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Sabrina Victor on the set of "Infants of the Spring."

Sabrina Victor '18

Sabrina’s pursuit of a dual degree in theater and journalism has shaped the way she thinks about the world, and the mark she hopes to leave on it. By focusing on multicultural theater, she has been exposed to the way race is often portrayed unfairly in theater and in the media. Already a national pageant queen, Sabrina hopes to grow in the spotlight and become a successful actress who will change people’s perceptions of race.

You're a double major in theater and journalism. Could you speak to the connections you find between those two majors?

As a theater major, I am focused mainly on performance because my number one passion is to act, sing, and dance. However, I’m also interested in directing. I’ve also recently started focusing on the study of multicultural theater, and how that can inform my work as a black woman theater artist. I am currently pursuing the multicultural theater certificate. My journalism major actually ties in directly with my theater major, as I am interested in entertainment journalism. Again, I’m invested in telling the stories of marginalized groups and would like to see how my multicultural studies inform my possible career as a journalist.

What do you hope to pursue after graduating and how it will hopefully pertain to your experience in college thus far?

In the future, I hope to one day make it on the big stage, with roles in new and radical works that change people’s perceptions of the world! I’d love to maybe even one day open my own theater studio, dedicated to multicultural and diverse theater. The journalism major in me is interested in freelance writing for magazines, like fashion outlets, or writing reviews for plays and musicals. I also would love to do entertainment reporting. I’m also a national pageant queen, and would be interested in participating in larger pageant systems like Miss USA. Hopefully that will all help me make connections and one day achieve my dream of being a recognized actress.

Given your passion for theater, what performances on/around campus have you been involved in?

I have been in 3 mainstage productions: “The Misanthrope,” directed by Mary Corrine Miller;
“Ta'zieh: Between Two Rivers,” directed by Nikoo Mamdoohi and adapted by playwright Ifa Bayeza  (this was a world premiere we performed outside, and we also took the performance to Boston University). I was also musical director for this show. I also performed in “Runaways,” directed by Lou Moreno (guest director from INTAR Theatre in New York). I am currently in rehearsals for the mainstage production “Infants of the Spring,” adapted and directed by Ifa Bayeza, which will be a world premiere.

I've also been in some student work like the show Thick Skin directed by Gustavo Torres.

In addition to acting, I costume designed “The Body Project 2.0”—a dance performance piece and an honors thesis project directed by Ali Kerr and Kylee Denesha.

Last year, I participated in the Alpha Kappa chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.'s annual scholarship pageant Miss Black and Gold at UMass and won. I moved on to the next rounds, and am now the National Miss Black and Gold.

What are a few of your favorite classes you’ve taken at UMass Amherst? How have they helped form your plans for after graduation?

I enjoyed taking “Introduction to Black Studies” [in the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies] because I learned a lot of key information, such as historical figures, and movements, and this class really informed my decision to pursue multicultural theater at UMass. It also solidified by decision to turn my passions into a career.

I also took a lot away from the course “Covering Race”—an insightful and thought-provoking journalism class. We had so many interesting discussions about how to make sure one's reporting is diverse, and that you are also being sensitive when talking about people of color, and situations regarding race relations. The topics ranged from the presidential election, to police violence, to racism in America today.

One of my all-time favorite classes was “Performing Arts in South Africa,” which I took over the summer. This class presented the culture and history of South Africa, and how the country tells history through monuments, memorials, and theater. We learned the preliminary information through an online moodle course. We then all travelled to South Africa together for 2 weeks. We visited important places such as Liliesleaf Farm, where Nelson Mandela hid from police forces and did political work, and Constitution Hill, a prison where Mandela and Ghandi were both held. We also got to see shows everyday at the Grahamstown national Arts Festival. I saw so much life-changing theater, and I came back to America a rejuvenated and conscious theater maker.

Can you speak a little about your background, what brought you to this point in your studies and career objectives, and what your influences are?

I am a Haitian American born in Miami, Fla.! I take pride in my Haitian heritage, especially because we are the first independent black country. I am also from Brockton, Mass. While attending Brockton High School I was a member of the choir and drama club—part of what led me to study what I do now. I went to Emerson College for one year studying BFA Acting but, due to the high expense of the school, I was forced to leave. I went to Massasoit Community College for one year and lost sight of what I really wanted to do in life. I chose to transfer to UMass and decided I would study my two passions, theater and journalism. It has been a great ride since I've been here.

Aside from journalism, are there other ways that you plan to promote activism and/or tell the stories of marginalized groups?

I plan to move back home to Brockton after graduation. I hope to work on shows in the Boston area—shows that are dedicated to telling diverse stories, whether that’s performing in them or being apart of production teams. I also plan to continue using my pageant platform as the National Miss Black and Gold. My platform, #SpeakYourTruth, aims to encourage those who are marginalized or unheard to use their voices and change the narratives of today, through the use of performance and theater.  To create their own stories. Tell their truths.

What are some projects you are currently working on, or that you are proud to showcase from studies at UMass Amherst?

I am currently working on the production Infants of the Spring, where I will be playing the character Lucille. Our director Ifa Bayeza, a graduate student receiving her MFA in directing and dramaturgy, also serves as the playwright. She took the novel of the same name by Wallace Thurman, and adapted it into a script. The show goes up March 21-30, 2018.

I am also working on the show spell #7 written by Ntozake Shange. Shange is a renowned playwright known for her most famous work for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. She is also sisters with Ifa Bayeza. I am directing the show for my honors thesis. It is a full person of color cast, and goes up May 3-5, 2018.

I also was recently cast as the Mother in [Somerville, Mass.-based] Performing Fusion Theatre's new play Brooklyn Bedroom. It is an original play written by Ayshia Stephenson, a PhD student receiving her degree in communication. We will be presenting the first scene for her dissertation, and performing the show in Boston in the summer.

Given your desire to represent marginalized groups through journalism, are there any recent news stories that have piqued your interest? How have they inspired you, what would you do differently/ what would you continue to do?

I've been very excited by the recent coverage of the new film Black Panther. I myself watched the film, and was pleased with how it is such a beautiful representation of people of color and the many qualities we possess. The film portrays strong, intelligent black women who help keep the fictional country of Wakanda safe. I love how the actors have been speaking about the making of the film and its importance today. POC representation in the media is a topic that doesn't get covered in journalism often, so I was pleased!