Faculty Spotlight


Sara Culpepper



After more than a decade at Emory, Professor Sara Culpepper knows she made the right decision. But this wasn’t always the case. “Honestly, I thought I didn’t want to teach,” she notes. “Initially, I wanted to work only in professional theaters, and for a while that is what I did. Eventually, however, I began to miss the exploration and unique discovery process with students.” 

Professor Culpepper serves as a lecturer in the Department of Theater Studies and as a scenic artist and scenic designer for Theater Emory. For those new to theater she notes, “[m]y job is to create an environment that supports the story or script, and my approach incorporates the integration of the human form within its environment. Thus, I have to translate text into location and explore how the characters interact with the audience.” 

Research plays a significant role in Professor Culpepper’s discovery process, and she pulls from a wide range of sources: design history and theory, personal experience, emotional responses, line, texture, and color. “Each of these are essential to my composition and design.” Sharing this work with students, and engaging them in the process, is a consistent, and exciting, challenge.

Professor Culpepper invites students to join her in creating theatrical designs, showing them how to work collaboratively--with each other, with new materials, and with a design. Noting that she feels “very fortunate” to have found Emory because of the academic department working so closely with a professional theater company, Professor Culpepper reflects on the opportunity this relationship offers:  “I work with faculty who are professional artists and talented, intelligent, and committed students. We feed off of one another’s curiosity and creativity. It’s the best of both worlds.” Her work with students often continues after they graduate, with many theater alumni continuing to live and work in the Atlanta area. “Many of our alumni live and work with local and nationally acclaimed theaters and film and television in the Atlanta community,” she comments, “and this provides an opportunity for our students to see how what we do, and the art we create, crosses so many different facets--and phases--of life."

Lydia Fort



"I am a theatre director – a world creator. I bring powerful, relevant plays to life onstage and educate young artists for catalyzing social change," explains Professor Lydia Fort, Theater Studies newest faculty member. 

Arriving Fall 2017, Professor Fort has quickly committed herself to engaging theater students and the broader Emory undergraduate community, and has been thoroughly impressed by what she describes as "[Emory's undergraduates'] passion, their commitment towards putting their knowledge and talents towards improving the world."

When asked how her work with students and research support Emory’s academic plan, Professor Fort notes she sees an immediate connection to a deeper engagement with Atlanta, something she notes theater and the performing arts are uniquely positioned to do: "It is my hope that my future at Emory will allow me to create coursework and programs that unite the theatre program with the greater Atlanta community. Using theatre for creative community development and advancing social justice is a core pillar of my own and being able to unite that with one of Emory’s pillars is why I am thrilled to be at Emory."

Noting that many students are attracted by Emory's ability to strike a balance between STEM and the Arts, Professor Fort discusses the importance--and relevance--of "STEAM"--that is, STEM fully integrated by the Arts.  "The performing arts and theatre specifically help to nurture one’s creativity. More and more scholars are recognizing that creativity is essential in every field. From science to math, it is the creative impulse that drives innovation and productivity." Commenting further, Professor Fort notes that what makes the liberal arts so valuable is that it seeks to educate the whole person; and as a systems thinker, education should seek to develop the interrelated nature of the human brain.

Theater Studies and Emory University look forward to an academic community running, more and more, on S.T.E.A.M power.