APRIL 2023 • ISSUE 12

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The Performing Arts

CULTURE................ 10 CAMPUS.................. 49 AU EXCELLENCE... 59 5

Letters From The Editor

Dear Reader,

Being a part of The Blackprint for all four years has instructed me in the power of “yes.”

When I trusted the process, the outgoing Editor-in-Chief of The Blackprint offered me the role of Copy Editor to which I said yes. And then I was offered the role of co-Editorin-Chief to which I said yes, a role I have now served in for two consecutive years.

I have been able to help re-animate the organization back to the liveliness it experienced BCE, Before COVID Era, our annual award ceremony making a comeback as well as our print magazine editions.

I have been able to ask questions of White House Correspondent April Ryan and Stacey Abrams.


My experiences with the publication swung open the door for a fusillade of opportunities. It was through The Blackprint that I was able to claim the word “journalist,” being able to render real Ida B. Wells’ quote, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Thank you to Yasmine, my undaunted co-Editor-in-Chief, Cameron and Nicole, our visionaries, and the rest of our excellent executive board. I am incredibly grateful for our boundless staff of writers. Spanning across eight different sections, they report on health disparities, the impact of gentrification on D.C., and university policy changes. And in the same breath, they can tell you with cutting honesty whether or not your favorite musician’s new album was a hit or a miss. What perhaps brings us the most joy is the ability to turn the spotlight on those truly making a difference on American University and the local community.

This semester, we salute the performing arts, the dancers, singers, actors, directors, and musicians who have pirouetted a more accessible, representational version of the arts into reality. During my time in the organization, I have overseen the production of five different magazines, this one being the sixth. This particular theme is one I know intimately. From participating in poetry slams to taking theatre classes and workshops to writing and directing my own plays to volunteering as an usher at musicals, I have come to understand the stage as a powerful place for orchestrating change. With this edition, we bring these entertainers with electric artist statements centerstage and have them take their bows. And scene.

With gratitude, Isaiah Washington

The Blackprint is a space for me to amplify, challenge, and rectify the issues that impact students of color and our communities.

Black people and people of color have made significant contributions to the Performing Arts as many of the contributions date back to the traditions of Western African music and dance. This semester’s magazine issue showcases the talent and traditional contributions figures within the broader Black community have made to this art form, including American University students of color. Dating back to West African traditions of music and dance such as, but not limited to, call and response or apart playing and dancing, artists utilize and find meaning in the traditional art forms in hopes to build on the contributions of the community.

In history, artists such as August Wilson, Alvin Ailey, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, Queen Latifah, and the countless Black people who were forcibly enslaved left a legacy of thought-provoking, timeless art that contributes to Black culture. Even the places by us and for us with the establishment of the juke joints contributed to a wider culture that influences artists and communities to this day. The history of the contributions that performing artists have made to this country and broader culture is admirable and on par with the excellence Black people exude on a daily basis.

Similarly to the artists aforementioned, The Blackprint, the cover performing artists, our talented staff members, section editors, and creative directors have left a profound legacy to continue. There are lessons to be learned from these past artists as they continued to build upon traditions and improve it for the following generations to come. I want to say thank you to everyone who contributes to our rich history, especially co-Editor-in Chief, Isaiah Washington. Isaiah leaves a legacy of hard work, care, and excellence like no other. He has made significant contributions to The Blackprint and it is up to the following generations of American University students of color to admire his contributions and build off of it. Building upon our legacy is certainly my intention as Co-Editor-in Chief, and certainly the intention of the students of color at the American University.

With Love, Yasmine

Dear Reader,

The history of the contributions that performing artists have made to this country and broader culture is admirable and on par with the excellence Black people exude on a daily basis.




Emma HuaWhat Are You?

Who am I?

What am I?

Who are you?

What are you?

Who am I?

I am an artist whose imagination will always be better than the end product, who daydreams constantly, who formulates sentences on a whim.

I am a lover who likes to cook and bake, who likes to spoil other people, who likes spending quality time with the people I care about.

I am a fangirl who loves the artists she cares about, who connects with their products on a deep level, who writes for the fandom and defends fandom with their life.

I am a student who loves their professors, who loves the classes they’re taking, who enjoys writing essays for class because she always finds a way to write about what interests her.

I am a daughter, a sister, a pet owner, a friend, an ex-girlfriend, a future lover who carries with her burdens of her ancestors but also their power and strength and tenacity.

What am I?

I am a writer who likes writing about romance and love of all kinds, who falls in love with the daydreams in her head.

I am a moviegoer who likes going to the theater


and sitting down and watching the trailers, who likes to eat while watching something, who falls down the rabbit hole of the pocket universe.

I am a blossoming film critic who is constantly improving their craft, who struggles with titles because some sound so cool and it’s a struggle to pick one, who no one reads yet because I am afraid to put myself out there.

I am a Taiwanese-Thai woman who loves her culture, who loves the food she grew up eating, who only eats those foods when she needs comfort, who loves spice and will go quiet when she eats.

I am a Queer woman who likes men, women, enbies, and everyone in between, who uses she/ they pronouns and sometimes likes he, who dresses femme and wants to dress masc.

Who are you?

I am an Asian because there is no ethnicity but Asian, who speaks in Asian because all the languages sound the same because you cannot bother to differentiate, who is nothing but a gateway into a trend you want to capitalize off of and say “I can do this because I have an Asian.”

I am a whore because my value to you is reliant on my sex appeal, who is a box that you need to check off in order to be seen as “experienced” and “cultured” and so you can brag to your friends about “laying an oriental girl.”

I am a non-Queer because my presentation is not gender nonconforming enough for you, who is not skinny enough for you, who is not white, who doesn’t have an unconventional partner because your bigotry runs deep and it gives me the ick.

I am an intellectual because my value is in a subject I do not know, who has too much empathy but not


enough at the same time, who is a nuisance to the idea of STEM being more important than the Humanities.

I am a remnant because I am a statistic, who has no name, who has no identity, no motherland, no mother tongue because it was forcefully stripped away from me by you, who has no history, who is never present, a ghost if you will.

What are you?

I am intimidating because I do not greet you with a smile, who is disaffected, who is seen as heartless and selfish and inflammatory, who is a “bitch” because I refuse to bend to your whim and make space for you when you have never even spared me grace or sympathy.

I am an object because that is the only value I have to you, whose artistic contributions mean nothing because they are “too political” to you, who is meant to be a muse that is meant to be abused and exploited for your tortured artist persona.

I am a victim because that is how you paint me, who is not capable of coping and surviving, who needs your help to escape my situation when all you did was sit there and look pretty as I drag myself out of the quicksand.

I am a fetish and a fad because no one really wants me, who is a projection of your taboo fantasies, who is a box for you to check off so you don’t seem bigoted, who is ugly and gross and disgusting when you learn about the pain and scars underneath, who doesn’t deserve grace and space and healing.

I am nothing to you because my personhood, my interests, my joy, means nothing to you, who sucks from the tit of trauma because if you don’t know every traumatic inch of my life then I may as well be the dirt beneath your feet and even still, that trauma is not enough for you.


Who am I?

What am I?

Who are you? What are you?

I am my own person.

I am what I know to be. I am what people project onto me. I am not my own person but a construction of your bigotry.



Isabella long

Commenting on Black bodies is not a new concept. Within schools, dress codes have often been criticized for overly policing Black bodies in comparison to white, especially for girls.

Within the media, portrayal of Black characters as promiscuous due to their body has received much criticism for sexualizing the Black body and a University of Washington study showed that the over-sexualization put men and women of all ages at increased risk of becoming sexual assault victims. This white supremacist perception of the Black body often leads to an increased risk of Black people having body dysmorphia, especially in places with little racial diversity suchas the ballet profession.

Famed ballerina Misty Copeland, has commented on the struggles of being Black in the ballet profession and how her body was often commented on as being “too big”. Ballerina Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy narrates her experience with microaggressions in the industry and howshe was often directed to certain ballet companies due to her body, color, and hair. And the greatJanet Collins famously declined the opportunity to dance with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dueto being asked to hide her Black features. As these incredible women show, commenting on the Black body is not a thing of the past and its consequences still harm Black minds today. A recent study looked at how balancing these contrasting body ideals causes much anxiety among Black women and aids in the formation of body dysmorphia as society simultaneously criticizes Black women for being “too big” while also being “too small”. Ballet is a predominantly white profession that encompasses eurocentric perceptions of what a ballerina looks like and often ostracizes Black dancers who do not fit this standard. This ostracization can lead to anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia.


To combat these white supremacist ideals, ballet companies that celebrate Black and other POC bodies have begun to emerge everywhere from Los Angeles to London all with the similar message of uplifting diversity. This celebration can be seen right away through the company’s websites such as Ballet Hispánico and Ballet Black who proudly showcase POC dancers with diverse body types that do not conform to eurocentric standards. However simply having POC ballet companies isn’t enough. Black bodies should be accepted within all balletn spaces including major organizations such as the Rockettes. A Black body should not be seen as an alternative or outcast, it should be treated with the same normalcy as a white body would be.

The acceptance of and termination of commentary on Black bodies is necessary for the overall wellbeing of Black dancers’ mental health and to improve the culture of Ballet as a whole.

Photographer: Dejour Stricklen


“Realities of the Black Swan” Nardos Scott

Since stepping on the stage in 1996, Misty Copeland has made her mark in the ballet world in more ways than one.

As a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre [ABT], she has not onlystarred as the lead in multiple productions, but earned the title of being the first principal black dancer in her company. Her story, rightfully so, is an inspiration to many young dancers andhopeful prodigies showcasing a journey of tenaciousness and dedication unlike any other dancer of the century. Yet, Copeland’s story also symbolizes one of the many within the dance industry. For the first decade of her career with ABT, she remained the only black woman. A normalized reality within the arts BIPOC individuals continue to face; the mastery of prevailing against relentless, daunting obstacles in securing their place amongst a sea of europid features.

As a black dancer, understanding adversity unequivocally goes hand in hand with learning to tie their pointe shoes.

Historically it is well documented the severity of which black communities disproportionately battle mental health challenges, and as such must often deal with increased discrimination and stigma. What happens then, when a POC dancer must juggle their career(s) while receiving compromised healthcare? The systemic effects of racism and prejudice immediately become a matter of significant concern for these artists. As the intensity and demand of existing within the creative industry coupled with psychological

When intersecting the external expectations of ‘conduct’ and character enforced throughout the industry, with the physical challenges POC’s must surmount, this creates a troubled context where one is forced to ask the unthinkable.
“My health or my career?”

stressors induced as a result of their lived realities and environments, becomes a concerning impediment to their ability in successfully and consistently executing their craft. This manifests itself into physical symptoms many black artists, especially dancers, find themselves struggling to combat, as the pressure to perform assumes the highest priority.

The enforced cliches of ‘embrace the pain’ and ‘there is beauty in the struggle’ placed within the BIPOC context poses as a threat of sorts, reinforcing universal notions of the black experience in associating with and ‘surmounting’ pain. The result? This is not only immensely damaging to the individual and overall community as a whole, but encourages predetermined standards of what the POC creative must be able to achieve to excel in their craft. University of Virginia’s Professor of Public Policy and Psychology Sophie Trawalter summarized a 2016

study evaluating the perception of ‘Black’ pain within the medical field, “The purpose of healthcare is to reduce pain and suffering, and so to condone healthcare inequalities is to condone the pain and suffering of Black and brown people.”

So the question remains why must pain be synonymous with the territory?

The reality is POC creatives are performing at all times, sacrificing for their art, assuming their roles both on and offstage.

Many BIPOC performers share the sentiment that ‘numbness’ becomes a necessary trait to develop, in pushing themselves and their boundaries to the limit for their profession. Ultimately, the disproportionate demands imposed upon these individuals has inspired a toxic

cycle in which the sacrificing of their wellness in a predominantly white industry, becomes the ultimate cost of achieving success.

The expression of the black form fundamentally is a uniquely powerful tool in the creative space. The industry must learn to appreciate the empowerment of racial pride andcultural institutions, separate from the validation of BIPOC professionals in the arts and their physical capabilities.


Statement of Purpose: While I do feel like a prince while in the solitude of the forest there is an element of theatrics in these photos, my crown is invisible but is visualized by the leaves of the fern which are in themselves: royal.

- TreVaughn Ellis Photographer: Charity Simone


On a recent Pinterest doom scroll, I stumbled upon a photographer and filmmaker named Tyler Mitchell. This took place on the same evening that I had watched “Selma” in film class and my emotions towards Black representation in film were rife with contradictions. Among the mixed bag of feelings I was experiencing, what stood out the most was my desire for Black people to be seen in film as individuals, enjoying life, with struggles that reflect our reality. After adding Mitchell’s photo to my Pinterest board, my investigation began.

I was quickly informed that he was the first Black photographer to shoot a cover of American Vogue with none other than Beyoncé as his muse. His notoriety is nothing if not well earned, his work is inspirational and a product of culture that has rarely been depicted in such an honest and real way. Mitchell’s style embodies the complexity of a scene rather than a shot, with such meticulous attention to detail that heightens the emotional draw of the image. As stated on his website “His work introduces new narratives about Black beauty and desire, embracing themes of the past and creating fictionalized moments of the imagined future.” Although, Black beauty and desire have always existed, his photography does a brilliant job of bringing that narrative into the mainstream.

Mitchell has worked on several films and photo series that were inspired by his wish to create tangible forms of art that showcase Black leisure. A short film he created was called “Idyllic Space” and showed Black people enjoying the simple pleasures of life. The inspiration behind this film was the death of Tamir Rice, the young boy whose name we all know, and the need to envision a world where twelve year old Black boys don’t die at the hands of the police. Mitchell’s work doesn’t deny the reality of Blackness, but instead offers an example of its multitudes and promotes the normalcy of indulging in pleasure as a Black person.

A particular photograph of Mitchell’s, called “Dreaming in Real Time” caught my attention and created a portrait of Black leisure that evoked a deep longing for the world he brought to life. Black people lounging by water, painting, swimming, eating, or whatever one might consider leisure was represented in this image. The photo was reminiscent of a renaissance painting that depicted a history we should have had. These visions of leisure have been hidden away in stolen moments or simply not interesting enough to the masses, to be depicted. The fight for representation was strenuous enough when we were offering films that targeted a white audience. Black joy and leisure were seemingly too much to include in the world of performing arts, but more importantly it didn’t feed into the narrative of the dichotomy of Black people in America. We aren’t an incessant muse for stories of trauma porn and excuses for Tarantino to say the N-word in the name of Black liberation, nor are we caricatures of the white perception of Blackness. Although this argument may seem more applicable to the issues of the early 2010’s, the media remains fairly incapable of creating images of Black leisure for leisures sake. Mitchell’s photography reminded me of the importance of highlighting Black leisure as a topic worth paying attention to and incited an excitement for the work that this upcoming generation of artists are creating and the influence it will inevitably have.

Cited (links to content referenced):






Black Leisure Captured in the Eye of the Camera: Tyler Mitchell


An embrace like no other, a lovely greeting by the rays of the sun.

The shine reflecting the ambiance from the vibrant flowers. My heart feels this warmth. A warmth that makes my soul and spirit glow. The cheerful laughs and smiles, Oh, the taste of freedom.

This is as close as I’ll get to such freedom.

The proximity drawing just near enough to not burn from the sun.

My family, the color in the world, united by our smiles. I chose to water and not to pluck the flowers.

For this moment must be maintained by an everlasting glow. The flowers grin in thanks as the earth together with the water brings them warmth.

To my left my friend bathes in the warmth, Her skin absorbing the delicate glow. We share stories of our life and this new life of freedom.

Jua lina Jua –
“The sun knows”
June Mwaniki

I’ve stared into the distance, in to the abyss, finally being welcomed by the sun My precious heart leaps for joy alongside the garden of flowers I’m surrounded by such euphoria that I am simply left in smiles. The sound of the gentle breeze leaves my grandmother in her cheerful smiles. She feels me with glee and reflects the sun’s warmth. Behind her lies a pool of lavender flowers, Mixed with fresh lilies and a scent of iridescent freedom. A fragrance that captures nature’s glow.

In the midst of the glow, A dove lands near our youngest as she smiles. It gifts her a pearl with an emblem of the sun.

A reminder to keep her heart in warmth.

In a world that lacks freedom. The pendant will give her memories of the flowers.

A heaven bestowed on earth has left us all in smiles.

I am grateful for this life and its warmth. A hug and a kiss from the sun. The dance of the rays of the sun matches the rhythmic movement of the flowers. Our feet match the pattern of the warmth as we soak in the flowers glow.

I am in awe, in smiles, in love, in freedom.

My Lord, My God, how precious are these flowers, a remnants of your glow I’m left in awe with such proximity to freedom.


The Blackprint X Revolution AU Lookbook.

Photos Courtesy of Ehren Layne
Editing by Cameron Riley

Dramatis Personae

CHORUS: Curious yet unknown group of readers

ACTOR: Any person

[On a relatively empty stage in a dark theatre, any theatre, any stage in any place, with but a plain chair on downstage center. Actor is standing upstage left by themselves, script in hand, silently reading lines before the stage is awashed in warm lighting, the type of lighting that feels like the intimate lamp in your room. Enter the Chorus from the still-dark entryway into the theatre’s seating area.]

Chorus: (Loudly from the audience) Who is an actor?

Actor: An actor? (Contemplative pause before dropping the script to their waste) Perhaps... an actor is an artist.

CHORUS MEMBER: An artist? (Scoffs sardonically) Well, of course and actor is an artist. Acting is one of the arts (Rolls eyes towards other CHORUS members). [Murmuring of agreement from the rest of the CHORUS]

ACTOR: (They walk further onto the stage, to center stage, in frustrated indignation) You didn’t even let me finish! I was going to say that an actor is an artist who weaves the threads of a story into a tapestry of theatre, a painter who, who colors the written word with the ink of their voice. (With increasing confidence, the pitch and pace of their voice incrementally increases). An actor is an interior designer who decorates the empty stage with their mere presence and infuses it with the warmth of a home in which you’ve never actually lived, but a home with which you somehow intimately know.

ACTOR: (ACTOR walks to the chair downstage center, their voice softening before settling in, as if ready to tell a bedtime story to the quietly enthralled CHORUS). An actor is a thief who steals the audience’s attention with a booming exclamation, or a soft utterance. An actor is a mercenary who kills the silence with a blade of emotion.

CHORUS: But how can an actor be so many different things?

ACTOR: Because ultimately, an actor is the mirror through which different people are reflected [Slow fade of lights until the stage is completely dark].


An Actor: The Script

Tarumbidzwa Chirume

Rita Moreno: Legend of the Broadway Stage and the Silver Screen

Jace Rivera


Through iconic and awarding winning roles in West Side Story as Anita and on the Electric Company to historic accomplishments like being the first latina and Puerto-Rican to win the pinnacle of acting awards known as the EGOT, Rita Moreno’s impact spanning eight decades has indisputably paved the way for young latino filmmakers, actors, and directors. Born in the small town of Humaco, Puerto Rico as Rosa Dolores Alverio in 1931, Moreno grew in poverty and faced adversity living in a rural area with little social mobility and economic opportunities. Despite these challenges, Moreno’s mother saved enough money to move Moreno and her brother to New York in search of a better life.

In New York City, Moreno’s mother enrolled her in dance classes and Moreno subsequently appeared in Spanish language versions of American films and made her Broadway debut at age 13 in a production known as “Skydrift”. Getting her film debut in So Young, So Bad, Moreno began her work as a film actress and would later appear in smaller roles for MGM Entertainment where she earned a seven year contract under the stage name of Rita Moreno.

However, despite the fast pace of Moreno’s career, she faced the enduring challenge of finding roles that casted her beyond racial and ethnic stereotypes like as “exotic” or “hypersexualized” characters that lacked true depth and development. As a result of her persistent typecasting as ethnic characters ranging from Native Hawaiian to Filipino, Moreno was rarely featured in prominent roles despite her appearance in the 1956 Film King and I as a young burmese servant named Tuptim which shows Hollywood’s tendency to cast women of color as servile and submissive characters. Despite Moreno’s typecasting, Moreno was casted in the 1961 film West Side Story, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, as the “fiery” Anita who was sister-like figure to protagonist Maria who

was portrayed by Natalie Wood. For her role as Anita, Moreno became the first Hispanic person and woman to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress .

Given the prevalence of typecasting discrimination during the 1950s-60s, Moreno briefly retired from the film industry and made a transition to work in summer theater productions like The Miracle Worker; in this play, Moreno played “Annie Sullivan”. Although many now would understand Moreno’s departure from film acting, at the time, it was odd for an Academy Award winner to shift from film to summer theater. After a brief absence from film, Moreno returned in The Night of the Following Day and also appeared in television as a main cast member for the PBS children television series The Electric Company garnering her a Grammy in 1972 due to her contributions to the Electric Company’s soundtrack. Also, Moreno appeared on the Muppet Show, another PBS’ children program which eventually earned her a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. Through her portrayal of self made character Googie Gomez in the 1975 Broadway play, The Ritz, Moreno won a Tony for Best Featured Actress.

Due to her years of performing arts excel lence and impact, Moreno performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton and would later be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush and Barack Obama. As the quintessential actor who has appeared on Broadway, television, film (animated and live action), and all other major forms of media and entertainment, Moreno remains one of the most awarded and influential actresses alive as one of 18 EGOT current winners and the third overall. In her own words, Moreno is a “just a girl who decided to go for it” with a career spanning eight decades making her an influential force in Hollywood.


Play the Part Or Depart

The world of theatre and film is ever evolving, especially for actors of color. Lin- Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”, is one of the highest grossing, Broadway musicals of all time. The Puerto Rican actor and playwright, helped propel the movement for color conscious casting, which gives actors of color, the ability to star in any role, regardless of the original race of the character. In the musical, White historical figures like George Washington and Aaron Burr were played by black and brown actors.

Superhero films, a genre known for its whiteness, were forever changed by director, Ryan Coogler’s 2018 Marvel hit, “Black Panther”. Audiences of all backgrounds were enthralled by the story of T’Challa and his futuristic African home, Wakanda. Most importantly, the film consisted of an all star team of black main characters like Chadwick Boseman’s character, T’Challa, and Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Nakia. Great strides have been made for representation in the acting sphere, but there is still lots of work to be done. Rising acting stars like Carson J. Young and Sirra Faal are working to make change while excelling in their promising careers. Both actors are students in American University’s Department of Performing Arts.


Young is a junior musical theater major and business entertainment minor from Baltimore, Maryland. He started acting as a sophomore in high school, and his high school career culminated in him applying to the DPA. At AU, he has performed in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “IntoThe Woods,” and “Bat Boy.” He has also done costume design and understudy work this past fall.

Faal is a junior theater performance and communication studies major from Northern Virginia. She also has an AFAM minor. Faal has done professional work with the Roundhouse Theatre in Bethesda and Nollywood Dreams is one recent production that’s she’s been in. In high school, she immersed herself in the work of black female playwrights like Lorain Hansberry and Jocelyn Bioh.

Young and Faal have a vision for ways to address microaggressions and conversations about thecasting of POC. The two

have an affinity group with DPA professors, Sybil R. Williams and Dr. Faedra Chatard Carpenter, two black women, theater historians, and directors.Young said, “It’s been a great outlet for some people, especially me and Sirra as well because now that we’re running it, we get to understand what people are going through every day and we realize that POC issues, even though they’re unintentional and no one’s trying to be racist, it’s like there are more issues than we thought.

So, it’s helpful for us to know that so we can find ways to resolve them with the POC professors.”Young suggests having mandatory town hall meetings to communicate about racial insensitivity and unintentional racism whenever it occurs in DPA.

Young suggested a warning system also.

Another issue that Young would like to address is racial discourse concerning casting. Young said, “a lot of people just think people of color don’t get casted based on talent, but just based on skin color which is not entirely true. Because everyone in the DPA is talented. Some people won’t say this like outright because they don’t wanna be seen as racist. I have heard rumors in the past of people saying, “oh this person only got cast because they’re a person of color and everyone wants to be more woke when it comes to casting people of color.” But there’s no spoken issues.” Sirra is very interested in progressing the conversation about color-conscious casting too.

Sirra said that, “in a lot of ways people try to place restrictions on you when you’re performer of color in the arts. I think at some point I kind of just really started embodying the notion of, “ why tell yourself ‘no’, before other people do that?

Because I could sit there and be like, “oh I don’t think I’ll get the lead because she’s supposed to be a white girl.” But I feel like why tell myself that before somebody else has told me that?” One actress who inspires Sirra is black musical icon, Brandy Norwood, who once played Cinderella, a character historically played by white women. Sirra recently played Wendy Darling, a traditionally white female character, in a production of Lost Girl. Moving forward, it is clear that Carson and Sirra will progress POC representation and conversations around it, on and off the stage.




AU BIPOC Performing Arts Clubs Spotlight: AU

Radical World Players and Black Arts Collective

Racial representation has proven to be extremely important for marginalized communities, as it is a transformative way of ensuring these communities are afforded the recognition and opportunities they deserve. While many industries have taken strides to promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life, we still have a long way to go. The performing arts industry in particular still has a lot of work to do to confront its longstanding history of racial inequality and bigotry, despite gradual improvements made in recent years. In the theater sector for example, according to a study conducted by the Actors Equity Association labor union, “about 64% of them went to white workers, followed by 10.68% of Black workers” out of almost 100,000 contracts in theater (Alfonsca, 2021). Black theater performers not only have to deal with discriminatory hiring practices, but also the lack of industry policies that can protect them from racism and microaggressions both on and off stage.

Despite the challenges marginalized groups face in the performing arts sector, some have allowed these negative experiences to fuel the creation of BIPOC-centered creative spaces. At American University, Claire Phillips, a sophomore Political Science major with a theater minor, realized the need for BIPOC theater performers to have their own spaces to create freely and founded AU Radical World Players to promote and uplift the creativity of BIPOC theater students on campus.

“I decided to found AU Radical World Players because I was really sick of being in white spaces and just having my love for theater literally die, because white people decided to be racist,” said Phillips. “

Since declaring a theater minor, Phillips has seen and experienced firsthand the disrespect Black theater students have experienced at AU, including witnessing a classmate mixing up her and another Black female theater student’s names up, and having to bring her own black hair care products on a theater set to assist an actor who was told to straighten his hair for the role he was given. Phillips also believes that the university’s performing arts department has not done enough to attract BIPOC theater students on campus to audition for roles and other opportunities, and instead place the blame on the scarcity of these theater students.

I felt like other BIPOC students would feel the same and that we needed a safe haven to just be creative without any pressures or racism or bigotry.”
“I think the department of performing arts likes to blame it on ‘there’s not enough BIPOC student theater students’, but at the end of the day, they are the admissions people so the ball is in their court, they simply just need to admit more BIPOC students into their program,” said Phillips.

Since AU Radical World Players’ founding in August 2022, Phillips has been dedicated to making theater accessible for BIPOC performers through workshops, plays, and other programming that will foster community amongst AU BIPOC theater performers. Other RWP(Radical World Players) E-board members are excited about the future of the club and are excited to make an impact on the BIPOC theater community.

“We want to see people of color as the main characters, as people who get happy endings and full personalities,” said Samaria Jackson, the production manager for RWP. “That doesn’t really happen in predominantly white theaters and I am so happy to be a part of a group that wants to change that.”

AU Radical World Players is not the only BIPOC-centered performing arts club. The Black Arts Collective (BAC), founded by junior Justice & Law student Gifty Boanoh and sophomore psychology student Isysis Shaw, serves as a space for BIPOC creators to simply create, whether that be through dance, music, film, fashion, or art in general.

“I had gone to the music department to ask about using music resources, but they had told me that as a result of me not being a music major or minor, I was not allowed to utilize certain resources in the music department,” said Boanoh. “I didn’t know that this was a rule at the time so as you can imagine, I was kind of disappointed that there was no real space for me to create music on campus without compromising my original goals.”

Given this unfortunate circumstance, Boanoh joined forces with Shaw to create the BAC, a club with no strings attached: Black creators, no matter what concentration or major they arestudying, can come together to create magic through any art medium.

“Our main goal with BAC is exposure. We want to be able to provide spaces for Black students to do what they please creatively,” said

Boanoh. “Part of our programming includes bringing in local artists in the area, as well as off campus trips that provide insight into all things having to do with the arts.” There is no doubt that the burden is almost always placed on BIPOC students to create their own safe spaces since the world has not made space for us. However, there are so many actions the arts departments at AU and the performing arts industry in general can take to lift this burden off marginalized communities and to ensure they are respected and protected in whatever space they decide to take up. White performing arts students also have a responsibility of ensuring their BIPOC peers feel safe and secure in these performing arts and creative spaces.

“Acknowledging that racism in the theater industry is a real problem is the first step,” said Phillips. “Also, people should stop playing victim and feeling bad, and start to condemn actions and work to move forward to see how they will change things instead of only being sympathetic.”

While there is much more progress to be made, Phillips and Boanoh are making the first strides to ensure BIPOC creatives have a home at AU.

Les Coeurs D’Afrique 53
American Bhangra Crew Spring Team ‘23
American Bhangra Crew at Dhamaka Thamasha NJ
American Bhangra Crew at Nachde Nashville



As a result of having short Achil les tendons at birth, I had trouble walking for the first few years of my childhood.

When I finally began walking, I had to walk on the tips of my toes because my heels could not properly touch the ground. I started a rigorous rehabilitation program to repair my Achil les tendons when I was four. After countless months of physical therapy and repeated casts to stretch my calf to my Achilles, I could finally start walking properly. By the time everything started to heal, my parents enrolled me in an early childhood movement class at a local arts center; I absolutely loved it.

As time passed, the movement classes became more struc tured dance classes, and I began training in classical ballet. I love the flow of ballet; the technique and hard work positively contrast with how effortless dancers make it look. Though I am far from a professional ballet dancer, practicing dance brings me so much joy. To this day, I still struggle in dance classes because of my shortened Achilles tendons and my inability to have the best bend in my knee, but it is not a hindrance. If anything, dealing with my short ened Achilles makes me want to work even harder to be stronger and the best dancer I know I can be. Dancing has also deepened my love of advocacy because the arts are also a tool for activism and social change. During my childhood moments of art exploration, I also got into music and theater.

As much as I loved ballet, I loved other forms of performing arts. When I turned seven, I auditioned to join a local community theatre performance group called ‘The Imagina tion Players’. Every Saturday at rehearsals, we would review our repertoire of songs and dances and perform within our community visiting nursing homes, hospitals, and daycares, spreading good

Sophia Andrews 60

as a gateway to solving problems. We use art therapy to reach hundreds of children each week across Kenya, allowing them to express themselves in a creative light.

During the pandemic, we launched a program called “Stand by Her.” “Stand by Her” is an empowerment and period pad distribution program where we have reached thousands of girls in the last two years. We utilize music and dance in the community to partner with schools, churches, children’s homes, and more to talk to their girls and teach them about health, hygiene, and menstruation.

Through engaging in the arts at home and abroad, I have learned many valuable lessons and found my passions. In addition, this applies to my studies as an SIS student and the career choices I have made. Last semester I had the opportunity to intern with the Recording Academy, the organization behind the GRAMMY Awards. Working in their DC office was such an amazing expe-

rience as it tied my love of the arts and advocacy simultaneously.

Fighting for the rights of musicians and creators on Capitol Hill was a unique experience and further fueled my passion for advocacy. Although I did not directly decide topursue the arts as my degree, I am grateful for how present they have been in my life.

Due to the immense joy art brings me, I will continue advocating for the arts in my community and abroad.

Sophia Andrews is a senior International Studies major in AU’s Global Scholars program. Currently, Sophia is an Organizing Intern with Brady fighting against gun violence nationwide.

At age 15, she founded Ngoma Kenya, a nonprofit that equalizes access to the arts for young people and children in Kenya. Through the organization, Sophia works with her team members, allowing young people to reach their full potential through self and cultural expression. In 2021 Sophia was recognized as DC’s 25 under 25 through the Washington Business Journal for her work in arts advocacy. She has been involved with Art Club, AU in Motion, and the Black Arts Collective on campus.

Photo of Sophia courtesy of Javy Diaz
Edited by Cameron Riley

The year was 2016. I was fourteen years old and nearing the end of eighth grade. In true pre-teen girl fashion, I was in the final days of nursing my broken heart after I had lost the “role of my dreams” (Captain Hook in Peter Pan Jr.) to my best friend Ava. Despite money being tight around the house, my mother wanted to do something extra special for me as we neared the holidays, so off we drove to the Kennedy Center to watch the touring production of my favorite musical, Into the Woods. I was breathless. I laughed, I cried, I wiggled in my seat. Even when my cheeks began to ache the smile refused to leave my face as I eagerly swore to anyone who would listen that I felt the heat of the spotlight and that the princes looked right at me as they sang about the beautiful girl in “Agony (Reprise)”.

This is one of the many moments in my life that I can recall sitting in a theatre and being reminded with vivid force why the arts werewhere I knew my path lay.

The performing arts have always had a hold on me. My mother, much to my chagrin, loves to tell the story of the little girl who would plant herself directly in front of the TV screen during the big game and sing her little heart out, and then proceed to cry when she felt like the focus was drifting away from her performance. My love of the arts continued to grow with unlimited abound until about the time I reached my junior year of high school. That is when I began to notice the ways in which the art form I loved so dearly didn’t quite love me back. I noticed that it was hard to find faces like mine on the screen unless they were playing somebody’s sassy best friend. I noticed that while my peers were attending increasingly prestigious programs and seeking out higher levels of training, I was left behind in my school’s underfunded theater because the next level of arts education was not accessible to me. I learned to stop asking my mother if I could take voice lessons or if I could join my friends on their trip to see a Broadway show

Sirra Faal

because I couldn’t stand watching the hurt on her face when she had to tell me no. I became angered thinking about how it seemed the higher up I wanted to go in the arts the more elitism and classism entered the equation, and I became bitter at the thought of children in my community and in communities far less privileged than mine being denied the opportunity to participate in something that changed my life in ways unimaginable.

I stewed in that hurt and confusion for a while; however, despite the shortcomings of the arts industry, I could not deny its beauty. I knew that instead of allowing myself to feel beaten down, I needed to commit to becoming a changemaker. I wrote stories and scripts that were meant to uplift marginalized voices. I auditioned for and performed roles that I had known and loved since childhood so that the little girls sitting in the audience knew that Wendy Darling, Cinderella, and Juliet

could all be Black girls. I got involved in local organizations, nonprofits, and educational spaces and learned how to do the work that would ensure diversity and equity needs were being met at all levels of the performing arts.

As I sit here now, no longer a wide-eyed eighth grader or a moody teenager but an impassioned, motivated young woman, I feel a sense of duty to do my part in impacting a stronger future for the arts. Like many of my role models before me, I want to be a voice for the voiceless and serve as a visual representation of all the possibilities they have available to them. I aim to write stories, create media, and develop programming that prioritizes multicultural art and facilitates cultural exchange.

I want to be the person that is forging connections despite all the barriers that present themselves within the arts, and the one that is able to place resources in the hands

of those in needto give them the opportunities to excel in the arts, or even just to get to watch a show.

Sirra Faal

is a junior theatre performance and communications studies double major with a minor in African American and African Diaspora studies. She is a member of the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars cohort of the Class of 2024 and serves as Vice-President of the Black Student Union. She began volunteering to do social media coordination for local non-profit Girls Rock! DC her freshman year, and now works for the organization as their Communications Coordinator.

She has worked professionally in the DC Theatre scene, including as an understudy in Round House Theatre’s Nollywood Dreams. She is passionate about doing affinity work in creative spaces and has started by doing this work within AU’s theatre department.


Aisley Wallace Harper

Art, an Essential Part of Life

My belief is that art, in all its forms, is an essential lifeline for both performers and the audience. As a mixed Black, White, and Puerto Rican woman who was raised in a predominantly White community, art spaces have always been a safe, inclusive, and beautiful place that I could depend on. I grew up going to a Waldorf Method school that had a lot of faults, but the one thing they did right was the arts. We grew up writing in calligraphy and cursive, were graded on our ability to draw and paint with different mediums, had 3 different forms of movement classes, andlearned how to play the violin. I also was taught how to play three different types of recorders and flutes, participated in yearly musicals, and was in choir almost every year from 1st grade to my 2nd year of college.

At home this amazing atmosphere and love for art was further nurtured by two wonderfully gifted parents who sang, played guitar, painted, crafted, and gave us an appreciation for oldschool 70s funk, folk songs, and spoken word. However, out of all of these art forms I was introduced to, I’ve always been drawn to musical theater. The ability to connect with a stranger on a deep, emotional level without ever talking to them, the art of crafting an entire persona, and the gift of telling difficult and complex stories- through a single song- is a gift I hope I never lose. In any art space you can venture into the darkest and deepest moments of the human experience and express it in a way that’s accessible, truthful, and healing. It’s a therapeutic experience, not just for the actor or painter or musician- but for the audience viewing it as well.

I grew up writing my own songs about the struggles I was dealing with, and to this day if I am ever in a bad headspace I simply sit at the piano and sing all of my emotions out. Music saves lives and feeds the soul in a way that’s hard to replicate in any other form. And theater ele-


vates that performance to another level through a visual element that creates an unforgettable experience for both the viewer and actor. As a sophomore in high school, if you would’ve asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would’ve told you: a Broadway star. But I realized about halfway through high school that it was an unrealistic dream. Simultaneously, my focus started shifting away from theater toward social justice issues, which I believed were more important and essential to the world than the art I was doing. I still continued to perform at my local community college and sing in the choir at my high school, but I gave up any idea of acting professionally. My senior year, my high school attempted to revise the theater program by putting on the completely unknown production of “A Tale of Two Cities” the musical.

It was a unique mentoring experience that once again spurred on my love for the theater, but I realized too late that I had not seriously applied to any colleges as a performance major. It was a happy coincidence that American University is one of a few colleges in the country that has a BA in musical theater, allowing me to get a dual degree. My freshman year at AU I auditioned for one of the on-campus theater groups, AU Players, and I got a role in “Little Shop of Horrors.” The wonderful people and experience encouraged me to audition for the musical theater program at AU, and to my happy surprise I got in two weeks before Covid-19 started in 2020!

As a performance community we struggled, and as a student it was doubly hard to learn the academic and artistic approaches to acting hundreds of miles away from my peers over a screen. But it was all worth it when we returned to school for my junior year where, in spring of 2022, I landed a dream role as the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods.” It was a bittersweet moment as I met, and became friends, with an incredible group of people heading into my

senior year, who had no idea who I was because I missed out on all the in-person aspects of the theater program due to my dual degree, late admission, and Covid. But the show was a fantastic experience and encouraged me not to let go of the idea of performing beyond college. Last fall I stage managed the freshman production of “Overture,” an extremely challenging but rewarding experience, and I got to know a lot of the faculty and technical staff that work here at AU.

Finally, this past February I was cast in my last senior show “Bay Boy” the musical, as one of the leads, Meredith. It was truly a full circle moment, very reminiscent of my high school experience. It was my “last show,” I was playing the mom who deals with a lot of troubling issues and has a deep connection to her children, and it reinvigorated my love for acting. But then I started comparing where I was four years ago to where I thought I would be now. I was so set on the idea that I would never perform again after high school- I remember how devastated and sad I was after my last show. And on our final night of “Bat Boy” I cried for over an hour. For most people the tears came because it was the end of the run, or theirlast senior show, but for me it felt like the end of an era. Once again, I told myself it was the last time I would perform for the foreseeable future, because there were more important things to focus on. However, as I reflect back on my last musical at AU, it gives me hope. I was so sure in 2019, my senior year of high school, that “Tale of Two Cities” would be the last show I ever did.But my first semester of college changed that, and I was just recently cast in “Joan,” a 1975, semi-professional reading being done at Wooly Mammoth Rehearsal Stage.


I have been prioritizing a career away from the arts, forgetting about how important they are to the health of the world. And I realize that while I still don’t see myself doing this professionally, I hope I find a way to keep in touch with the arts and the audience. It has provided me with a creative outlet that I don’t ever want to lose, and I want to continue sharing with the world these incredible stories. It’s a strange feeling, leaving a show, you really do leave a family behind and an entire culture that’s unique to the performance you create together.

The feeling of audi tioning, the feeling of being cast, the feeling of rejection, your first rehearsal, and your last show; it’s unlike any emotion, sadness, or adrenaline rush that you get in your life.

You know when you get the call to be in a show that you are about to create a unique experience that can never be replicated,and it’s hard to give that up. But it’s about the art you create,

since art isn’t meant to last forever, it’s meant to have an impact no matter the timeline.

You get to develop your own character, discuss profound stories and emotions in a public setting, and interact with the best group of professionals that you will ever meet in any job.


That’s why art, in all its forms, becomes essential to nurture when those with artistic gifts and/or aspirations take an interest. While I personally still plan to follow other career paths, performing is a privilege and joy I won’t soon forget, and I will continue to incorporate it into my life in all the ways I can.

Aisley Wallace Harper

is a senior and dual major in Musical Theater and Justice and Law, with a concentration in Terrorism and Security Studies.

In addition, she is also part of the University Honors Program and is currently pursuing a masters at AU in the BA/MS Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy program. She is a very passionate social justice advocate and is deeply embedded in the AU theater community. Aisley is also President of the Honors Student Advisory Committee, Vice President of Alpha Phi Sigma- the Criminal Justice Honors Societyon campus and is Co-Director of the March For Our Lives branch at AU.

Theater is about joy, freedom, pain, anguish, studying, learning, humanity, trauma, anger, happiness and understanding the impact your art could have on



A Journey of Growth

Ever since I was young, I grew up surrounded by the arts in many aspects of my life, however, I didn’t get serious about it until my sophomore year of high school. The first musical I was ever a part of was Addams Family: The Musical. It was a great experience and I learned all of the production essentials which helped me when I also participated in Metamorphoses, Shrek: The Musical, The Laramie Project, and Clue: On Stage in high school.

Even though my high school experience was cut short by COVID-19, quarantine and the college application process helped me realize how much I wanted theatre to be part of my life in college. Ever since I came to AU, I have learned so much about theatre in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I learn about many tactics to strengthen my skills in the performance and technical areas

of theatre, however, I believe I have learned just as much outside the classroom setting. Every day I learn so much about all aspects of theatre from my friends in the Department of Performing Arts (DPA). Almost every person in the DPA has a one-of-akind personality and is so talented. I learn so much from them every day and I look to many of them for advice in areas I’m struggling in.

This advice can come in the form of a random conversation, me asking them a question, or just someone giving me a quick answer. Everyone younger and older than me always has some wisdom to share and that is just one of the many things I love about the people in the DPA. Another way I immerse myself in theatre is by going to see professional plays and musicals in the D.C. area.

AU students get discounts to many shows in the D.C. area so I use this to my advantage and go see live theatre every once in a while. Performing and

seeing someone else perform are two very different and beneficial ways of learning how to act so getting the opportunity to do both has helped me grow exponentially. If you have gone to any shows at AU recently, you might have seen me in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee playing Leaf Coneybear, Into The Woods playing Rapunzel’s Prince, or Bat Boy where I played Dr. Parker.

While theatre is a big part of my life at AU, I am also heavily involved in my a cappella group. My group is called On A Sensual Note (OASN) and we are American University’s premiere a cappella group. I am currently on the group’s executive board as communications director and will be running for president this coming semester. Up until very recently, we identified as an allmale and non-binary group, however, we are now a low-voice group meaning anyone can audition who can sing tenor, baritone, or bass. This change was a phenomenal


milestone in our goal to improve upon OASN’s not-so-inclusive past. While music is obviously an important part of OASN, to me, the most important part is the connections and bonds I form with the people in the group. I cannot begin to describe how much I love almost every single person in that group. They have all been some of the closest friends I’ve had, have helped me grow as a person, and they understand my unpredictable sense of humor. While I am moody at late-night rehearsals occasionally, I love spending time with each and every one of them. I can already tell auditioning for OASN will be one of if not the best decisions I have made in my college career.

Another way I am involved in the performing arts scene at AU is through chamber choir. AU has two choruses and a gospel choir and I am part of the higher-level chamber class. This choir led by Dan Abraham has a heavy focus on sight-reading, musical knowledge, collabora-

tion, and quick learning. Each semester we work on many different pieces of music that are all based on a theme. For example, in the Fall 2022 semester, our theme was titled, “The Invisible Made Visible”. In this concert, we performed pieces by mainly POC artists who wrote works that weren’t very well known. The point of this concert was to perform the pieces in hopes of spreading these artists’ music, making them more well-known, and just showing love to these phenomenal but forgotten composers. While that is one reason why I love the group, the other is the people and just how talented they are. I know I’ve already said this about my DPA friends and my OASN friends, however, I understand how hard choir can be. I’ve been doing choir for years and still struggle in my current chamber choir. So if you can keep up with Dan Abraham’s amazing, efficient, but intense choir format, I applaud you.

While all of my per-

forming arts experiences at AU have been phenomenal, being a college student and being more aware of the world around me has made me more invested in understanding the struggles of people like me in the performing arts world. This past year at AU alone, my interest in this topic has skyrocketed. As in many areas of the world, people are discriminated against in ways one wouldn’t necessarily see at first. The performing arts world is the perfect example. In the past and even currently, white actors and actresses are cast much more than actors and actresses of color. While things have gotten better since the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement in the Summer of 2020 due to the death of George Floyd, it’s a shame something that serious is what it takes to wake people up. Currently, more people of color are being cast in larger roles on the big screen, in commercials, and on Broadway, however, there are still many ways for the entertainment industry to improve the lives of

POC artists.

Since this is a topic I care so much about, I along with Sirra Faal have set out to make the DPA a more inclusive space for people of color. While the DPA is much more inclusive compared to other colleges, there is always room for improvement. I plan to continue my work and even possibly incorporate it into my senior capstone somehow. The performing arts are something I am very passionate about, and with the help of American University and my friends, I have been able to fuel that passion, and I couldn’t be more grateful.


Carson Young is a junior majoring in musical theatre with a minor in business and entertainment.

During his time at American University, Carson has had the opportunity and privilege of being part of six major productions. In these productions, he has done things ranging from acting and singing to understudy and costume work. He is also involved in many extracurricular activities at American University including but not limited to, On A Sensual Note (AU’s premiere a cappella group), Chamber Choir, and AU Players. He also had the opportunity to be an intern at the radio network, Voice Of America.


This Work Is Mine

I view classical theatre similarly to the way I see myself. Coming from a mixed race background, Indian and White cultural practices and rituals have culminated into the artist I am now, but also exist in seemingly separate and unblendable distinctions. The sometimes paradox of coming from the lineage of two sides of oppression creates a pearl of empathy.

This crux I strive towards informs my core approach to theatre, and especially classical theatre. There also seems to exist a confusion for artists of color in the realm of an art form that was not created for them.

But my question then is, why can’t it be for you, me, us?

My first exposure to Shakespeare’s work was when I was learning to read. I would check out picture book versions of his classic stories, A Midsummer Night’s Dream being a particular favorite. These fantasy worlds and characters were central to learning my language, the one I use to communicate with both my Indian mother and White father. The pivotal moment when I committed my passions to the theatre came about through performing in Romeo & Juliet in high school and speaking life into centuries-old poetry. Working with my peers for the past four years in student theatre has provided me with my voice and confidence in my artistic ability. Yet none of these works that I adore – Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet, and so many more – were written to be performed by people who look like me, to be directed by a woman of color. I argue this work is mine. It is mine as an English speaker. Shakespeare’s profound impact on the formation of the modern English language cannot be overlooked. Dramatic literature and performance has shaped our understanding of communication, record-keeping, storytelling, and entertainment. This heritage is living and

present, incorporated into all mass media surrounding me. If I am expected to be a part of this bustling, English-speaking world, then Shakespeare is my history as much as the maharaja and Khalsa.

My personal philosophy to approaching classical texts does not conform strictly to its original onterpretation; how can it possibly when that context is largely lost? I am a multicultural individual, therefore I cannot bring myself to a project without bringing the world’s imprint on me.

It is possible to bring influences of American Vaudeville, Italian commedia dell’arte, Japanese kabuki, and ubiquitously international and ancient pantomime performance to Romeo & Juliet, as I developed for my recent Capstone project. The marriage of Elizabethan poetry, universally applicable stories, and intercontinental understanding of performance and theatrical tradition is and should be possible, especially spearheaded by BIPOC artists. Honoring both the formation of our shared language and the cultures whohave shaped modern performance uniquely becomes applicable to poetry-based text.

Despite the profound roadblocks of attending a PWI, I have always been focused on opening doors for all artists and striving to spark discussion and collaboration. Unapologetically bringing my singular perspective to light and occupying space in an industry suppressed by capitalism is a world I work to change. As a dramaturg, director, actor, and theatre artist, I can only move towards a more BIPOC and multiculturally visible American theatrical tradition.


Siena Maxwell

is a senior Theatre Art major, with a double minor in History and Cinema Studies.

Her passion for both the liberal and performing arts have culminated into her commitment to creating theatre as foremost a vessel for social justice and conversation. She received the Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Endowed Scholarship for her work in the Department of Performing Arts, and currently is and has been for the past two years the Artistic Director of the AU Rude Mechanicals, the premiere classical theatre troupe on campus. In theDC theatre community, she works at Folger Shakespeare Library and Round House Theatre, as part of the Board of Directors of the youthrun Wildwood Summer Theatre, and as Founder and Artistic Director of the new Spectre Theatre Company.


Energy is buzzing off of my skin as the volume of the music raises. The pounding of the bass resonates through my body, making my bones vibrate, eager to shift. Radiant smiles spread across the yard as we all make our way to our feet. There is a rumble of chatter around me, urging me toward the bundle of my family members near the speakers. I am pulled in by their warmth and laughter and instantly find myself capturing layered rhythms in the music with my smooth articulations of grounded footwork and free-flowing hands. I follow my innate impulses of movement and get lost in the sound and contagious liveliness around me. We all yell over the blaring music as we bounce and sway around the floor into the dead of night. I want to be here forever…

Buzzing. Eager. Warmth. Grounded. Can you feel it?

This is how I feel when I dance.

The family parties that I grew up going to were filled with this intensely vibrant energy that created the foundation of my passion for dance. These spaces of celebration hold the love and warmth that have fueled my endeavors in learning countless dance forms over the years. From Tap to Salsa to Ballet to Hip-Hop to Contemporary to Locking to so many more… I have felt firsthand how powerful a tool dance is. In each of these forms, I find alignment in my mental, spiritual, and physical states and create sustainable connections between myself, others, and the earth. Dance is a unique and invaluable art form that I cherish deeply.

As I have grown over the years as an artist, I have realized how truly vulnerable, rigorous, and rewarding it is to tell a story through dance. Most recently, I embarked on a transformative journey to tell my story and my family’s story through dance. It began as my Dance Capstone research in the Fall 2022 semester, where I investigated the role of dance in the healing and celebration of intergenerational experiences, with a focus

on themes of immigration and legacy. I was curious about exploring how life experiences are stored in, processed through, and released from the body at their own pace. Each person stores their own personal history in their own body, interwoven within the echoing history of those before them. Some experiences are so impactful that it takes multiple bodies over multiple generations to process them fully. What goes unacknowledged or unprocessed in one generation, impacts the next. This is not only true for difficult life events but for euphoric ones as well. This research, which resulted in the form of a solo work performed by me, titled, Familia Cervantes, was an extraordinarily cathartic experience. I interviewed my family members to document their memories, values, beliefs, migration patterns, Latinx pride, and life stories to interweave into the eternal fabric of this piece as inspiration for my movement development. In this process, I discovered how supportive dance is in identifying, processing, and celebrating the resonating legacy of intergenerational experiences archived in the body.

I was fortunate enough to continue this research through the Spring 2023 semester, where I performed another iteration of this work at the American College Dance Association 2023 and will perform it at DANCEWORKS 2023. Diving deeper into the body of this work for an additional semester showed me how vast the possibilities of discovery are when researching with movement. Imagining the work that could be done if dance was supported and recognized for its full potential drives me to continue my storytelling through dance. Creating a platform for my story and my family’s story is something that I will never stop making space for. I will do it forever.


Natalia Cervantes

Natalia Cervantes (she/her) is a senior and a proud Latina from Manhattan Beach, CA.

Her research interests are rooted in the fusion of her Dance and Psychology majors and Latina/o/x Studies minor. She is specifically captivated by the role of dance in the healing and celebration of intergenerational experiences, which she began thoroughly investigating in her Dance Capstone research. This work culminated in a performance, Familia Cervantes, which premiered at INTERVAL: An Invitation to Pause 2022 and was also presented at the American College Dance Association Mid-Atlantic South Region Conference 2023. Within her four years in the AU Dance Program, Natalia has collaborated and performed in 10 works, alongside making her choreographic debut, The Ripple Effect, in CHOREOLAB 2020. She has also performed at the Kennedy Center for National Dance Day 2022 as a member of Cinematic Locking Crew. After graduation, Natalia is thrilled to be pursuing an MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis at Duke University.


Sydney Houston

is a senior Literature major with a double minor in Dance and African American & African Diaspora Studies.

She is a multidisciplinary artist, a dancer, a writer, and an avid reader at heart. She is a native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and is focused on Black Women’s representation in media and pop culture. Her research interests include Black Performance Studies, and she is an advocate for decolonizing the stage. She has been a part of the American University Dance Company since 2021. She performed recently in DANCEWORKS 2022 as a cast member in Woman’s Work by AU’s Full-time faculty member Ronya-Lee Anderson, and Belongings by the 2021 guest artist Bennyroyce Royon, both BIPOC identifying performing artists. She was also a collaborator in Gallery: Senior Dance Capstone 2021. Her dance repertoire includes Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, and West African. She hopes that one day all black artists will be able to produce what feeds their souls: giving young black artists the room to dream and space to create.


Finding Purpose Through Performance

I can remember wanting to be a ballerina for most of my life. My time in ballet as a girl was short-lived, my lessons began at age 6 and ended at 7, and only took place on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This did not stop me from always believing that I would be dancing my heart out one day on stage. Once I was able to dedicate myself to dance on my own terms, not confined to my mother who wasn’t a morning person, being willing to take me to class.

This dance journey began when I was 16 years old, a sophomore in high school, inspired by seeing the Laurel High School Performance Company on stage during Black History Month. My high school dance program opened a door I thought was previously closed. I dedicated everything I had to become a strong dancer, I didn’t have years of studio training, and I didn’t know

the difference between second and fourth position but I had passion. I had never felt like my body was a vessel for anything but anxiety. Dance showed me a side of myself I had never seen before; literally, I had never stared in a mirror at myself that much.

My heart was filled with a new kind of joy, one that only movement is capable of. I knew I needed to continue dancing no matter where I went after I graduated. My college admissions checklist now included every school that had a dance program that I could reasonably get into.

audition confidently for most BFA programs, nor would I feel welcome on dance teams, or even in some clubs at most colleges and universities.

There was a barrier between me and the continued pursuit of my dance dream, I wasn’t “classically trained.” Despite learning and performing for 3 years, I was in a “deficit” that could only be fixed by going back 15 years and starting dance classes at 3 years old and never stopping. As I started the dance major here at American University, I found a dance program that was welcoming to anyone who wanted to take a dance class. There were dancers who spent years in Vaganova ballet, and those who only had ever taken a hip-hop class. I learned that dance is what I grew up with in my community, a storytelling part of Black culture, and it is an art form that can show us new ways to define and research ideas.

Dance, I will be finishing with a degree that represents everything dance and my creativity showed was a part of who I am. By taking the African American Experience in the Performing Arts with our amazing faculty member Sybil Roberts-Williams, I discovered that the history of dance on stage was colonized just like everything else in the United States. Performance was plagued with racism, stereotypes, and a bias against black dancing bodies.

With my 3 years of experience, I couldn’t

Though I came to American University pursuing a degree in

The arts are already underappreciated in a culture that prioritizes consumption based on what you can tangibly hold. I realized the importance of Black art through my faculty in the African American Studies department. Western dance only uplifts that which it can steal or imitate. It loves George Balanchine but doesn’t adequately shame his theft of African American dance aesthetics. My work aims to study the connections of the Black, African, and Caribbean diaspora through shared memory and dance practice.

This is when I started understanding the elitism and inequity in dance at a higher level.

Along with calling out the absolute bs of elitist dance studies.

Through majoring in Literature I pursue the continued study and research about Black bodies’ representation in written art. I made the challenging decision to only finish with a Dance minor, though a complicated decision, I realized being creative means doing different things that suit the different needs you have at the time. Performing in Danceworks 2022 gave me the opportunity to perform works by artists of color the pieces I was a part of connected to me personally and being able to give back to my choreographers in a way that showed them what it meant to perform their work was so rewarding.

I had to be real about how much I could give of myself to the different facets of my art. I didn’t want to crash and hit burnout before I have a chance at professional opportunities. Performance Studies are growing to include so many different views

and perspectives, by expanding my knowledge with the AFAM department here I’m able to concentrate on both the literature that already exists and analyze it with my Literature degree and show my interdisciplinary knowledge from both my Dance and African American Studies minor.

the classroom is a stage where I will continue to shine my light. It is a home in which I found my capabilities to shine and a passion-driven purpose for Black artists like myself, to create tools to disperse in our communities where our art can continue to grow.

My energy permeates the concert stage and my performance tells a story,

I like to say that I came out of my mother’s womb singing. I sing in my sleep (this is actually true). Nothing is closer to my heart or is more personal to me than singing. It’s so personal that I spent all of my early years as a little girl petrified to sing in front of anyone outside of my immediate family. Singing was a gift I never shared unless it was in mandatory chorus class. I held little confidence and little ambition to pursue anything related to the performing arts. It probably had something to do with the stigma of the struggling artist and my crippling penchant for perfectionism. It wasn’t until I freed myself from the expectation of creative success that I was able to pursue performing arts in a full and authentic way. As a sophomore in college, I changed my major to musical theater. I decided that I would chase a passion that I’d carried with me since infancy and immerse myself in the craft while I had the privilege to. I finally listened to the encouraging words of my family and my voice teacher Sterling Scroggins. I joined what seemed like the funnest and most expansive major I could.

Musical theater lit up my heart like nothing else. Acting and sharing the life of someone other than myself became addictive. Singing became more about what was inside of me and less about the perception of others. As I got the opportunity to perform more and more, it became less about being performative and more about exploring the expansive depths of my own mind. I fell in love with using my body to share

energy through dance. I learned how to see the world differently with design. I have gotten the opportunity to do beginner work as a carpenter, painter, electrician, audio engineer, actress, singer, songwriter, manager, model, dancer, almost anything you can think of! I haven’t found something I dislike yet in the world of performing arts.

I have been blessed to perform in the AU production of the musical Into the Woods as Jack’s mom, and as a lead in a student short film titled Seasons Change. I have sang the national anthem at the Pentagon and I will be singing “Strange Fruit” in a student (Aisley Wallace-Harper) capstone this April 14th. And as my first professional opportunity, I have been casted as Pecola in the play The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, adapted by Lyda Diamond and directed by Otis Ramsey-Zöe at Theater Alliance here in Washington, DC. Thank you for allowing me to share my story and for listening with such care.

I hope to perform for you someday!

I haven’t always been a performer, but I have always been a singer.

Amiah Marshall

I am a 22 year old singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer, etc, etc. I am a graduating senior at American University earning a bachelors of arts in Musical Theatre.

I am originally from Monroe, Louisiana, but as a military kid I got the chance to move around. Being in the world of performing arts is a blessing I am forever grateful to have. It serves as an outlet for my emotions and a way to communicate with others.

Find me on Instagram @miyasmind to see all of my artistic endeavors!


My name is Michael Brown.

I am a senior, Political Science major, and communications minor. Aside from music, I work as an AU ambassador and serve as President of AU’s NAACP chapter and Event Coordinator for Brother Brother.

Music has always been an integral portion of life. Far before I picked up a cello, music was always a source of joy and it was something my family, specifically my father believed should be instilled in me from a young age. My earliest music memory was of my parents sitting me down in the living room and popping in the DVD that came with the 25th Thriller Anniversary album. After one watch of the 1983 Billie Jean performance, I was hooked. I can thank my parents a great deal for my love of music. Growing up in the church, gospel music and hymnals were a common soundtrack on Sunday mornings. During the week, during car rides or house cleaning days, my parents often played 70s soul music: Anita Baker, The Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, etc. It is also thanks to my parents that I am in the performing arts. My dad convinced me to attend the orchestra open house before I started 6th grade. It was there that I had to determine what instrument I would play. The violin and viola, while beautiful instruments, felt too small for me to feel comfortable playing. The double bass was going to ask too much of me, but the cello…the cello was perfect. And it was the best compromise; with the cello, I could reach the resounding low notes of the bass and the bright high notes of the violin, all with a warm tone. It has been 12 years since I picked up the cello and I can definitely say it is one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Playing the cello has allowed me to extend my love for music to others. As a classically trained musician, the music is often written for you but you have an opportunity to make it your own. The composer offers a road map with directions, but the rest is up to the player. It is my job as a musician to infuse the written notes with my interpretation and bring life to it, and as a result, the audience is able to gather their own meaning from what they hear. There is something truly satisfying about performing to me. I find a piece I enjoy or find interesting and spend however long it takes to learn it, to live it, to breathe it. If the piece is challenging the process becomes that much more enjoyable because it pushes me to conquer the challenge. The learning process is a combination of late nights, section repetition, and frustration but the payoff is so worth it. Whether it’s for a competition or just for the sake of performing, it feels like an itch is scratched when I nail that technical passage or get the perfect tone for that slow, legato section. It has been an honor to share my love of music and performance with American University. Beyond my participation in AU’s symphony orchestra and other small ensembles, I have had the pleasure of performing for a number of events on campus including the African Student Organizations pageant, Love of the Diaspora, State of the Union Gala, and a Board of Trustees Dinner. I was also honored by The Blackprint as Performer of the Year last spring semester for the performances I did. Knowing that I’ve had an impact on the students at American through music, through cello is incredibly validating.


Acknowledgements E-Board


Isaiah Washington and Yasmine Jaffier-Williams

Creative Directors

Cameron Riley and Nicole Jean-Pierre

Copy Editor

Amaris Levitt

Assistant Copy Editor

Edozie Umunna

Web Editor

Isis Amusa

Outreach Coordinator

Lauren Foster

Social Media Manager

Makyha Clark

Multimedia Editor

Angelina Saintil

Culture Editor

Daisy Aranha

Opinion Editor

Chrisraine Gilpin

Campus and District Editor

Yasmine Jaffier-Williams

Investigative Editor

Sanvi Bangalore

Public Health Editor

Isabella Long

Fashion Editor

Nadine Leesang

Sports Editor

Brandon Smith


Zine Contributors

Aisley Wallace Harper

Amiah Marshall

Charity Simone

Carson Young

DeJour Stricklen

Emma Hua

Isabella Long

Jace Rivera

June Mwaniki

Michael Brown

Nardos Scott

Natalia Cervantes

Oni Chaytor

Phillip Kulubya

Siena Maxwell

Sirra Faal

Sophia Andrews

Sydney Houston

Tarumbidzwa Chirume

TreVaughn Ellis

Special Thanks:

Ehren Layne

Cover Photographer