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Cristal Chanelle Truscott

Founder: SoulWork Studio + Progress Theatre | Associate Professor of Graduate Acting and Performance Studies at Northwestern University

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.

Through SoulWork Studio, she offers training to empower artists and arts educators to engage the fullness of their identities by cultivating creative power through an inclusive and socially-conscious performance practice. With Progress Theatre, she writes and directs acapella 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. Her plays – PEACHES, ‘MEMBUH: Confessions of The Only Generation, The Burnin’ and, work-in-progress Plantation Remix – 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, Dr. Truscott 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, she has held positions at HBCUs Spelman College and Prairie View A&M University. Currently an Associate Professor of Graduate Acting and Performance Studies at Northwestern University, Dr. Truscott teaches SoulWork practice and Cultural Conservatory theory as a pioneering pedagogy that diversifies and decolonizes theatre and performance training in higher education.


From the Ground Up Podcast Teaser image featuring guest profile image.
SoulWork and Soul Searching

SoulWork and Soul Searching

17 May 2023

Culture worker and theatre practitioner Dr. Cristal Chanelle Truscott provides a primer on her SoulWork process, applies it to her present processes, and expands our horizons as artists.