Date of Graduation
Master of Fine Arts in Theatre (MFA)
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Lissette Lopez Szwydky-Davis
Acting, Blacktor, Black actor, Playwriting
I am honored to present my Thesis for my M.F.A. in Theatre, in the form of a multidimensional project, drawing inspiration from the structure of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. As an undergraduate, the structure of Moby Dick intrigued me as it defies the form we call “a novel.” The book includes traditional prose, an entire play, verses of poetry, and even an essay. The structure of Moby Dick further influenced my love for Speech and Debate, especially around the event of Program Oral Interpretation (POI). POI places multiple genres of literature in conversation with each other and centers them around a single argument. I am using a similar approach in this thesis work, through multiple frames including: my graduate training as an actor and playwright, as well as my prior experience in Speech and Debate, Spoken Word piety, and Hip-Hop music.
During my graduate studies, I have pursued an M.F.A. in Theatre with a dual emphasis in Playwriting and Acting, In that pursuit, I balanced learning the techniques and skills of a theatre creator with learning the life skill of navigating a predominantly white space that, historically, is not designed for my success. Ultimately, this journey led me to discover my mission as a theatre artist, which is “to create theatre that lessens the distance between human beings.” This credo was taught to me by Professor Amy Herzberg, and I further suggest good theatre can help Black bodies like mine exist beyond stereotypical tropes and embolden our voices.
As a theatre artist, I have come to understand I cannot separate my Blackness from my performance as an actor and storyteller, and have come to fully embrace my identity as a successful Blacktor. A Blacktor, or Black actor, is a black actor who must perform their identity to survive in an environment not made for them. This thesis outlines my path on how I not only survived, but found my authentic voice and my artistic path in this environment.
Ashford, Austin Dean, "BLacKting: The Inseparable Act of Being Black and Acting: For the Magical Negro" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 3373.