Bio

An educator, artist, creator, speaker, and facilitator, Dr. Ada Cheng has utilized storytelling to illustrate structural inequities, raise critical awareness, and build intimate communities.

Committed to amplifying and uplifting marginalized voices, she has created numerous storytelling platforms for BIPOC and LGBTQIA community members to tell difficult and vulnerable stories. She has consistently engaged in public education and public outreach through the use of storytelling and performance arts. 

Chicago college and university speaker Dr. Ada Cheng

Ada creates platforms for people to tell difficult and vulnerable stories as well as spaces for people and communities who may not have the opportunities otherwise.


Chicago storyteller Ada Cheng performs at Beast Women | October 20th, 2016

Dr. Cheng  was a tenured professor in sociology at DePaul University from 2001-2016 when she resigned to pursue performance and storytelling. She has since been featured at storytelling shows and done her two solo performances, NOT QUITE and LOVING ACROSS BORDERS,  in theaters, universities, and conferences across the nation. Since 2019, she has delivered numerous keynotes for various organizations, conferences, and universities, including but not limited to Women and Girls in Georgia Conference at the University of Georgia, Chicago Cultural Alliance’s Activating Heritage Conference, AAPI Heritage Month at Dominican University, AAPI Heritage Month at Environmental Protection Agency, (Re)Claiming Our Love: Social Justice & Domestic Violence Conference with The Network-Advocating Against Domestic Violence, and Centering Resistance: Imaginings of a New Feminist Future Conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Talented as a creator and producer, Dr. Cheng has created multiple storytelling platforms for all to share stories, including Pour One Out: A Monthly Storytelling Series, Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling, Dare to Tell: Queer Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling, Am I Man Enough: Stories of Toxic Masculinity, and Speaking Truths Series. For three years in a row, she has worked with IL Cook County Racial Equity Week to create their signature storytelling event, bringing tellers from all over the country to address social justice issues. 

Dr. Cheng has worked with numerous community organizations, including OCA Chicago, Asian Health Coalition, Chinese American Museum of Chicago, Chinese American Service League, National Cambodian Heritage Museum, Japanese American Service Committee, i2i: Invisible to Invincible Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago, KAN-WIN, and Center on Halsted. She has worked with AAPI communities through her various storytelling platforms, particularly Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling and Dare to Tell: Queer Asian Storytelling. She has also regularly partnered with Center on Halsted for April Sexual Assault Awareness Month and October Domestic Violence Awareness Month, providing necessary platforms for people to present stories on gender-based violence. She features community members as tellers and brings these events to community spaces for critical engagement and alliance building.

Cast photo including Chicago storyteller and show producer Ada Cheng | 'Lady Crush' at IO Theater. Credit: Christina Seo | February 6th, 2017
Chicago performer Ada Cheng in Not Quite: Asian American by Law, Asian Woman by Desire at the Public House in Chicago | photo credit: Elizabeth McQuern

In addition to being a well-published scholar, Dr. Cheng has also started publishing in literary magazines and is an emerging playwright. She has published in The Rumpus and Awakened Voices. She has been writing short plays since 2021. One of her short playsThe Letter, was made into a short film in 2021, produced by Recover-Me and directed by Alexis Park. This play highlights issues on the myth of the model minority, gender inequality, and the silence of mental health discussions within the Asian American community. The Letter was also included in a stage reading for The 2nd SEVEN, a new work festival produced by Fusion Theatre Company in Albuquerque, NM in June 2022. One of her monologues Alien Bodies is included in an anthology entitled Contemporary One Minute Monologues Volumes I, published by Fresh Words-An International Literary Magazine. Her ten-minute play Confrontation is produced as part of the ten-minute play festival Playbytes by Playwrights: Things That Go Bump in the Night by Lowell Arts in Lowell, Michigan in October 2022.

Dr. Cheng has been a speaker for Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau since 2019. She teaches with Asian American Studies Program at Northwestern University as well as the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Dominican University. Her interests span academia, performance, and advocacy.  

Her motto:
Make your life the best story you tell.