Theatre Professor’s Road to Self-Acceptance Leads to Prestige and Solo Show

Sharrell_80Sharrell D. Luckett can’t believe her good luck.

The assistant professor of theatre at California State University, Dominguez Hills was not only accepted into the highly selective and prestigious Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab this summer, but she’s gearing up for the world premiere of her one-woman show on campus.

“It’s overwhelming, sure, but also serendipitous that it’s all happening at once,” Luckett said. “It feels like it was just all supposed to happen now, and I’m grateful.”

Luckett, a self-described “theatrical maven,” is an award-winning director and producer of over 65 shows who has also co-penned four musicals. A successful actress, playwright and songwriter, she has taught performing arts for over 16 years in Los Angeles, New York and her hometown of Atlanta.

Her acceptance into the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab in New York City came as a shock to Luckett, as only 70 from 200 world-renowned applicants are chosen every year. The intensive three-week residency in July allows her to share and exchange knowledge and artistic impulses with directors, designers and actors from all over the world.

According to Luckett, it is extremely difficult to get accepted into the Lab.

“Directors will try their entire careers to gain entry, but don’t get in,” she said. “Artist colleagues in my industry keep reminding that this is a huge deal. I’m honored, elated, surprised and excited!”

Luckett maintains that it’s not just a personal victory.

“This is CSU Dominguez Hills’ achievement as well,” said Luckett, who has been a faculty member at the university since August of last year and hopes to absorb as much information during the Lab for her students. “I’d like to bring back inventiveness, new ideas, and new ways of approaching theatre and character building to my students.”

Before she jets off to New York however, she’ll be taking the stage for the world premiere of her one-woman show, “YoungGiftedandFat,” on campus from June 12-14 in the Edison Studio Theatre.

The play follows her journey from morbid obesity to 100 pounds lighter through the use of music, acting and dance. Luckett says the idea for the play came to her a few years ago while completing her doctoral dissertation. She had lost weight and was having a difficult time transitioning from being known as a “fat” woman to one who became “visible” to other people. flyer3

“The stark difference between the way thin people and fat people are treated is horrible,” said Luckett. “I had been invisible to so many people for so long because of my size, and it wasn’t until I lost all that weight that I noticed people being friendlier to me, men trying to talk to me, people not judging me if I went back for a second helping,” she said.

Luckett said that though she always knew there was a prejudice against those who were overweight, it didn’t become crystal clear until she “had seen both sides.”

Luckett, who was pursuing her Ph.D. in theatre with an emphasis in performance studies and Africana performance at the University of Missouri-Columbia at the time, decided to channel her experience into a one-woman show.

“I realized that no one had ever put on a show like this before,” she said. According to Luckett, there are performers who have put on shows promoting the fat acceptance movement, but there had never been one from the perspective of a woman who had been on both ends of the weight spectrum.

“It’s one thing if you’ve only ever been overweight,” she said. “You only know your own experience. I experienced both, and I still couldn’t believe the difference in people’s opinions and actions toward me. It’s why I wanted to put on this play; I’ve got this unique perspective to be able to say, ‘this is so wrong.’”

Luckett plans to engage with the audience in a “talk ‘fat’ session” after several performances, where she will speak more in depth about her identity struggle after weight loss.

“There are a lot of issues about sexuality and relationships that I address in my show, so I want to make sure I take the time to flesh that out more,” she said.

Just a few weeks after the show, she will also be presenting at the ninth International Conference on the Arts in Society at Sapienza University in Rome.

“It’s going to be all about the play, so it’ll be a nice transition,” Luckett said. She plans to discuss at length the dichotomy of what it’s like being both overweight and slender, and how performance arts is a way to express her frustrations, confusion and wonder at the transformation she underwent both physically and emotionally.

Luckett says she has always been drawn to the performing arts and says some of her biggest achievements have been in sparking a love of theatre in her students.

“I’m so proud of my students and their accomplishments…their achievements are my own.”

In fact, several of them will be working on Luckett’s show. Theatre student Audrey Edwards will be the stage manager while dance student Megan J. Stewart will be the assistant director.

“I tell them it’s OK to be nervous, since even I’m nervous,” she said. “But we’re surrounding ourselves with intelligent, positive people, so I’m confident it’ll turn out great.”

Click here for more info on “YoungGiftedandFat,” including show times and ticket prices.




  1. Bravo, Sharrell! Let’s fill up those seats at the Edison June 12-14th to see and support our talented colleague! Here’s a link for buying seats

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