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Northwestern School of Communication

Cristal Chanelle Truscott

Associate Professor
Rooted in Black performance traditions, Dr. Truscott’s SoulWork methodology centers ancestral knowledge and contemporary consciousness to nurture artists and culture workers through a culturally responsive studio practice that expands creative power. As a playwright/director, she creates a capella musicals, “NeoSpirituals,” that span and straddle time between histories and the present to envision and encourage more just, equitable futures.



Area(s) of Expertise

Acting, Black studies, Directing, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Social Activism and Impact
Cristal Chanelle Truscott

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,” as well as the 2023 United States Artist Award, the Creative Capital Award, MAP Fund, NPN Creation Fund, and NEFA National Theatre Project grants.

As a culture worker and artist, Dr. Truscott is director of SoulWork Studio and has led Progress Theatre in using art as anti-racism to connect communities via a broad, deeply linked grassroots network fostered nationally and internationally. She writes a capella 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. These include PEACHES (in Plays from the Boom Box Galaxy, TCG Books), ‘MEMBUH, and The Burnin’. Plantation Remix, her current work-in-progress, is a site-responsive NeoSpiritual to radically re-imagine the separatist genre of heritage tourism by rehearsing a contemporary, multi-cultural, future-building “afterlife” for historic sites related to slavery in the U.S. Her plays 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.

Dr. Truscott’s scholarly research investigates and excavates oral traditions, cultural knowledge and community practices as performance methodology for use by artists/practitioners, educators, community-invested programs and arts organizations seeking to offer inclusive, dynamic artist training, curricula and/or programming. As a performance studies scholar, she researches and writes about spiritual diversity in African American Theatre and the arts' essential role in movements for liberation using the theory she developed called the “Cultural Conservatory.” She has served as assistant editor of the performance journal TDR: The Drama Review; associate editor for Azizah Magazine; and on the editorial boards of the publications Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory and Black Masks Magazine.


PhD, in Performance Studies, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
MA, in Performance Studies, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
BFA, in Theatre with a minor in Africana Studies (cum laude), New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, Experimental Theatre Wing (ETW)

Selected Awards and Honors

  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts, Social Practice Artist-In-Residence, 2022-2025
  • Pop Culture Collaborative & Pillars Fund Narrative Change Fellow, 2020
  • Creative Capital Award, 2019
  • New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) National Theatre Project Grant, 2018
  • Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellowship, 2017
  • MAP Fund Award, 2016
  • The Idea Fund Grant, 2016
  • Network of Ensemble Theater’s Exchange Grant, 2015
  • Doris Duke Foundation for the Arts’ Impact Artist Award, 2014
  • National Performance Network Creation Fund Grant, 2013

Selected Publications

Professional Organizations and Affiliations

  • Alternate ROOTS: Intersection of Art and Activism (ROOTS)
  • Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)
  • Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET)
  • Black Theatre Network (BTN)
  • Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)
  • Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts (DDFIA)
  • National Performance Network (NPN)
  • Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP)
  • Arts x Culture x Social Justice Network (ACSJN)