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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Theatre and Dance

Lisa Martin-Stuart Appointed as Department Chair

The University of SC Department of Theatre and Dance will begin the 2014-15 academic year under new leadership, with Associate Professor Lisa Martin-Stuart taking on the dual roles of Department Chair and Theatre SC Co-Artistic Director.

Associate Professor
Lisa Martin-Stuart

The appointment is just the latest new adventure for the twenty-three year veteran of the department, who first visited the University in 1990 as a guest costume draper for Kiss Me Kate, the inaugural production of the then-newly-renovated Drayton Hall Theatre.  At the time, Lisa had been working as a freelance costume designer after spending the previous five years teaching design at the University of Florida and Furman University.  In 1991, her husband’s decision to attend graduate school in the UofSC theatre program brought her back into the Theatre SC fold.

“Todd came here to do his MFA in Scene Design with Dennis Maulden, who we had both worked with in Florida,” Lisa says.  “Dennis was my mentor in my undergraduate years at the University of Florida, and I had later taught with him there, so coming back to work with him was really exciting.  I was originally hired as an instructor to-be, a temporary replacement for the costume designer who was out on maternity leave. The position as head of the MFA Costume Design program opened up the next year, I applied and have been here ever since.”  

In addition to leading the costume design program, Lisa has served as both Director of Undergraduate Studies (2003-2012) and Associate Department Chair (2006-2014) during her tenure.  In that time, the department has seen such major developments as the establishment of the dance major,  the creation of the Lab Theatre and the Center for Performance Experiment, and a substantial growth in the number of professional guest artists hired for department productions.  Lisa says her goal as Chair is to keep that momentum going while looking ahead to new advances, an objective she admits is a challenge.

"All of the growth has been great for the department, however it has lead to some separation of the faculty as we are divided in five buildings across campus.  Trying to keep the sense of connection, continuity and company for the whole department is probably my biggest challenge, to make sure we are all working together toward the goal of creating great scholarship and opportunities for students.”  Lisa also points to undergraduate recruitment, facilities improvement and audience building as immediate department needs.

Lisa will be sharing the role of Artistic Director for the theatre program with Associate Professor (and new Associate Chair) Robert Richmond,  a team approach that she says makes perfect sense.  

“Robert brings so many strengths to the artistic direction side with his extensive work in regional theatre, while I have more strength on the academic side.  We make a good team in that way, and I think we have very simpatico ideas for what it is we want to do.”

Asked what she hopes to bring to her new leadership roles, Lisa reflects back on the leaders who she has served with over the past two decades.

Thorne Compton was Chair when I was hired.  From him, I hope to bring his thoughtfulness and generosity in his approach to people.  From Jim O’Connor, his strength and tenacity in dealing with tough situations.  And, I’ve learned so many things from being the Associate Chair with Jim Hunter for the last seven years.  He has a really global outlook, a calmness and a can-do approach in all situations; I hope to keep that, too.” 

“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” she says with a laugh.  “Sure, I have the concern that I don’t want to let the ball drop.  But I have a good sense of the department, how things have changed and evolved, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and I’m up to the challenge.”