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An educator-turned artist, producer, speaker, and community builder, Ada Cheng has utilized storytelling to illustrate structural inequities, raise critical awareness, and build intimate communities. Ada Cheng has been a speaker for Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau since 2019. She is named 2023-24 Lund-Gill Chair in the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences at Dominican University. Her interests encompass academia, storytelling/performance, and advocacy. 

“My experience here at NES has surprised me. I wouldn’t say Iceland has changed me. Instead, it has perhaps provided an environment where I have easily come to embrace the changes brewing in me. The surrounding scenery is so breathtaking that I simply allow nature to speak to me in ways that are new to me.   

I was originally going to work on a full-length play during my residency here. Instead, I wrote several short plays during the first week. What’s different about them is that these plays explore queer experiences, a topic about which I didn’t use to write much prior to the residency. These plays are also lighter in style, written with a more humorous tone, deviating from my usual writing style. I have been pleasantly surprised by this shift in my playwriting.

And then I started writing poetry after that first week. Suddenly words came to me in forms, rhythms, and patterns unbeknown to me before. It was as if my experiences had found a different way to express themselves and had rearranged and released words on their own.

Words come to me in such a distinct way that I remember thinking:

Who is writing right now?

Who is speaking to me right now?

What being at NES has taught me is to let go of control and to trust the process as it emerges and as it feels right at that moment. Sometimes detours give you more than your original plan.

When the universe is speaking to you, listen.

When the universe opens a door for you, enter.”



Instagram: sjadacheng