This summer, Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May and Kelly Bremner ’99, Associate Professor of Theater, Women and Gender Studies at Emory & Henry College, each won critics choice awards at the PortFringe Festival in Portland, Maine.
May’s piece Rearranging the Furniture won the festival’s “Voice for the Marginalized” prize as well as a “Magna Cum Laude (so smart)” award, while BREAD — produced by Full Sun Theatre, where Bremner is a principal — won a “PortFringe Pulitzer” for achievement in writing and a “Swipe Right (these artists/this show was hot!)” award.
Though Bremner and May hadn’t met previously, Rearranging the Furniture and BREAD coincidentally shared a bill at the lottery-based, non-juried “fringe festival,” which encourages experimentation, innovation and community engagement. The “dough show,” as Bremner and May nicknamed their shared bill (a reference to the Play-Doh and bread dough used in their respective performances) was a welcome surprise for them both, not only for the strong critical praise.
“The Portland Fringe Festival was an amazing experience. A week in a small city teeming with original art and artists. I was so lucky to get to be a part of it. Now, imagine my surprise when my show got paired with Heather May’s!” says Bremner. “I had been hearing about Heather May’s work from people in the theatre world who know I went to HWS, but our paths never crossed until now. It was a coming-home of sorts to get to work with a professor from my alma mater. It was great to perform for them and for them to see my work. It was also great to catch up about all things HWS over dinner. The best of all, however, was that our work had such amazing synergy. I feel certain we will work together again, and have talked about ways to collaborate at HWS or at my institution. Heather May’s work is so powerful. I am proud we share an HWS theatre connection.”
May echoed Bremner’s enthusiasm for having the chance to share the stage with an HWS theatre alum, calling the experience the highlight of PortFringe. “I’m so grateful to have had the chance to break bread with Bremner and to have been able to watch Bremner and West bring BREAD to life. I look forward to discovering how our work intertwines in the future.”
Rearranging the Furniture was “incited by a round of visits to doctors that left me feeling unmoored,” May says. “This performance is a diagnosis of a disease plaguing us: lack of vision. A reflection on Tiresias, disability and the disorientation of the early days of the Trump administration, Rearranging the Furniture challenges audiences to create space for difference, hold ground that feels increasingly unstable and to learn to love or cut the ties that bind.”
According to Full Sun’s description, “BREAD is a theatrical exploration of the womxn’s body at the brink of midlife. Told through a performative collage of movement and text, BREAD is about what we give up to save ourselves. BREAD is about the body, what it knows, and what it wants and what it needs/kneads. Full Sun Theatre creates new works that illuminate the full fluidity of the female story, emphasizing moments that live in the liminal space and pulling them into the light.”
A member of the HWS faculty since 2013, May is the founder and artistic director of Mosaic NY, a company of student actors that works to create performances that celebrate diversity, provoke dialogue, develop community and encourage the active pursuit of social justice. May is the inaugural recipient of the HWS faculty’s Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award, has served on the Strategic Diversity Planning Committee and was a Fisher Center Research Fellow during the 2014-15 academic year. She earned a B.A. with honors in theatre from Grinnell, an M.A. in drama from Washington University and a Ph.D. in theatre and drama from Indiana University.
Bremner is a specialist in musical performance, applied theatre, devised theatre, directing and civic engagement through performance. In 2017, she earned the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia State Council for Higher Education. She has also been recognized with a YWCA Tribute to Woman Award for excellence in education in honor of her teaching and mentorship of students who have excelled in major theatre competitions. She has received numerous grants and her work has been seen professionally in the Midwest and the Northeast. After graduating summa cum laude from William Smith, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in theatre from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.