"Stud" dares to explore the reaches of art and the depths of self-identity

Director Ryan Travis and his ensemble of young men set out to expose the realities and falsities of the modern male African-American experience in a new derived theatrical performance.

Ryan Travis sits at the head of a table at Syracuse University's Arts Engage center downtown. He listens intently as a black SU student explains the story of his first experience with racism as a child.

Suddenly, Travis springs from his seat, raising his hands over his head and explaining an idea for transferring the student's story from the table to the stage.

"My directing process is completely organic. I don't hand out scripts," said Travis, director of SU's Community Theater Initiative. "I'm essentially devising a play out of the lived experiences of the actors."

Travis is the creator and director of "Stud: A Play About Black Male Masculinity and Sexuality." The play premieres at the Community Folk Art Center Black Box Theater on March 1 at 7:30 p.m., and will be performed by eight black male Syracuse University students, Onondaga Community College students and Syracuse community members.

The main concept for "Stud" is the struggle black men face when arriving at manhood. The play is mainly derived from improvisational techniques beginning with the story of a young man from Syracuse's southside who is torn between his city life and his newfound college life. 

Travis said he hopes the play will provide a new perspective on what it means to be a man of color. During his rehearsals, which take place a few times a week, he likes to take time to hear the stories of the actors own experiences with masculinity and sexuality. Travis and the actors discuss the different perceptions people have of black males: aggressive, violent, ignorant and uneducated. 

At a rehearsal last week, Travis, who also teaches in SU's African American Studies department, had a group of the actors view a documentary on slavery. Travis said he hoped the documentary could help the actors understand slavery's effect on modern-day black masculinity, a concept they'd incorporate into the play.

The play's title, "Stud," is in part an illusion to slavery, as "stud," as well as "buck" were racial slurs directed at black men. 

Travis said he hopes "Stud" will be an enlightening experience not only for the actors, but for the greater Syracuse community as well. After all, "Stud" is an opportunity for young black males to depict their real-life experiences to an audience. 

"In many arenas the narrative of the black male is often suppressed or told or depicted by someone other than him," Travis said. "What happens if we just let them speak?"

Stud Performance

Professor Ryan Hope Travis,

You and the students did an outstanding job with the "Stud" performance and I trust you will be doing more of these performances in the future.

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