By Andrea Plaid
Isaiah Wooden (left) with Joe Morton. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.
I met Isaiah while I was staying at the home of a mutual friend who seems to gather all who are Black and brilliant into his orbit. Isaiah being a native Baltimorean, I was able to chat with him about the physical and socio-economic layout of what I could see of the city when I was there for the Facing Race conference in November. Considering that he’s this week’s Crush, you know I find Isaiah rather amazing, and I’m all about sharing the amazing in this column, right?
So, here’s Isaiah, in his own words…
Isaiah, my first question is: whatcha studying at Stanford that pulled you way away from the East Coast?
First, I have to say: it is such a pleasure to be in conversation with you again! I so deeply appreciate the work that you are doing at Racialicious and, indeed, in the world. To answer the question: I am currently a doctoral candidate in Theater and Performance Studies (T&PS) at Stanford, where I am in the throes of writing a dissertation entitled, The Afterwards of Blackness: Race, Time and Contemporary Performance. The project begins with the premise that one of the more urgent questions to emerge in what has been theorized as the “post-soul,” the “post-black,” and/or the “post-civil rights” era is: what is the time of blackness? Attending to examples of expressive art, I analyze the aesthetic strategies and practices that several contemporary black cultural producers deploy to dramatize the deeply intertwined relationship of blackness and time and, correspondingly, to critique concepts of normative or modern temporality. The project, in many ways, is reflective of my broader teaching and research interests in twentieth and twenty-first century dramatic literature, theory, and criticism; performance studies; African American studies; (black) queer studies; and popular culture. It also evidences my continued engagements with both theory and practice: I have been fortunate to direct a number of the plays that I take up in the dissertation.
Part of what drew me to Stanford in 2008, in fact, was the T&PS Department’s integrative approach to the study of theater and performance. Stanford has been tremendously supportive of what I call my “directing habit” and, indeed, has provided wonderful opportunities for me to flex both theoretically and creatively during my tenure. I was reminiscing just a few days ago with the brilliant playwright A-lan Holt, a recent Stanford alum, about the time we spent in Kampala, Uganda devising a new performance piece that I staged, along with a colleague, at the National Theatre there. As you might imagine, it was a transformative experience. Beautifully, I have had many similar experiences since venturing westward.