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Book Review, Vol. 31 No. 2

Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches

Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches. Edited by Sharrell D. Luckett with Tia M. Shaffer. New York, NY: Routledge, 2017; Pp. 233.

Sharrell D. Luckett and Tia M. Shaffer’s Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches is an exceptional addition to the field as it turns the spotlight on “Black/African ritual, processes, and methodologies to acting” (1). Rather than focusing on situating black performers in traditional acting methodologies, Luckett and Shaffer engage performance pedagogy that goes beyond the Euro-American canon through a series of ten essays, which provide a wide array of viewpoints on actor training grounded in Afrocentrism. They conclude with thoughtful commentary from notable practitioners who present insights on working with performers of color and/or performance texts/modes rooted in black culture.

In the introduction, Luckett and Shaffer grapple with the origins of theatre and performance practices. They acknowledge that most U.S. acting programs operate from the perspective that theatre started with the Greeks; however, they point to evidence suggesting that many humans on the continent of Africa participated in theatrically driven rituals earlier. They then emphasize the book’s overall purpose, which is to: “1) honor and rightfully identify Blacks as central co-creators of acting and directing theory by filling the perceived void of Black acting theorists, 2) uplift, honor, and provide culturally relevant frameworks for Black people who are pursuing careers in acting, 3) provide diverse methodologies for actors and teachers of all races and cultures to utilize, and 4) provide diverse methodologies for actors and practitioners’ labor in social justice issues and activism” (2). Luckett and Shaffer subsequently chart the book’s overall structure of “Offerings” instead of chapters, as they feel “this term is more appropriate to our alignment with Black/African customs and culture, as the notion of giving is innately in the ‘fiber of our being’” (5).

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