanities fields. 

In 2021, Thompson was appointed to the board of trustees of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she is also an associate scholar and the chair of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Research Board. In 2020, she became a Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at The Public Theater in New York. She serves on the board of Play On Shakespeare, and was recently elected to the Folger Shakespeare Library Board of Governors. She served as president of the Shakespeare Association of America, and in 2021 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University, a master’s in English from the University of Sussex and a Ph.D. in English and American literature and language from Harvard University. 

A Black woman with shoulder length hair smiles at the camera against the backdrop of a work office.

Courtesy of Arizona State University

Pronouns: She/her

Expertise: Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, theater, performance and race

Location: Phoenix, Ariz.

Email: Ayanna.thompson@asu.edu

Heard on Code Switch: “All That Glisters Is Not Gold” 

Is this source outdated? Email us.