Introducing Our New Theatre Artist-in-Residence Nora Carroll
The Carthage Theatre Department is dedicated to connecting students with the world outside of Carthage. Through the New Play Initiative and various guest artists, students are able to learn from industry professionals in a challenging and competitive field. This year’s artist-in-residence, Nora Carroll brings a wealth of knowledge from her experiences in the Chicago area. As a part of the Theatre of Inclusion program, Nora will help develop an anti-racist theatre program that connects with all members of our community. I spoke with Nora about getting into theatre and what goes into developing anti-racist theatre.
How did you get into theatre?
I’ve been interested in doing theatre since I was in high school. My sister was on the speech team and drama team when she was in high school and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. Going into my senior year, I had to do a senior project about what do you want to do with the rest of your life. At the time, I did this project on being a social worker because I wanted to help people. I guess I gave a really lackluster presentation because my advisor asked me, “Well what do you actually like to do?” I started to talk about theatre and she had me do it again, this time focusing on theatre. I would say that was pretty instrumental and informative for me, especially since I was in a public school where the arts are not always encouraged or funded.
What are you looking forward to with the artist-in-residence program?
I love how the Carthage Theatre Department is well rounded in terms of what the students are learning and how they are able to sink their teeth into all aspects of theatre-making. As a guest artist, it is exciting because I feel like I am able to do that as well. While my first passion is theatre-making, I am very interested in race relations and social justice work, especially in creating a crossover between social justice work and theatre-making. One of the things I am excited to do at Carthage is to build a bridge between some of the organizations on campus oriented towards race and cultural relations and the Theatre Department. For example, I want to figure out how we can do a collaboration with the Black Students’ Union. I want to find ways to show students on campus that the Theatre Department is for everybody.
In your quote for our first announcement on the Bridge, you mentioned building a theatre dedicated to anti-racism. How do you plan on building that as an artist-in-residence?
I think one aspect is in the curriculum and that another aspect is the actual theatre-making. When I am thinking about what plays might be centered or what other artists might be invited, I am thinking about plays that center around social justice themes and marginalized folks. A part of my work in developing anti-racist theatre is also helping students engage in their own boundaries and autonomy. Performers are not just puppets or pawns. In directing a play, I ensure that intimacy choreography is centered. I also make sure that on the first day of rehearsal, if people have triggers, we know immediately so we do not cross those lines. I want to encourage young actors to be active participants in the theater-making process.
Is there a standout production that you like in terms of its race relations or social justice work?
It’s been so long since I’ve seen a play in person. I think I last saw a play in February of 2020, but there was a production I saw at Victory Gardens in December of 2019 that I loved. It was The First Deep Breath and the thing I love about it is that it centers on this Black family. The mother is struggling with autism while one of the sons is trying to find his sexual identity. It also deals with decarceration, which is what happens when you are released from prison. The playwright was able to tap into all these themes without the audience feeling like they are being taught. It still felt like a story. The director was Black, the playwright was Black, and it had a full cast of Black folks just existing on stage without having to teach people about race. They can just exist. I think that is important as it relates to anti-racist theatre.
What are some of your hobbies outside of theatre?
I love yoga. I have a dog; his name is Snowball. Dog walking is not really a hobby, but I love doing cool stuff with him. I am an Auntie and I love having that title. I write, which is still kinda in the vein of theatre, but that is another thing I do.
Is there anything you want to share with the Carthage community or future students?
I am excited to work with them. I am excited to learn from and engage with this community.