Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

12-2021

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M.F.A.

Department

Theatre Arts

Degree Program

Theatre Arts, MFA

Committee Chair

Segal, Janna

Committee Member

Williams, Sidney

Committee Member

Crosby, Shantel

Author's Keywords

racism; queer; inclusion; performance; trauma; bipoc

Abstract

This study examines how the black male actor’s creative process can be affected by historical and cultural constructions of masculinity connected to race, sexuality, and physical movement. My research on black men’s experience with gender identity finds that social and cultural forces lead black men to reproduce behaviors that mirror a prescribed masculine ideal through physical movement. This prescribed masculine behavior is typically coded in terms of stiffness or lack of expression. This study explores how self-imposed restrictions reiterated by social standards of masculine behavior limit the creative freedom in the black male actor’s creative process. Specifically, black male actors’ use of their bodies during the creative process while adhering to socially-prescribed gender norms can cause physical blockages in their acting work. These blockages result from the traumatic experiences of how the black community reinscribes social conceptions of masculinity. This study incorporates my personal experiences and other black men’s testimonies as evidence of such trauma and focuses on the creative limitations faced by black male actors due to limited movement styles available under traditional or heteronormative prescriptions of masculinity. This study offers methods I developed from class readings to map how I moved through these limitations in my rehearsal process for the University of Louisville’s Department of Theatre Arts’ Fall 2020 production of Deal Orlandersmith’s Black N Blue / Boys Broken Men. My acting journal entries and the testimonies of black men support how and why “gender-informed trauma” hinders the black male actor's ability to fully explore his physical range for character development. From this, my thesis develops methods that helped me to overcome the effects of gender-informed trauma, to expand my physical range, and develop unique, fully-embodied characters.

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