My advanced work at Bennington is in drama, and it's currently happening. I'm directing a production of a play written by another Bennington student, who happens to be a very good friend of mine, called Grandpa Dave, which is about a Chicanx family in LA. And it's sort of an August Osage County sort of story. I would call them dinner room dramas, where almost nothing happens, but everything also happens because it's about such big topics like family, and identity and finding yourself and the friction of all of those things coming together. But I arrived at this advanced work by a winding road through the plan process, which most Bennington students experience. It's hardly ever a straight and narrow path, which makes it interesting.
I couldn't possibly capture everything that happened to me in the plan process in a short video like this, but notably, my freshman year, when I came to Bennington, I intended to study acting, which I did. But I had this moment in my freshman year, where I felt like I wasn't being represented by the drama department. I felt like it was, I mean it was, a really white institution, and a lot of strides have been made in that respect, but there was this sort of whole missing where really talking about diversity and inclusion should go, I felt. So my first plan draft was dedicated to the ideas that I wanted to be an actor, and I wanted to study acting at Bennington, but I wanted to find a way to make a better place for myself and to make space for conversations about race in theater, about diversity in theater. And I supplemented all of all of these ideas with Black Studies, which is what I called it, but it's really Black Literature, I want to say. I studied with Philip Williams, who is a faculty in Literature here at Bennington, and he teaches a breadth of subjects, but Poetry and Literature. I took Toni Morrison with him in my first term, which was really what influenced this whole path for me and myself as a person. But that first draft of my plan was really the impetus for all of these thoughts and feelings that I had about who can be on stage, who's allowed to be on stage, whose work gets produced, and a lot of questions that fueled my next two years at Bennington. Because in my junior year, I took a class called Decentralizing Drama with my advisor at the time. It was a tutorial, and I designed it with a couple friends of mine who had similar feelings about inclusion and drama, and we wanted to read works by people of color that needed to be produced or conversely are over produced and talked about why some plays succeed in an American theater context and some don't, and who produces them, and who directs them even, who has a place and a say in what happens on the American stage, I think, is what I want to call that. It was a really, really interesting class that covered really everything and helped me frame my ideas better and give me language about equity, diversity and inclusion, which was really, really helpful going into my senior year as I was thinking about what I wanted my advanced work to be.
In our junior years in the plan process, we write an essay called plan proposal, which is where you put all of these ideas that you're thinking about for your advanced work on paper, and I wrote that I wanted to find a way, either through workshops or a document of sorts to create space for people of color, in the rehearsal room, in classrooms, in the theatre department, drama generally at Bennington. And it morphed and shifted really quickly because in my senior year for my field work term, I worked at Harlem Stage in New York, which was really, really, really influential to me, to work at an institution of color, and understand the bigger scope of what it means, especially in a New York theater context, to only produce works by people of color, and how that happens, and who attends those sorts of productions, and who pays for them really, because that's kind of the bottom line of all of this. But I took a lot of what I learned at Harlem Stage and brought it back for my spring term at Bennington, just now. As I began to think about directing, which was a huge challenge for me, it still is a huge challenge for me, to have all of my ideas kind of come to life, it still boggles me sometimes. But what I really wanted to do with this production of Grandpa Dave was to have a cast of actors that was just as interested in having some of the hard conversations about diversity and about intersectionality and about how that's all kind of turned on its head in a theater setting. And I was really, really fortunate to find that, and the cast that I have is so willing to go on that journey. And it's been a really, really interesting process, because the play is about so many things, and it's close to my real life. And the playwright, it's close to her real life, and the actors, it's close to all of their real lives and having real world conversations about all of these sorts of identity politics that we deal with every day is exactly how I wanted to culminate my Bennington experience. And I'm really grateful for all of the classes and the field work terms and the advice I received from my advisor, but also just anyone who is willing to listen to me vent about any of these things. That helped me arrive here, and it feels like I really am creating a piece of work that encapsulates all of the questions that I had, starting truly at the beginning of my freshman year, even though I didn't have language for it then necessarily. Which is the point, it feels like to me. So that's my advanced work.