Q&A with Kailey Liddell '23
Why English Language and Literature?
I've loved writing ever since I was little; being creative and being able to tell stories has always been a major passion of mine. I came into Pace with my major undecided, and really loved all of the creative/performance-based classes I was taking! I always tell people that being an English Language and Literature major feels like being in a really fun book club where you also get to effectively learn how to write and analyze, so I knew that it was the right fit for me.
I am from Southern California originally, and I’ve always wanted to come to New York City. I knew of Pace through a lot of my performing and acting friends, and the thought of being surrounded by artistic people was so appealing to me! After touring Pace, it just felt right, and I knew that I would really be able to grow here.
Tell us about your on-campus experience
I absolutely adore the entire English department! I have felt so included in the department, even though I didn't officially declare my major until the end of my sophomore year. All of the professors are amazing and truly care about each individual student. Professor Sid Ray has ultimately been a huge support for me! She has really helped me find my voice in my writing, as well as mentoring me in so many different aspects.
What on-campus research have you performed?
Editor's note: Kailey was awarded the Provost Undergraduate Research Grant for the 2022-2023 academic year for her project, "The Lost Black Involvement in American Theater," with Professor of English Sid Ray.
My research project, “He is Our Bard as Well as Yours”: Recovering the Lost Black Involvement in Early American Theatre,” has really become such an important part of not only my education at Pace, but ultimately, my life. The main purpose of the project is to recover the lost history of William Alexander Brown and the African Company, an all-Black theatrical company in New York City in the early 19thth century. These amazing people changed history and paved the path for Black performers, yet their story is relatively unknown.
Why is your research meaningful?
This isn't just a research project; I really can see this being momentum in the movement towards justice for Black actors. Throughout the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the rebirth of theater throughout the pandemic, we've seen a lot of promises of change and progress. What better time to acknowledge the pioneers of Black theater? You can’t claim to fix the present without fully acknowledging the past. Ultimately, my goal is to be able to help un-silence silenced voices. A lot of history surrounding early American theater happened under our feet (Pace sits on top of so much history!). I feel a really strong responsibility to educate people about it, and then make physical, actual change.
This project also truly fits in to who I am as a person. I am biracial (half-Black and half-White) and that has continuously been a major aspect of my life. The research surrounding the African Company really feels like a fusion of my two main focuses in life: social justice work and theater. When researching the actresses of the African Company, I feel so connected to them and obligated to make their stories known. Who are we to follow in the footsteps of people whose footsteps have been erased from history?
What extracurriculars are you involved with?
I am in the Pforzheimer Honors College and the Pace Storytelling Fellowship for Equity and Inclusion. Being in the Honors College has been really great because of the one-on-one attention that students get, and how truly kind everyone is. The Fellowship started this spring, and I have already learned so much about being a working writer and fostering my voice. I'm also a Residential Assistant in the residential halls. I love being able to help first-year students, and I’m reminded of the excitement of being in college in the city every day! I'm really blessed to be in these organizations, and I'm truly thankful for the mentors and leaders that I have met.
What are your graduation plans?
Ultimately, I want to be a playwright. I want to be able to create and tell stories of the people who are often silenced. I think that theater can be such a powerful tool to help inspire change, and it would be so fulfilling to be a part of that.
Any advice for current students?
Listen to yourself always, and in whatever you do, really fight for your point of view. I think this is such a confusing period of time where we as young adults really discover who we are as individuals. Injecting your soul (which I know sounds super intense, but just go with it) into everything that you do truly makes everything in life a passion project.