Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Juntunen, Jacob


This thesis details the development of the full-length play, DyFuNkTioNal? from conception to the prewriting to full production over the course of the 2017-2020 school year at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. My intentions for writing this play was motivated by six thoughts: (1) the lack of interest within the Carbondale community to provide real opportunities for ethnic groups (in particular, African American preteens and teenagers) to participate in theatrical expression and other art forms that are introduced via art programs; (2) lack of motivation of the African-American teens to participate in the programs that the city of Carbondale provided; (3) my interest in Black feminist theory, which became popular in the 1960s as a response to the racism of the feminist movement and sexism of the Civil Rights Movement; (4) the art of graffiti as it slowly evolved from intolerance to tolerance of females, which leads to the tapping of the “glass ceiling” with the goal to shatter it in the near future; (5) to encourage and educate Black females no matter what age to realize and honor their personal value within society; and (6) to enlightened the viewer of issues regarding African American females whose plight is far different from their white counterparts. As explained by Princeton Professor Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor, “Black women’s experiences cannot be reduced to either race or gender but have to be understood on their own terms” (Smith,, 2018). As the Combahee River Collective Statement read, “We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation is us.” (Smith,, 2018)During the writing of the play, I was inspired by the words of Erykah Badu’s song Bag Lady, which ask women to “hold the mirrors to ourselves and be able to accept that we need work if we expect to catch the buses in our lives. The good parent bus, the education bus, the decent job bus, the healthy self-image bus all requires self-reflection and sometimes that doesn't sound like a bra-burning, ball-busting anthem” (Roricka,, 2010). Therefore, this led to the question, would I be able to honestly create, a play that could positively change the viewer’s perception on the plight of African American women’s struggles of inequality while existing in a patriarchal and racist world?




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