Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Category

Visual and Performing Arts (includes Creative Writing; sculpture, painting, video, dancing, music, reading, etc.)

Abstract/Artist Statement

SCREAMIN’ FROM THE ZOO (SFTZ) is a one-person, Neo-Spiritual developed through SoulWork for partial fulfillment of my Final Creative Project (FCP) as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Acting Candidate with the University of Montana School of Theatre & Dance. Throughout the show, I share a capella songs, spoken word, and theatrical dialogue to explore stillness, hope, change, pain, freedom, grief, empowerment, joy and further within myself all in a search for what it means to have Soul. In the words of Dr. Cristal Chanelle Truscott, “Defining Soul is a mind-bending, elusive exercise.” Dr. Truscott is the practitioner who has developed and published the method called SoulWork that I have been obsessed with since my discovery during my Studio III Acting class during the Fall semester of 2020. SoulWork is meant and documented as an ensemble practice, but the existing restrictions of COVID-19 challenged me to develop a version that allows for solo practice. I came across SoulWork in the Black Acting Methods textbook and became engrossed as it helped me begin to discover my own alignments as a social justice artist in words that I struggled to find in the past. SoulWork is based on four principles: Intention: The Call, Living in the Call and Response, Emotional Availability and the Unending Climax, and The Dream. Since the document begins with an extensive, non-exhuastive list of artists that Dr. Truscott considers to have Soul like Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Billie Holliday, I began to develop a fifth principle that comes before the first called “Listen” that is now integrated as part of SFTZ. As part of this principle, I have curated a musical playlist that exists to help me understand Soul more deeply as well as discover Soul in more present-day artists, and I listen to it daily. While the document itself is largely philosophical, I unlocked new ways of understanding within myself through poetic explorations of the rich definitions presented by Dr. Truscott. In the document, she defines Neo-Spiritual as “an a capella musical created consciously, methodologically, and specifically through the lens of African-American performance traditions.” With this as my base, I feel as though I have been able to launch into my creative process with a stronger sense of identity and purpose. My goal has been to create a compelling, one-person show that I will be able to walk into any space, alone, share the piece, and leave a lasting impact along the way. In this presentation, I intend to create an experience by sharing my discoveries through practice as research, excerpts of the show that highlight the themes, and a self-produced video trailer. Looking forward this show will premiere as part of the School of Theatre & Dance Studio Series during the month of March. Upon completion of my degree, I plan to continue developing the show as part of my repertoire as a self-sufficient artist to perform everywhere and anywhere that is willing to witness.

Mentor Name

Bernadette Sweeney

Personal Statement

I created this piece as partial fulfillment for my MFA in Acting. Since Hamilton: An American Musical has been shared with the world, I’ve always wanted to create my own musical. I came into graduate school with the intention of creating my own as part of my Final Creative Project. Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve been presented with the opportunity to do so. While it doesn’t look exactly like I anticipated, I am grateful for the opportunity to develop and present this work at this stage in my career as a social justice artist. I want to foster change and positively affect the world through art and my creations, and this Neo-Spiritual through the method of SoulWork feels like the correct avenue down a never-ending, winding road. So far, the creative process has been incredibly vulnerable and exhausting, but it has also been immensely rewarding and formative. SCREAMIN’ FROM THE ZOO is a show that I intend to carry in my body for the rest of my lifetime, and I look forward to continuously develop it as my career propels forth. While I am uncertain of my destination, I am prepared for the journey ahead, and I welcome all challenges and celebrations that I am set to experience. Existing as a black body in predominately white institutions for the past seven years has definitely left a large impact on my creations as a social justice artist. For a long time, I have been attempting to create art for an audience that does not look like me. By the media, I have been fed this idea that stories about white people are universal while stories about Black people are just for Black people. In reality, that is untrue. At the end of the day, there are lessons in stories, and everybody can learn from every story. To me, the issue lies in perpetuating the negative stereotypes that began as oppressive tools and justifications for treating differences as morally wrong when we should be relishing in our differences. There is no one person that is exactly the same as the other, and we should not be attempting to simplify the complexity of any individual. Yet, it is so often done. Through the creation of SCREAMIN’ FROM THE ZOO, my intention is to highlight the complexity of my experience and shed people of color in the best light possible. I have created so many pieces in attempts to appease white folks. This show is for me. This show is for us. This show is for my people, and I want them to see themselves in me and believe that we can truly do anything. And more than that, we can excel.

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SCREAMIN' FROM THE ZOO (A Preview)

SCREAMIN’ FROM THE ZOO (SFTZ) is a one-person, Neo-Spiritual developed through SoulWork for partial fulfillment of my Final Creative Project (FCP) as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Acting Candidate with the University of Montana School of Theatre & Dance. Throughout the show, I share a capella songs, spoken word, and theatrical dialogue to explore stillness, hope, change, pain, freedom, grief, empowerment, joy and further within myself all in a search for what it means to have Soul. In the words of Dr. Cristal Chanelle Truscott, “Defining Soul is a mind-bending, elusive exercise.” Dr. Truscott is the practitioner who has developed and published the method called SoulWork that I have been obsessed with since my discovery during my Studio III Acting class during the Fall semester of 2020. SoulWork is meant and documented as an ensemble practice, but the existing restrictions of COVID-19 challenged me to develop a version that allows for solo practice. I came across SoulWork in the Black Acting Methods textbook and became engrossed as it helped me begin to discover my own alignments as a social justice artist in words that I struggled to find in the past. SoulWork is based on four principles: Intention: The Call, Living in the Call and Response, Emotional Availability and the Unending Climax, and The Dream. Since the document begins with an extensive, non-exhuastive list of artists that Dr. Truscott considers to have Soul like Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Billie Holliday, I began to develop a fifth principle that comes before the first called “Listen” that is now integrated as part of SFTZ. As part of this principle, I have curated a musical playlist that exists to help me understand Soul more deeply as well as discover Soul in more present-day artists, and I listen to it daily. While the document itself is largely philosophical, I unlocked new ways of understanding within myself through poetic explorations of the rich definitions presented by Dr. Truscott. In the document, she defines Neo-Spiritual as “an a capella musical created consciously, methodologically, and specifically through the lens of African-American performance traditions.” With this as my base, I feel as though I have been able to launch into my creative process with a stronger sense of identity and purpose. My goal has been to create a compelling, one-person show that I will be able to walk into any space, alone, share the piece, and leave a lasting impact along the way. In this presentation, I intend to create an experience by sharing my discoveries through practice as research, excerpts of the show that highlight the themes, and a self-produced video trailer. Looking forward this show will premiere as part of the School of Theatre & Dance Studio Series during the month of March. Upon completion of my degree, I plan to continue developing the show as part of my repertoire as a self-sufficient artist to perform everywhere and anywhere that is willing to witness.