Ashley Lucas to receive 10th annual Shirley Verrett Award

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The University of Michigan Women of Color in the Academy Project will present its 10th annual Shirley Verrett Award to Ashley Lucas for her visionary leadership that demonstrates the power of theatre to change lives and promote social justice.

An award ceremony is set for 5 p.m. May 31 at Stamps Auditorium to honor Lucas, professor of theatre and drama in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance; professor in the Residential College; professor of American culture and of English language and literature in LSA; and professor of art and design in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Ashley Lucas
Ashley Lucas

She also is the current director of Latina/o Studies, former director of the Prison Creative Arts Project, a founding member of the Carceral State Project, and a co-primary investigator on an archival project called Documenting Criminalization and Confinement.

WOCAP notes that Lucas’ mentorship of women, in particular, has been exemplary.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in theatre studies and English from Yale University, and a joint Ph.D. in ethnic studies, and theatre and drama from the University of California, San Diego. She has been a fellow of the Ford Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Faculty Engaged Scholars Program, UNC’s Institute for Arts and Humanities, U-M’s Institute for the Humanities, and Hedgebrook Writers in Residence program.

Lucas’ research and teaching interests include U.S. Latina/o theatre, prison theatre, theatre for social change, and related topics in acting, playwriting, and comparative ethnic studies.

The Shirley Verrett Award was created in 2011 by the Office of the Senior Vice Provost in honor of the late Shirley Verrett, a U-M professor who “would have walked the world over for her students,” organizers say. It is administered by WOCAP and is supported by SMTD and CEW+.

Verrett was a James Earl Jones Distinguished University Professor of Voice at SMTD and an internationally acclaimed opera singer with more than 40 roles during her four-decade career. She was one of the pioneering leaders in the generation of Black opera singers, and her legacy continues to pave the way for female artists from diverse backgrounds.

This year’s award ceremony will include a special guest performance by Marcía Porter, an award-winning soprano and professor of voice at Florida State University. A cousin and former student of Verrett’s, Porter champions female artists and scholars of color at U-M and beyond.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested.

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