For many of the California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) students who will graduate May 15 and 16, being conferred a university degree will significantly help them to find a career, a calling, or even a future.
For theatre arts major Audrey Edwards, the years she spent on stage at CSUDH as an actor and scholar has helped her find a voice.
“When I was little I was super shy, super little and had no voice. But getting on stage helped me find my voice,” said Edwards, a Los Angeles resident who first began performing in middle school. “I wish I could have found the arts when I was younger, but I have it now and I want to use it to help inspire others.”
Edwards likes dancing equally well and enjoys modern, African, and Middle Eastern dance, and dabbles a bit in hip hop. But she’s not always performing. She also enjoys working behind the scenes as a stage manager, a role she performed last year for CSUDH’s Department of Theatre and Dance’s presentation of “Topdog/Underdog,” a play written by African American playwright and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks.
Edwards was also stage manager for assistant professor of theatre arts Sharrell Luckett’s one-woman show “YoungGiftedandFat,” which ran for three days last summer in CSUDH’s Edison Theatre. She will stage manage the play once again, but this time off campus—in fact, Off Broadway in October.
“What’s exciting? I get to work Off Broadway and receive that wonderful experience,” said Edwards. “What’s scary? We’re going to be Off Broadway.”
Edwards, along with fellow theatre arts major Megan Stewart, presented an investigation of the power politics in “YoungGiftedandFat” at San Angelo State University earlier this year, and was invited to get their work published in a top peer-reviewed journal.
Edwards’ passion extends well beyond the stage. She received an internship from Freedom Schools to participate in its Read Lead program and will travel to Tennessee for training this summer.
“After I finish my training, I’ll be helping young kids with reading, literacy and social entrepreneurship here at Cal State Dominguez Hills,” she said. “We are reaching out to young people who are underserved in school to teach them how to read, write and get involved as social activists in their communities.”
At CSUDH, Edwards is also vice president of the Performing Arts Club, assistant facilitator with the Performance Studies and Arts Research Collective in the Department of Theatre Arts, and was a lead Instructor for CSUDH’s High School Theatre Festival. During last year’s festival, Edwards taught a poetry class with a friend, and performed excerpts from the Department of Theatre and Dance’s student production of playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s acclaimed play “In the Red and Brown Water.”
“We had students in our class visit an exhibit about border crossing in CSUDH’s Art Gallery, and then come back to class and write a poem about a piece that inspired them in some way,” she said. “When they presented their poems, one girl cried. It just seemed to touch her so deeply.”
Edwards attributes much of her success in the arts to the rigor of the education she received at CSUDH and to the professors in the Department of Theatre and Dance, especially Luckett, who she says is her “absolute favorite.”
“It’s a small program, so the professors are really present for you and always accessible,” she said. “They put a lot of time into you and your work, and in return, expect a lot out of you.”
After she graduates from CSUDH, Edwards will “take a little break from college” to work on her applications for Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) programs, and other projects during the summer.
“I’ve been invited to UCLA in June to check out their MFA program. I’ll also be working in a festival of featured artists hosted by the Los Angeles Women’s Festival,” said Edwards. “After I earn my MFA, I’ll continue my education and get my Ph.D. My ultimate goal is to open a performing arts center for inner-city youth. I want to help build confidence and self-awareness in kids. When you’re confident you get so many more opportunities in life. Performing did that for me.”