12 March 2024 Roc '24 Wins SETC Young Scholars Award

Research by Christina Roc ’24 on the Smith Opera House earns national honors.

Christina Roc '24 holds a dress rehearsal presentation of her paper in Williams 201.

Christina Roc ’24 was recently awarded the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) Young Scholars Award for her research paper titled “Vaudeville, Romance and Shuffle Along: An African American Musical and the Rearranging of the 20thCentury Theatre.” Roc, a theatre and English double major with French minor, was the sole undergraduate winner of this award, which garners submissions nationally.  

Roc initially wrote the paper for Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth’s “Theatre History II” class in Spring 2022, as part of a larger class project connecting the history of The Smith Opera House to larger national theatre history, working in collaboration with Historic Geneva.

“Reconstructing theatre events and their significance can be especially challenging when addressing matters of race and gender in the early twentieth century,” says Woodworth. “What makes Christina's research so compelling is the way she is able to make sense of what ended up on the page in terms of theatre reviews for “Shuffle Along,” while also reading between the lines to unpack the complex dynamics of Black women's roles. She has crafted a paper that simultaneously amplifies the success and beauty of “Shuffle Along” while also deftly critiquing its colorism and sexism and how the work was appropriated by white theatre producers and artists.”

“I really wanted to continue exploring Black voices,” shares Roc. “My paper goes into the musical’s greatest achievements, like bringing Blackness to Broadway for the first time in a decade (and having it stick around), but I also get into the racist and sexist aspects of the musical, and how these are equally as important to note and be aware of.”

Roc’s work describes how “Shuffle Along” was both progressive and flawed.

Roc’s experience of living in Geneva and diving into the history of the city and Smith Opera house is one she treasures. “Peeking into the lives of individuals and making connections and exploring possibilities was enlightening,” Roc says. “There is so much to be found about Black individuals from Geneva, or Black individuals who visited or put on a show here, like “Shuffle Along,” and it's incredible what can be pieced together from what remains. It can be sad, too, because sometimes there just isn't a lot to work from, a lot that's been lost or deemed unimportant or erased, and that's just a reminder of that racist past still lingering. What prejudice has forced us to lose. But all in all, I still learned a lot.”

The fourth HWS theatre student to win this award, Roc will travel to Mobile, Alabama, for the annual SETC Convention March 13-17, where she will present her paper and be honored at a luncheon.

“Winning this award, to me, is a sign that my writing and research is worthwhile and that I can and should share it when I can,” says Roc. “There are places for my scholarship, places for my ideas, and people willing to listen. This might be a bit dramatic, but it also feels like a sign that there is no such thing as silence when it comes to things that matter.”

Roc is also completing an Honors Project in Theatre this semester, writing and revising a new full-length play, which will have a staged reading in late April. 

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