Sheida Dayani received her Ph.D. from the department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. Her dissertation, "Juggling Revolutionaries: A Theatrical History of Indigenous Theatre and Early Playwriting in Iran," was recognized with the Honorable Mention of “The Mehrdad Mashayekhi Dissertation Award” from the Association for Iranian Studies and the Honorable Mention of “The Best Ph.D. Dissertation of the Year” from the Foundation for Iranian Studies.
Dayani is a theatre historian working on the social and cultural history of Iran in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research utilizes theatrical documents as historical sources and examines the development of Iranian theatre from performance rituals to European-style playwriting. She has written on various genres and subgenres of Iranian theatre ranging from slapstick comedy, women’s plays, and Shi‘i passion plays of Ta‘ziyeh to the productions of Molière by street entertainers and political mimed performances by governors in support of the 1905-1911 Constitutional Revolution. Her research includes Taqlid improvisatory comedy, Persian translations and trans-creations, identity formation through language “reform,” theatre in the migration of Roma and Godar communities, and comparisons between Iranian comedy and the Commedia dell’Arte. She traces theatrical transmissions in Iran through the waves of migration to and from the Balkans and Anatolia on the one side, and the Iranian plateau, Greater Khorasan, Transoxiana, and western and northern India on the other side.
Informed by fieldwork in Iranian cities and villages, Dayani's forthcoming book, "Making History with Theatre in Modern Iran: Juggling Revolutionaries" (contracted by Edinburgh University Press), explores a transitional stage in the development of Iranian drama in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and offers a new social history of Iran based on theatrical primary sources.
Dayani’s Persian poetry and translations have been published in Iranian journals, including Tajrobeh, Bukhara, and Negāh-e No. Her English poetry and translations have appeared on Jadaliyya and featured by Open Source on NPR Boston. Dayani has also worked as a simultaneous interpreter for several Persian-speaking filmmakers, including the late Abbas Kiarostami and Mr. Asghar Farhadi at the Academy Awards and other ceremonies.
Before joining Princeton, Dayani taught at Harvard University for six years, including courses on Iranian theatre and film and Persian playwriting, literary and historical texts in Persian, and Persian language and literature.