MFA Thesis Research Highlights

Jahi Bogard, MFA 2022

Thesis role: Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

“In support of my thesis performance as Sir Toby Belch in the UofL production of Twelfth Night, I wanted to discover if my identify as a black, queer, cis-man could be incorporated into Shakespeare’s text. My written thesis,The Reading of Sir Toby Belch: A Queer and Black Exploration of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, argues 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.”

Tyler Tate, MFA 2021

Thesis role:Several characters in Dael Orlandersmith’s Black ’N Blue Boys/Broken Men

“Titled GIT (Gender-Informed Trauma) in Black ’N Blue Boys/Broken Men: How Concepts of Gender Restrict the Black Male Actor’s Creative Process and the Methods He Can Use for Creative Freedom, my thesis examines the ways cultural and historical constructions of masculinity affect the black male actor’s creative process. It outlines the impact that conceptions of race and sexuality can have on one’s acting process and how that can change a performer’s physical habits. My thesis looks at how those habits stifled my physical freedom and explains the methods I used to attain a wider range of physical choices.”

Lois Abdelmalek

Lois Abdelmalek, MFA 2018

Thesis role: Liz Morden/Lt. William Faddy in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good

“My thesis, Igniting the Imagination: Tenaciously Building a Character, examines my process of employing imagination through historical research, text, voice, and movement in order to fully and truthfully transform from one character to another. I explore how vulnerability and staying perpetually curious are explicably tied to my use of imagination, which allows me to fully embody a character.My thesis details the acting technique I developed to play the diametrically opposed characters of Liz Morden and Lt. William Faddy in Our Country’s Good. This unique approach involves a no-holds-barred mixture of curiosity, vulnerability, and imagination.

Sidney Edwards

Sidney Edwards, MFA 2018

Thesis role: Wells 2 in Miss Ida B. Wells

“My thesis show was Miss Ida B. Wells by Endesha Ida Mae Holland. In this production, I played Wells 2, the younger version of Ida B. Wells, as well as several other characters. The role required extensive historical research and research geared towards character development. In my written thesis, I focus on how self-executed dramaturgy enriches the actor’s experience through an in-depth look at my own process.”

Mia Rocchio

Mia Rocchio, MFA 2018

Thesis role: Eurydice in Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice

“My thesis, Willpower Through Physical Connectivity, claims that truthful action and reaction on stage is best achieved when the mind is working because of the body, and the body is working because of the mind. I argue that in order to embrace the emotional, primal and sensational effects of stimuli received within the experience of living a character’s story, it is necessary to breathe, especially exhale, completely. My thesis details how, in the process of playing Eurydice, I discovered how fully exhaling releases red-fiber muscle tissue and forces the actor to, physically and literally, feel deeply and deal with the events taking place. I conclude that through mind and body connection, the actor is able to feel all of the character’s emotions and make the determined decision to keep going in order to achieve the character’s goals, thus producing fierce power of will from both the actor and the character.”

Ross Joel Shenker

Ross Joel Shenker, MFA 2018

Thesis role: John Wisenhammer/Reverend Johnson in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good

“In an attempt to be open and receptive to my primary scene partners in Our Country’s Good, I tried a variety of techniques including: Konstantin Stanislavski’s ‘Bits and Tasks’; Michael Chekhov’s ‘Psychological Gesture’; Carl Jung’s theories on Archetype; F.M. Alexander’s notions of ‘Inhibition’ and ’Nondoing’ as discussed by Betsy Polatin; and Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages.’ My goal of achieving vulnerability on stage was inhibited by the very methodologies I had hoped to employ in service to this ambition. By planning the results rather than the actions, I assumed a judgmental, directorial role and tried to control my performance. Dissatisfied with my own work and with some of the faculty’s feedback, I set out on what I call a journey of creative recovery. In my thesis, Gestures of Creative Recovery for the Egocentric Actor, I compare my process to such works as Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, and the Twelve Steps laid out in the ‘Big Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to relate my desired approach as a creative theatre artist to the journey of recovery from addiction.”

Tyler Madden, MFA 2017

Thesis role: Troy in August Wilson’s Fences

“My thesis, title ‘Labor and Happiness,’ is about sustaining happiness within the laboring process of creating a character in a play. I used the process of crafting my performance as Troy Maxson Fences as the subject of my thesis. No matter what we choose for a career/job, we all deal with the hardships of the labor. My thesis addresses how in order to get fulfillment from our labor, we have to appreciate the process of getting to our goal.”