Kelly Bremner, Department Chair, holds advanced degrees in English, Music and Theatre, including a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her fascination with multidisciplinary spaces between music, theatre, and dance led to a dissertation focused on political utopias tied to the phenomenon of Total Theatre.
She is a specialist in musical performance, Applied Theatre, Devised Theatre, Directing and Civic Engagement through performance.
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Ph.D., M.A. Theatre
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY
I see theatre and the way I teach it as a way of taking students into new areas of exploration and critical thinking, especially for students of rural America who have more limited exposure to live theatre. I have become a fierce advocate for the importance of theater in rural settings as equal to or even more important than, the theatre presented in major cities.
I have noticed that students often explain away the importance of their own work (It is “just” a college production. It is “just” a performance in rural Virginia. I am “just” a college student). The beautiful thing about the theatre is that to fully appreciate it, you must see it live, which means there is no such thing as “just” anything. By extension, this would imply that the theatre we produce on our campus has much more importance to the people in our community because we are right here. We encounter our audiences before, during and after a performance. We live out our work in an ongoing theatre “talk back” with the communities we serve.
Her teaching has been recognized by the YWCA Tribute to Woman Awards for Excellence in Education, The Arts Alliance Achievement Award from the Arts Alliance Mountain Empire for her regional contributions in 2018 and by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, including the 2017 Outstanding Faculty Award for teaching at a liberal arts college.
Bremner’s scholarly interests include Appalachian Theatre, Applied Theatre and developing new works and that connect the stage to social and civic issues.
Bremner has received numerous grants to pursue her passion in creating new innovative musical performances and her directing work has been seen professionally in both the Midwest and the Northeast. Her expertise in singing-acting has been sought after by the Ryan Opera Center at the Chicago Lyric Opera where she has taught acting workshops. Bremner is also an active literary dramaturg who helps playwrights fine tune their original works, through places such as Barter Theatre’s Appalachian Festival of Play and Playwrights and beyond.
Recent productions at Emory & Henry include Spring Awakening by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, micro plays Unseen (by Silas House), and Church of Gilead (book by Catherine Bush, music by John Haggarty) produced as a part of the Department’s Outbreak play festival and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Simon Stephens based on the book by Mark Haddon.