Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Mary Carroll-Hackett

Second Advisor

Brett Hursey

Third Advisor

Susan Stinson


The purpose of this thesis is to explore the ways people cope with being labeled an outsider. As a result of this purpose, themes such as cultural identity, mystical curiosity, and self-empowerment are also exploded. The Ballad of Dixie Rae Blackwater and Other Tales is made up of six screenplays that feature characters who, whether they realize or not, are disconnected from society and its norms, and therefore are pushed into the background. However, I hope to show that- the overlooked often have the best stories to tell. Considered a magical realism forefather, Alejo Carpentier said the essence of magical realism is "to seize the mystery that breathes behind things," and I strive to expose that which lives behind in my writing. I am inspired by Tim Burton's freaks, Woody Allen's neurotics, and Charlie Kaufman's infectious absurdity and never-ending possibilities. Their writing reminds audiences that there is no black and white, that the unbelievable is all around us. That mystery is what Alberta Bluedove is out to find after a childhood of being the odd girl out in my screenplay The Bluedove Girl. And through the beautifully grotesque characters of Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Jackson, and Edgar Allan Poe, I am reminded that the most interesting human thoughts and experiences can happen in the quietest of moments. In Barnabus and the Gnome, Barnabus makes a garden gnome his son as an effect of the loneliness he feels from having no one to walk by him in the universe. My title screenplay The Ballad of Dixie Rae Blackwater features a woman, Dixie, who knows what it's like to be overlooked, and she recognizes a young man on the verge of uprooting the peace with which he's been blessed. Dixie does a little cleverly-guided storytelling to prevent him from choosing to go down a road he'll end up alone on, and she thankfully succeeds. Though they are flawed, all of these characters are strong, and their determination to chase what "breathes behind things" helps them find their way. These characters are my kin, and they are who I work to put on paper. Each is on a journey to carve out his or her home in the universe. With these characters by my side, I hope to carve my own.



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