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Liberace Scholar Gives African-American Women a Voice in Theater

By Kristin Sterling

Tasha Ross SOA '05 spent much of her first year as a Theatre Arts student at Columbia 's School of the Arts riding the subway and observing passengers. Her people-watching paid off. As a result, Ross, the 2003-04 Liberace Scholar, created a series of monologues titled "Subways and Bedrooms" that received a November reading at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village , where she is an intern.

The monologues feature six African-American women who each deliver a different message, such as the need to love oneself and the devastating effects of insecurity.

"I wanted to write something that could give African-American women more of a voice in theater -- to give us a space where we can see and hear things unique to our experience as black women, specifically young, black women," says Ross.

At the Cherry Lane , Ross serves as personal assistant to the artistic director. Last year she assisted Bathsheba Doran, SOA '03, Columbia 's first Liberace Scholar and now the Cherry Lane Library curator, with extensive historical research on the theatre's productions and playwrights.

In addition to her studies and endeavors at the Cherry Lane , Ross is working on two plays. "The Rape Play" is based on a piece she began while spending a year of her undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The play, which she is now moving in a new direction, follows a college senior who ends her relationship with an abusive boyfriend only to become involved with a freshman who will do anything to get into a fraternity.

The second, yet to be titled, deals with the master/servant relationship. "What makes this unique, is that it must be performed only by people of color," she says. "It tries to break down the meaning behind that relationship in its most bare form and for that reason, I have made a note that no white actor should play the part as 'master,' because of the narrow scope that a visual of that nature would send. I say it's time for us to see the historically oppressed people on stage, teaching us about this complex relationship."

On campus, Ross is the third Theatre Arts student to receive a scholarship grant from the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts. Since its incorporation in 1976, the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts has provided more than $4.5 million in scholarship grants to more than 100 prestigious institutions in music, theater, dance and the visual arts, benefiting more than 1,400 students.

Published: Mar 02, 2004
Last modified: Mar 01, 2004

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