Young Scholars Award

Each year, the SETC History/Theory/Criticism/Literature Committee invites submissions in all topics related to the broad categories of history, theory, criticism, and literature from graduate and undergraduate students.

2019 Young Scholars Panelists

Alex Ates and Kenya Gadsden will present their papers at the SETC Young Scholars Panel Presentation at the 70th annual SETC Convention in Knoxville, TN.

Graduate Winner

Alex Ates

Alex Ates is a member of The NOLA Project (Education and Engagement Director; directed four regional premieres) and has performed at New Orleans Shakespeare for a decade (Actors’ Equity member). Directed two Off-Broadway premieres. Board member of The American Alliance for Theatre and Education and is the managing editor of AATE’s magazine, Incite/Insight. Writing has appeared in American Theatre, Howlround, and Backstage. In residence at Emerson College, directing Mad Moon—a new musical by Lisa D’Amour and Sam Craft this spring. In the summers, instructs Theater and Leadership workshops with Columbia’s Teachers College. A second-year MFA candidate in Directing and GTA at The University of Alabama—where he is a Graduate School ambassador. iAmAlexAtes.com.

Powerful Contradictions on Charged Stages: Theater Revolutions in the Jim Crow South

Aiming to incept a definitive and indigenous theater of the African American rural southerner which explored the South’s inherent political and social contradictoriness, the Free Southern Theater (FST) embodied and enlivened American moral contradictoriness on stage, in real time, within unglamourous and dangerous spaces. Freedom was always a literal and abstract principle for the FST—something logistical and economical but also constricted by the relentless stomp of Jim Crow rule. In the space and spirit of America’s deep Southern gash, at the time of tremendous political and social upheaval, the FST manifested the fears, hopes, dreams, failures, and ideals of an awakening American dream-and-nightmare in dangerous places—precisely, they’d argue, what the theater is for. The theater’s deliberate reflectiveness is what gave it American power—so much so, it would provoke and intimidate the oppressors in the Jim Crow South. This paper assesses the FST’s lifeforce through a prismatic consideration of political and artistic revolutions in the global, national, and regional theater in an effort to understand America’s place in theater.

Undergraduate Winner

Kenya Gadsden

Kenya Gadsden is junior at the College of Charleston with a major in Theatre (Theatre Studies) and a minor in Arts Management. Kenya’s studies focus on stage management. Her recent stage management credits include Rocky Horror Picture Show, We Without Walls, and The Wolves. Kenya’s research interests include diversity in the arts, African American Studies, African American representation, and feminist theatre. Previous honors include a 2017 First-Year Writing Award for her essay “Love and Hip-Hop: The Modern Black Minstrel Show.” Currently, Kenya is the Secretary of Center Stage, a student-run theatre organization at the College of Charleston.

Color-Blind Casting: The Perpetuation of Black Invisibility in American Theatre

This essay argues that color-blind casting practices–the practice of casting actors without considering the actors’ race or ethnicity–are problematic and perpetuate the invisibility of African Americans within American theatre. By denying the presence of a black body onstage, we are denying the sociohistorical baggage that comes with that presence. This essay also argues that color-conscious casting practices are more effective ways of diversifying American theatre, because these practices recognize actors’ races and how the cultural and historical connotations surrounding race changes a production. To discuss the range of problems associated with color-blind casting practices, this essay uses the theories presented in Paul Taylor’s book Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics.

Award Winners Will Receive:

Winners must present their paper at the Young Scholars Panel held during the annual SETC Convention in order to collect prizes. If a winning author cannot attend, an alternate winner will be selected.

  • Cash prize
  • Free SETC Convention registration
  • Free SETC membership for one year
  • A ticket to the Friday Lunch during Convention

For more information, contact Young Scholars Award Chair Sarah McCarroll.

Call for Papers

Submissions are now closed for the 70th annual SETC Convention in Knoxville, TN. Check back for 2020 guidelines for the 71st annual SETC Convention. One graduate and one undergraduate paper are chosen for presentation at the annual SETC Convention.

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