Brent Butgereit ′11
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia
Fun Fact: Brent plays piano, harmonica, and guitar
What attracted you to Rhodes?
I was in the process of searching for colleges and my step-sister was going here so I came up for a visit. I thought the campus was gorgeous and from what I was told the classes were intellectually rigorous, just what I was looking for.
How have you been involved with Macbeth?
Hattiloo Theatre decided to produce “Macbeth” in conjunction with Verdi’s Macbeth at the Orpheum last year. Professor Newstok set up his symposium to go along with that, making Macbeth a three part series. The purpose was to bring Shakespeare to the Memphis community, to people who don’t normally see productions of Shakespeare plays. I worked as the dramaturge and while there’s not a universal definition of that term, in America their purpose is to help interpret the text for the actors, relaying information about context and meaning.
How did you get involved in that?
Hattiloo Theatre asked Professor Cookie Ewing to direct the show. She approached Professor Newstok—who was teaching a class on Shakespeare’s plays—and asked whether there were any students who would be willing to work with the cast on the text. At the time I was writing a paper on Macbeth so Professor Newstok asked me if I wanted to be a part of that project.
Did anything come of your work with Macbeth?
After his symposium, Professor Newstok wanted to gather essays from speakers and others about mixed-race and, more specifically, African American performances of Macbeth. I worked on creating a historical catalogue of these performances from around the globe going back as far as the early 1800s. My work was published as an appendix to Professor Newstok’s book, Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance.
Have you done any other research at Rhodes?
I worked with the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies this past summer. Initially, my work was supposed to be a study of African American religious history to assist Professor Bremer with his forthcoming textbook on American religions. My work quickly evolved into a study of Negro spirituals and the blues, mostly around the turn of the twentieth century. I studied the religious and textual aspects of blues and spirituals pieces to try to observe the way these forms of music have been interpreted and what it means for scholars to approach that methodologically.
Are you academically focused on theatre and music?
Actually I’m going to major in Economics, so these are things that simply interest me. I’m really interested in working with the theatre here at Rhodes, and I’ve talked to Professor Ewing about being more involved and engaged in it. I might minor in English, but I’m not sure, and that has grown out of working with Professor Newstok. And I also might minor in Religious Studies, which is why I’m working with Professor Bremer.
Has Rhodes helped you to pursue these interests in research?
What Rhodes does phenomenally well is offer opportunities to connect with each other more easily. I was in Professor Newstok′s Shakespeare′s Major Plays class and because my research there was based on Macbeth, I was able to assist Professor Ewing. My research there was partly trying to make sense of the text, but also to make sense of the social and racial aspects Professor Ewing was incorporating. That paved the way for my work with Professor Newstok on his book. Ultimately, this research on race and art helped make me a strong candidate for a position as one of Professor Bremer′s assistants as he had me research the dynamics of religion and African American culture. Each research position was a stepping stone to the next. Those opportunities would have been there even if I wasn′t around to take advantage of them—but because Rhodes has such a connected community, the transition between these projects was seamless.