W&J alumnus challenges perspectives through theatrical works

Ty Greenwood headshot

WASHINGTON, PA (Oct. 29, 2019)—Ty Greenwood ’17 doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations; he invites them. While the young playwright and former Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) communication arts major writes works some may consider controversial, Ty is successfully challenging perspectives and using his art to change the status quo.

Ty first put up a show of his own at W&J, where his play This Kind of HATE served as his senior capstone and the live production was his Honors Project. The work focused on black identity in America and Ty’s perspective as a black man on timely issues, including police relations with the black community.

Following his graduation, Ty enrolled in a program with a focus on theatrical research at Miami University of Ohio, but quickly found it wasn’t the right fit for him. The creator in him was itching to return to writing, and he applied to Carnegie Mellon University’s playwriting graduate program using This Kind of HATE as part of his application, earning a spot in the program.

His work has been experimental in style, including choreographed and poetic movements, and focuses on the black experience. His choice of topics have been bold and compelling, ranging from a 10-minute play about two teenagers struggling with addiction to a three-act work on a future dystopia where nearly all non-white people have been wiped out in a genocide carried out by the Klu Klux Klan.

“I always try to make thought-provoking things. I want to start conversations and encourage action,” Ty said. “A lot of my work is political in some ways, but it’s about being unapologetically black as well and what that looks like in the theater space. That’s a hot topic in theater right now—diversity in the space.”

His work at CMU has culminated in his senior thesis play, NIGGA, DIGRESS, a five-part examination of a theoretical all-black space with movements on pain, anger, affirmation, prayer, and a celebration of the black spirit.

Ty is aware that the play’s title—and potentially, a surprise moment in the fifth part—may cause discomfort in audience members, but that’s the point.

“I’m interested in hearing everybody’s experience—including white people. You have to learn how to be in a room with a lot of people who don’t share your experiences. You try to show them a different lens through which you see the world and hope that they respect that although it’s different from their own, it’s real,” he said. “I want you to feel what this is like and go through that journey. It’s bold, it’s fierce, it’s challenging, but it’s definitely something I think is good for everyone to experience and talk about.”

NIGGA, DIGRESS is on stage at City Theatre in Pittsburgh on Nov. 15, 16 and 19. Tickets are free.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.