Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Theatre Arts

Degree Program

Theatre Arts, MFA

Committee Chair

Segal, Janna

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Williams, Sidney

Committee Member

Williams, Sidney

Committee Member

Biberman, S. Matthew

Author's Keywords

Shakespeare; black; queer; men; Twelfth Night


This MFA thesis explores queer, black representation in William Shakespeare’s drama and in the University of Louisville’s Department of Theatre Arts Fall 2021 production of an adaption of Twelfth Night (1601). Directed by Jennifer Pennington, the repurposed script and non-traditional casting targeted a modern audience. Cast as Olivia’s drunk uncle, Sir Toby Belch, I aimed to discover if my identify as a black, queer, cis man could be incorporated into Shakespeare’s text. Sir Toby Belch’s raucous, heterosexual, and sometimes violent, traits are often imagined today as innately masculine. I argue that Shakespeare’s plays can be appropriated by queer, black actors to express their queer, black identity and to reject colonialist conceptions of sexuality and race. I detail how the relationship between Shakespeare, race, and sexuality informed my portrayal of a queer, black Sir Toby Belch. I offer a black, queer approach to performing Shakespeare to encourage queer, black actors to embrace their identity and challenge canonized texts that exclude them.