Le'Mil Eiland is a current PhD Candidate.
What are you studying at Pitt?
At the University of Pittsburgh, I am studying how Black histories are preserved and reproduced through performance cultures. My research project is in attempts to illustrate how altering historical practices and performance are critical as Black performers crafted race on their own terms and corrected inaccuracies.
How do you see your theatre education contributing to your future goals?
The PhD program has helped me move towards my personal and professional goals in several ways. The program really did support me as a creative scholar and critical artist. Often times when discussing graduate school, conversations about support are regulated to monetary concerns. And truth be told, you should be financially supported. But, in addition, the PhD program supported my developing project. There was always an investment in my intellectual curiosities. And those things are priceless. And as I think about transitioning out of the program I think about how kindness, ethics, and rigor are uniquely and explicitly linked. Pitt nurtured those ideas for me.
Is there a research opportunity, production, internship, class, etx. that has been instrumental to your time at Pitt or in helping you form your post-graduation goals?
A class that has been instrumental to me at Pitt and as I developed my post-graduation plans was Historiography. Whereas we read a curated genealogy on historiography for the course, the instructor allowed us to select our own performance site or event. And as I’d wrestle with applying a differing historiographical method to the same performance event throughout the semester. I, being adventurous, choose The Electric Slide. Having never worked in dance before, I learned the challenges and virtues of interdisciplinary scholarship. I also learned to think about the relationship between methodology and argumentation. I am still thinking about and through concepts presented in that class.
What do you hope to do when you graduate?
When I graduate I hope to continue to teach and create art. Due to the times we are living in, how I do those things are not under my control. But I hope to bridge the gap between institutional instruction and public engagements.
What do you enjoy doing outside of academics?
Outside of academics, I love to cook, especially recipes taught by my grandmother.
Is there something you would like to share that you wish we asked you about?
I’ll end this spotlight by discussing two things I unexpectedly discovered from graduate school. First, the merit of having peers in a range of diverse areas. Once I considered interdisciplinary for my own cultural and intellectual work, I began to listen to my peers differently. I was able to heard the pressing concerns and theoretical orientations that shaped an array of philosophies. I am still grateful for that. And lastly, I think richly and deeply about rap music and other cultural practices often not studied. And in doing so, I am honing my writing and scholarly voice.