University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. David Richman and Dr. Deborah Kinghorn, Department of Theatre and Dance
Testing the Uniqueness of Black Acting Methodology
The United States is renowned for its vibrant entertainment industry, which relies on actors trained in acting conservatories and programs country-wide. The men and women most influential in establishing the rigorous material of American acting schools have been European or white Americans. Acting professors Sharell D. Luckett and Tia M. Shaffer made a unique contribution to acting methodology in 2017. Their anthology, Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches features the teaching methods of several black acting teachers. The training described within Black Acting Methods emphasizes the desired results of acting, such as bonding between cast members, and connection with ancestors and the spiritual world. In contrast, white acting methods emphasize components of the craft itself, such as character development and muscle relaxation. The different emphases make it theoretically possible for the methodologies from the two cultures to coexist, but the acting classes described in Black Acting Methods are very different from those of the typical American acting classroom. Through literature analysis and personal interviews, this research will examine the relationship of black acting methodologies to European American acting methodologies. This research will test if the African American cultures, due to a history of marginalization, have birthed a set of acting methodologies that differ from the teaching that has guided most American acting classes for over 100 years. The answers it reveals can impact the teaching of acting in America, and help assess the impact of race on contemporary American society.