Cristal Chanelle Truscott


Doris Duke Impact Award, 2014
Theatre

Houston, TX

Playwright, Director, and Ensemble artist Cristal Chanelle Truscott, PhD creates Neo-Spirituals, her term for the a’capella musicals she crafts using “Soulwork," the comprehensive theatre-making practice she developed from African American performance traditions and aesthetics. As founder of Progress Theatre, she has created several Neo-Spirituals including: PEACHES, a rich, complicated picture of Black female experiences in contemporary America (published in the TCG anthology Plays from the Boom Box Galaxy), and ‘MEMBUH, a family saga that explores the power of remembrance and inherited legacies, both imagined and real. She has received a NEFA National Theatre Project grant and multiple NPN Creation Fund grants. She teaches “Soulwork” at universities theatre programs nationally and internationally, which have included Albeda College in Holland, Wits University in South Africa, Spelman College in Atlanta and Prairie View A&M University in Texas, where she was Interim Department Head of Music & Theatre. Her latest Neo-Spiritual with Progress Theatre, The Burnin’, which reimagines two nightclub fires separated by decades, premiered in 2015 and is currently touring.

  • Photo Credit: Akintoye Moses
  • Cristal Chanelle Truscott- The Burnin' (2015): https://soundcloud.com/cristal-chanelle-truscott/sets/the-burnin-5m-playlist
    Photo Credit: Melisa Cardona
    The Burnin' (2015)
  • Cristal Chanelle Truscott- The Burnin' (2015): /142543742
    The Burnin' (2015)
  • 'Membuh (2004)
  • Photo Credit: Akintoye Moses
    Peaches (2001)
  • Photo Credit: Lee Wexler
    The Burnin'
  • Photo Credit: Lee Wexler
    The Burnin'
  • Cristal Chanelle Truscott- The Burnin' (2015): /142544788
    The Burnin' (2015)
  • Photo Credit: Akintoye Moses
    Peaches (2001)
  • Photo Credit: Leslie Hewitt
    'Membuh (2004)

Artistically, what do you do & why do you do it?

I create “Neo-Spirituals"—or a’capella musicals—consciously, methodologically, and specifically through the lens of African American performance traditions. Neo-Spirituals are descendants of Negro Spirituals, Black Folklore and Slave Narratives; and simultaneously, products of contemporary Black performance aesthetics (hip-hop, spoken word, R&B, the blues, etc). My work aims to continue the legacy of performance traditions that were necessitated to communicate the urgency of survival, identity, dreams, and autonomy. Technically, my plays are musicals, but that doesn’t capture their “soul.” Meaning: there is song, but its not about singing; there’s movement, but its not about dance; there are characters, but its not about acting; there is story, but its not about crafting a linear play. The dream is to explore the most compelling, honest, unflinching ways of approaching questions of humanity, inclusive of race, class, gender, and spiritual identity—in the service of unity through diversity, cross-community healing and understanding.