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College of Arts and Sciences

Summer research project explores black masculinity in theatre

By: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu
A&S Communications
June 21, 2018

Allen Porterie ‘20 is spending the summer at the University of Notre Dame, where he is exploring the performance of black masculinity in theatre. Porterie, an English major with a minor in theatre, is studying how actors and directors frame the black masculine body on stage. Porterie began this work last summer at Louisiana State University's Pre-Doctoral Scholars Institute with Angeletta Gourdine, an associate professor of English.

“That program was extremely helpful in giving me a base of sources to draw on from authors like bell hooks, Eve Sedgwick and Judith Butler,” Porterie said.

At Notre Dame, Porterie is working with Mark Sanders, professor of English and Africana studies, in a nine-week program examining articles, books and plays that center on black American theatre.

“As an openly gay black male actor, this work is close to my life in a very present way,” said Porterie, who has starred in productions at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts such as “Hamlet Wakes Up Late” and “Life Sentence.” “Each time I take on roles, I often question my own ability to bring the level of masculinity required to convince the audience of my commitment to a character. Last fall, I played Hamlet in ‘Hamlet Wakes Up Late,’ and taking on such a well-known role both as a black man and gay man was certainly a great task.”

Porterie is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. The Mellon Mays program was established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of institutions of higher learning and address the problem of underrepresentation in the academia.

“My hope is to take this work into grad school and further explore how the theater serves as a space for framing the parameters of black masculinity,” Porterie said.

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu ‘19 is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.