Chicago college and university speaker Dr. Ada Cheng

Dr. Ada Cheng is a storyteller, solo performer, show producer, educator, facilitator, and speaker based in Chicago.

​She was a tenured professor in sociology at DePaul University for 15 years from 2001 to 2016 when she resigned to pursue storytelling and performance. During her tenure at DePaul, she taught subjects on gender, sex, sexuality, masculinity, and immigration.

Her collaborative project with the National Cambodian Heritage Museum, Oral History in Action: Integrating Storytelling and Community Engagement, received the 2019 Asian Giving Circle grant.

Their joint project, Storytelling, Healing, and Resistance in the Age of the Pandemic, received the same grant in 2020.

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

Ada has been featured at storytelling shows and has brought her two solo performances to theaters and universities across the nation. She debuted her first solo show, Not Quite: Asian American by Law, Asian Woman by Desire, in 2017 and has since performed it at National Storytelling Conference, Capital Fringe Festival, Minnesota Fringe Festival, Boulder Fringe Festival, Kum & Go Theater (Des Moines, IA), and The Collaboraction Theatre (Chicago, IL).

In 2019, she performed Not Quite: Navigating Citizenship and Belonging as the keynote for Women and Girls in Georgia Conference at the University of Georgia in Athens.

She debuted her second solo show, Breaking Rules, Broken Hearts: Loving across Borders, in January 2018 and has since performed it at The Exit Theatre in San Francisco, Theatre Row with the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York, and Theatre 68 with Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival in LA.

Cast photo including Chicago storyteller and show producer Ada Cheng | 'Lady Crush' at IO Theater. Credit: Christina Seo | February 6th, 2017

In 2020, The Collaboraction Theatre Company produced her first short film A Letter to My Younger Self, an emotionally powerful piece concerning anti-Asian racism. This project has helped expand her artistic horizon to include multi-media engagement.

Ada is the producer and the host of five storytelling shows, including

This is America was part of the programming for the 2020 Cook County Racial Equity Week.

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

Because of her work in storytelling, she was featured in 2019 New City’s “Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago.”

Ada is a speaker for Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau (2019-2022). She is on the Board of Directors for the Chinese American Museum of Chicago. She is a racial healing circle practitioner with Truths, Racial Healing, and Transformation Chicago. She is an adjunct faculty at Dominican University and a teaching artist with Changing Worlds. She currently works as the Education and Outreach Specialist with Women’s Leadership and Resource Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, doing training and programming on issues related to gender-based violence.

Her interests span multiple fields, including academia, storytelling/performance art, and advocacy.

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