Alumni Spotlight: Chauntee Irving (MFA ’19)

chauntee in The Lion king

After receiving her BA in Theatre with a double major in Political Science from the University of Richmond in 2003, Chauntee pursued acting in New York. She has been a professional actor for almost two decades; her long résumé of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Broadway National Tour, NYC and regional productions includes performances in The Lion King, Dreamgirls and the national tour of The Producers.

When Chauntee and her husband Morgan were ready to start a family, she decided to pursue a career in theatre education. Chauntee entered the VCUarts Theatre Pedagogy MFA program in 2017.

After experiencing issues of tokenism, beauty standards and more as an actor, teaching a more diverse student body at VCUarts was refreshing.

“As a Black student, it was a beautiful experience. For the first class I taught, it was 70% Black students … a first!”

chauntee with current undergrad student tevin davis
Chauntee (left) with Tevin Davis, one of the students in the first acting class she taught and now a rising senior.

She’s now living in the Bay Area teaching at the American Conservatory Theatre, as well as holding workshops for universities and other programs. “I feel like there was a bit of cultural shift of being a female, Black actor-professor. I still had to validate myself, especially with older males.”

She says one of the challenges of teaching theatre pedagogy is that, “It has little background in history culture or history; most of it’s from Stanislavski and The Group Theatre, which has nothing to do with incorporating the culture.” Chauntee has expanded her own research to world theatre, including Asia, South America and Latinx traditions.

“I can never erase myself as a Black professor,” she says, “and I want pedagogy that doesn’t erase us.”

When Chauntee started teaching, young actors asked her the very same questions she grappled with as a young person in the theatre industry. Chauntee started The Simple Actor as a place to find mentorship and ask questions. The Simple Actor is described as “an online community for actors everywhere … a forum to share experiences, find support, and define and gain success in their acting journeys.”


Written by Liz Hopper and Jerry Williams for the July 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.

Lead image: Chauntee as Nala in The Lion King