Allison Vincent: Theatre Maker and Educator
Allison Vincent (BA ‘10, English and theatre arts), winner of CLA’s 2022 Alumni of Notable Achievement Award, is heavily involved in the Twin Cities arts community. She says she “would not be the person [she is] today” without the connections she formed during her time as a student, performer, and writer in CLA. Now Vincent finds a home for her professional creative work both on the stage and in the classroom.
What do you do professionally?
I am a teaching specialist with the First Year Writing Program at the University of Minnesota through the Writing Studies Department—I just started this new position in August. Additionally, I’m a professional theatre maker. I have performed, directed, and written for the stage since graduating from CLA in 2010. I am also a teaching artist at the Guthrie Theater and Loft Literary Center and freelance as a writer and performance teacher around the Twin Cities.
How are you involved in the community?
I’m very fortunate to be involved in a number of communities. As a former teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools and now here on campus, I engage with students as they explore rhetoric, engage in scholarly conversations, and develop their own unique voice as a writer through my education community.
I’ve been a proud member of the Twin Cities theatre community for over a decade. I have served as a performer, director, writer, producer, board member, and avid audience member. I think our arts community is one of the most important aspects of our culture as a society. Without the ability to express ourselves and share each others’ stories, creating community becomes virtually impossible.
Lastly, I’m a member of the Queer community. Although I’m getting older, and don’t go out dancing as much as I used to, I still advocate for equality, participate in community events, live authentically and unapologetically, and try to lift up the voices of LGBTQ+ folks whenever I can.
How did your time in CLA inspire you to pursue your path?
This might sound cliche, but I really found myself during my time in CLA. As a performer, I discovered the physical approach to acting that really spoke to me and was able to work with my professors to develop a specificity that enabled me to be playful and make bold choices on stage. I also was fortunate to work with guest artists who invited me to collaborate after graduation and encouraged more connections and opportunities to practice my craft in front of audiences.
As an English major, I found two incredible mentors in Judith Katz and Professor Shevvy Craig. Judith pushed me to put my own creative work on stage and to make space for myself by writing my own roles where none existed for folks who look like me. Professor Craig convinced me that I was a scholar, and her incredible patience with my overly expansive, meandering thesis project allowed me to find my research focus and tie together my two disciplines. Working with both of these mentors was transformational for me not only as a reader and writer in the English discipline, but also as a future teacher.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a student?
My favorite memory as a student was when I got to present Tony Kushner with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters through CLA. It felt like a surreal culmination of everything that I had been studying at that moment: English literature, theatre, Queer studies, and the slide from the liberal, artistic Weimar, Germany to Nazism.
Because Mr. Kushner was debuting his new play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, at the Guthrie, the whole arts community was putting on Kushner plays. Another beloved mentor of mine, Lisa Channer, directed A Bright Room Called Day for the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance and I was playing Zillah, a fiery activist from New Jersey who had somehow found herself in a Berlin apartment haunted by the ghost of the woman who lived there during the Weimar Republic.
I was able to express to Tony Kushner, in person, what his work meant to me. That is a memory I will forever cherish.
What advice would you give to current CLA students?
I strongly advise students to take advantage of the incredible resources here on campus. CLA has such a wealth of assets including new technology and tools to utilize, access to scholarship from around the world through the library systems and databases, and some of the most brilliant, creative minds in the country all occupying the same space as you.
Be curious. Go to office hours. Find a mentor. Ask questions. Make connections. If it wasn't for my connections in the English and Theatre Arts & Dance departments, I would simply not have the career I do today. And, I certainly would not be the person I am today. Make the most of this time and space by educating yourself on what is available to you and then working hard to take advantage of it.
How do you spend your free time? What "fills your cup"?
My favorite way to spend free time is traveling with my wonderful wife, Leslie, or hanging out reading or watching movies on the couch with her and our dog, Murphy. When I’m not grading essays, I also love noodling around with my own fiction, playwriting, and creative nonfiction. Although not technically "free time," I love being involved in the theatre community here. I love seeing shows around town and supporting the incredible local artists we have here in the Twin Cities.
What was your reaction to receiving this award?
I was surprised, shocked, and incredibly honored to be selected. It means a tremendous amount to me to get to share space with these other amazing alumni.
What's next? What are your personal/professional goals for the next five years?
I’m absolutely loving my new job as a teaching specialist in the First Year Writing Program. It is such a joy working with students on their writing and becoming better communicators.
This December, I'll be performing a solo show I've created as part of the 2022 Pillsbury House + Theatre Naked Stages Fellowship about caretaking for my father as he succumbed to dementia. As an extension of this experience, I’m hopeful to continue my exploration of both solo creation and producing my own work by collaborating with artists I admire and seeking funding opportunities to bring the arts to different communities. I’m also interested in further pursuing my writing both for the stage and the page and diving into research for some new projects that I have marinating.