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Q&A with Martavius Parrish ‘14, Teaching Artist, Lincoln Center for Performing Arts

Published By Duke Arts / published on: March 22, 2021

Martavius Parrish ‘14, a teaching artist at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, discusses his experience of switching from a medical track to a Theater Studies major while at Duke. "I wound up performing in Ragtime during the Trayvon Martin tragedy and it changed my life. Amazing mentors and academic advisors. . . helped me emotionally, academically, and logistically shift gears from pre-med."

Major: Neuroscience / Minor: Theater Studies

What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?

Duke’s Theater Studies department and Hoof ‘n’ Horn introduced me to a deeper understanding of the professional world of theater (both onstage and off). I took advantage of opportunities to produce, assistant stage manage, do tech, play in the pit, and perform in shows. I got my first introduction to New York City through the Duke in NY program—that gave me a better hold on the city when I moved there later.

How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?

I attended NYU for vocal performance following undergrad. This gave me the funds to live and work in NYC and a structure for pursuing my career. I also graduated with my Masters in performance, which opened doors for teaching opportunities.

Tips: Find your tribe. Be frugal (even if you don’t think you have to be). Take advantage of the alumni network—it’s fantastic.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?

Theater was initially a “hobby,” but through Hoof ‘n’ Horn and Theater Studies, I realized what it could be at scale and how it could affect people. I wound up performing in Ragtime during the Trayvon Martin tragedy and it changed my life. Amazing mentors and academic advisors (shout out to Karen Murphy and Jeff Storer) helped me emotionally, academically, and logistically shift gears from pre-med.

What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?

My favorite parts are definitely getting to play with amazingly talented people (on all fronts). Getting paid to perform is simply the best situation in the world. The hardest part is definitely the inconsistency—sometimes you don’t work for months, other times, you have back-to-back gigs. It’s about keeping a level head and navigating the terrain with humility, careful planning, and a lot of heart.

What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?

Find mentors and colleagues to learn from and support you on the way—my email is always open to help. There’s also a network of alumni to get you started. It’s a difficult road, but having people who inspire you, push you, and remind you of why you do it along the way is super helpful. Use and explore all the different aspects of yourself—as a performer, you can also do so many other cool things!

Anything else to add?

Again, always here to be a resource for students. If you’re pursuing or thinking about pursuing a career in the arts (especially performance), let me know! My email is mdp2523@gmail.com.

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