Michael Breslin’13 has been awarded Hamilton’s prestigious Bristol Fellowship. The Bristol Fellowship was begun in 1996 as part of a gift to the college by William M. Bristol Jr., (Class of 1917). The purpose of the award is to perpetuate Mr. Bristol’s spirit and share it with students of the college that was such an important part of his life. Created by his family, the $22,000 fellowship is designed to encourage Hamilton students to experience the richness of the world by living outside the United States for one year and studying an area of great personal interest.

Breslin, a theater major, will undertake a project titled “Gender Play: Displaying, Transgressing, and Transcending Gender Identity in World Theatre,” and travel to Germany, Poland, Australia, Indonesia and Japan.

According to his proposal, he will “work alongside actors, directors, playwrights, and audience members to understand the process of creating and performing theatre that addresses the display, transgression and transcendence of gender identity. I am looking at gender not as a fixed category, but as a fluid collection of performative behaviors that constitute the opposing social identities of ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ …. I want to understand how theatre artists and audience members alike enact and react to this complex gender play. I am seduced by the prospect of exploring the visceral power of theatre within different cultural contexts to both reinforce and liberate gender identities, bringing out everything we are as humans.

Breslin hopes “to experience the process of creating, performing, and attending theatre that displays and transgresses cultural ideas of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine.’ I want to examine the direct relationship between culture and theatre, especially why and how artists perform pieces that expose the multifaceted aspects of gender and how audiences respond to these performances. By living, working, and generally getting to know a mix of people both inside and outside of artistically thriving communities, I want to discover theatre that grapples with diverse issues of gender performance.

“Given their complex political, economic, and social histories, especially considering gender relations, Poland, Germany, Australia, Indonesia, and Japan are the most compelling, though not the most popular, theatre cultures to visit. They represent eastern and western theatrical traditions, and conventional and experimental theatre cultures. I will volunteer and cultivate personal and artistic relationships with companies and artists who both intentionally and unintentionally rupture gender identities. It is also essential for me to spend time with audience members to share the thrill of live theatre that presents gender spontaneously and playfully.”

Breslin spent a National Theatre Institute semester at the Moscow Art Theatre School in 2011. In 2012 he served as company management summer intern at Adirondack Theatre Festival in Glens Falls, N.Y. At Hamilton he is a performer and assistant director with Main Stage, where he has performed major roles in theatre department productions of Orestes 2., Slaughter City and Wet. Breslin is performance director of a capella group Duelly Noted, and was director/producer of Shakespeare in the Glen (Twelfth Night) in which he also performed as Malvolio. He created and hosts a WHCL radio show, Diva Discourse, that addresses feminist and sociological theory through contemporary pop music. Breslin is co-founder of College Without Walls (CWW), an independent study of experimental/alternative education.

The Bristol Fellowship is intended to be highly personal and is open to all interested Hamilton seniors. Proposals are evaluated based on inquisitiveness, a spirit of adventure, depth of personal interest, and openness to other cultures. While not a requirement, proposals are also considered for their sense of family connection.   

William Bristol served as a Hamilton trustee, president of the alumni association, fundraiser and benefactor. He was one of seven generations of Bristol family members to attend Hamilton, dating back to the chartering of the college in 1812. Mr. Bristol’s great, great-grandfather became one of the college’s first trustees after helping to found the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, which later became Hamilton College in 1793.

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