Cristal Chanelle Truscott, PhD is a culture worker, scholar, educator, playwright, director, founder of the touring ensemble Progress Theatre and creator of “SoulWork” – a generative method for making performance, training artists, engaging communities and framing analytical research that is rooted in generations-old African American cultural practices, theories and performance traditions. She is a recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Artist Award – given to those “ influential in shaping powerful creative movements in contemporary arts,” – the Creative Capital Award, MAP Fund, NPN Creation Fund and NEFA National Theatre Project grants.
As a culture worker and artist, Cristal is director of SoulWork Studio and has led Progress Theatre in using art as anti-racism to connect communities via a broad, deeply-linked grassroots network fostered nationally over 2 decades. She writes a’capella musicals called “NeoSpirituals,” that span and straddle time between histories and the present to explore identities, inheritances/legacies and cultural movements to encourage connection, consciousness and healing. These include PEACHES (see Theatre Communication Group’s collection Plays from the Boombox Galaxy), ‘MEMBUH, and The Burnin’. Plantation Remix, her current work-in-progress, is a site-responsive NeoSpiritual to to radically reimagine the separatistic genre of heritage tourism by rehearsing a contemporary, multi-cultural, future-building “afterlife” for historic sites related to slavery in the U.S. Her plays blend pop culture and academic conversations, fusing genre from Negro Spirituals and Folklore to Blues, R&B, and Hip Hop to produce performances that engage communities across race, class, gender and spiritual identity.
As a performance studies scholar, she researches and writes about cultural performance as an object and a method of inquiry tracing the arts' essential role in movements for liberation using the theory she developed called the “Cultural Conservatory.” She received her PhD from New York University and her academic writing includes: “SoulWork” in Black Acting Methods (Routledge) and “Cultural Conservatory: Living the Arts” in Are Arts Essential? (NYU Press), and “The 3rd Gift of The Negro: Dubois’ Star of Ethiopia,” featured in The Routledge Companion to African American Theater and Performance.
As an educator, Dr. Truscott has held positions at HBCUs Spelman College and Prairie View A&M University. Currently at Northwestern University, she teaches SoulWork practice and Cultural Conservatory theory as a pioneering pedagogy that diversifies and decolonizes theatre and performance training in higher education. Dr. Truscott is a 2023 USA Fellow for her works as an Ensemble Theatre Artist & Cultural Worker.