SMU alumna Regina Taylor ’81, an award-winning actress, director and playwright, approached her University to tap the passion and talent of Meadows School of the Arts students, faculty and alumni to deliver a master class in socially-relevant artistic expression. Taylor asked, “What is it to be Black” in this historically significant time?

This complex question is explored in the black album. 2020. resistance.

We encourage you to learn more about this thought-provoking theatrical experience, originally presented via Zoom in October 2020, here. In this snapshot of the piece, below, SMU theatre students share their reflections on the lingering impact of their performances on their art and in their lives.

Stakiah Washington, B.F.A. ’21

“So often in life we only look through our own lens: This is how I feel, or this is what I’m going through. Opening my mind and heart to a wider spectrum of Black experiences, and listening, really listening to them without trying to get to the punchline first has definitely heightened my compassion for others.”

Ben Woods, B.F.A. ’23

“As artists, we are the front-runners in this journey called change. In theater, there’s this cycle: We are given a certain problem in the world. We present it to an audience, who receives it and talks about it. The sole purpose of theater is to spark conversations. The more we are able to talk about the problems we face, the closer we inch toward change.”

Victoria Cruz, M.F.A. ’22

“I’m not getting engulfed in what I think others want from a character, and I’m not letting who I am as a person and an artist get washed away in those expectations. Every role I perform will be unique and beautiful because I am who I am.”

Trajan Clayton, B.F.A. ’23

“What is the difference between art and activism? They are one and the same, they play hand in hand, which is why it’s so important that I bring all of me as an artist to my work. It’s up to me to use the power of my voice, not just as an actor, but also as a writer and director, to be the change.”

Tharmella Nyahoza (center), B.F.A. ’23

“Whatever I’m doing or feeling, my experience of being Black in America is OK. It’s not up to anyone else to put a “yes” or “no” next to it. I’m taking who I am and what I’ve been through and using that to create good. As an artist, I have the responsibility to make things that matter and inspire.”

Irwin Daye, MFA ’22

“I’m so thankful for this ensemble that made me feel like I had just walked away from dinner with family. It’s a reminder of our collective strength in personifying the unjustifiable deaths in and the blatant double standards imposed on the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) community, and the impact I can have in elevating our stories.”

Bradley Atuba, M.F.A. ’22

“Regina created a safe space where we spoke openly about our lives and struggles. That was very freeing, not only for my craft, but also outside the theater. If someone isn’t willing to have those real conversations about issues like police brutality and social unrest, then they probably don’t belong in my life.”

Meet the creative catalysts

Playwright/director Regina Taylor ’81

A list of Regina Taylor’s professional credits, accolades and honors fills seven pages – and that’s not even the complete record. Taylor is the Meadows Distinguished Visiting Artist at SMU and the playwright-in-residence at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, a three-year appointment through the National Playwright Residency Program. She received the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre at Fordham University at Lincoln Center. An artistic associate of Goodman Theatre, she is its most produced playwright. Her recent acting credits include the HBO hit Lovecraft Country, All Day and a Night (Netflix) and Council of Dads (NBC).

As an educator and the creative force behind the black album, she’s capturing the hearts and minds of a new generation of artist-activists. The project not only addresses the production challenges generated by the pandemic, but also provides “a platform for necessary conversations in this racially incendiary climate.”

Choreographer Darius-Anthony Robinson ’07

When the pandemic wrecked his performance schedule, SMU alum Darius-Anthony Robinson went back to being a student. With the New York theater scene at a standstill, the singer/actor/choreographer finally had time to catch a dance class or voice lesson on Zoom. The Dallas native also had the bandwidth to step in at the last minute as the choreographer for the black album. 2020. resistance.

Drawing on a mélange of cultural, historical and contemporary influences, Robinson created bold, expressive movements to match the youth and passion of the student-performers and the vision of creator Regina Taylor. He describes the experience as cathartic. “It was an open forum to connect and breathe as a performer and a person of color.”

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