Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Views Shakespeare and Performance through Lens of Race

January 18, 2018

Ayanna ThompsonAyanna Thompson studies how audiences respond to nontraditional casting — when actors of color are cast in roles that were originally imagined as white characters to be performed by white actors. What effect does the audience’s perception of race have on the reception of classical performances?

She will challenge the current scholarly understanding of audience response to nontraditional casting choices in her public lecture — “Shakespeare, Race, and Performance: What We Still Don’t Know” at 7 p.m. February 1 in Francis Auditorium.

Thompson, who is professor of English at George Washington University, visits campus as a Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) visiting scholar, hosted by the MBU chapter of PBK.  

She will also visit classes, meet with students in both undergraduate programs and Shakespeare and Performance, and connect with faculty members during her time at MBU.   

Thompson specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in/as performance. The author of Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach and Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America, she also wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden 3 Othello. She serves on the editorial boards of the Shakespeare Quarterly, Renaissance Drama, and Shakespeare Bulletin.

Founded in 1776, PBK is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression.

The PBK Visiting Scholar Program is one of the most successful and important of the society’s initiatives. For more than 60 years, it has brought first-rate scholars to colleges and universities across the country for two days of classroom discussions, informal gatherings, and a public lecture.