Mississippi Humanities Council Honors Belhaven Faculty with 2024 Award

January 25, 2024 (Jackson, Miss.) - The Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC) awarded Dr. Elissa Sartwell, Belhaven’s Chair and Professor of Theatre, the prestigious 2024 Mississippi Humanities Council Teacher Award. This special honor recognizes the contribution of humanities faculty at each of the Mississippi's colleges and universities.

"I am proud to congratulate Dr. Elissa Sartwell on being honored with the 2024 Mississippi Humanities Council Teacher Award,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Audrey Kelleher. “This recognition not only reflects her outstanding contributions as the Chair and Professor of Theatre but also highlights the excellence of humanities faculty across Mississippi’s colleges and universities.

Each honoree is required to deliver a public lecture of their choosing and relevant to their expertise. Sartwell will give her presentation on Monday, February 26 at 3:30 p.m. Her lecture, “Toward a Theatre of Connection,” will be in Belhaven’s Student Center Theatre and is open and free to the public.

All award recipients will be recognized at the Mississippi Humanities Council’s annual awards banquet in the spring. The Mississippi Humanities Council is a private nonprofit corporation funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities and provides public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi.

Sartwell received her B.A. and M.A.T. from George Fox University and Ph.D. Louisiana State University. She teaches courses in acting, directing, script analysis, theatre history, and dramaturgy. She also directs in the department’s theatre season and serves as the Artistic Director for Belhaven Theatre. 

Sartwell is a director, acting coach, dramaturg, and theatre historian. She is drawn to plays that reflect the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Both as a director and an acting coach, Sartwell embraces Stanislavksi’s later action-based approach to acting, specifically as articulated by Declan Donnellan in “The Actor in the Target.” In classes and rehearsals, she also emphasizes integration of body, breath, and voice. Sartwell has been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for direction, ensemble devising, and dramaturgy.

She enjoys working professionally as a production dramaturg. At New Stage Theatre, she served as production dramaturg for “Silent Sky,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Sweat,” and “Morningside.” While in her graduate program, Dr. Sartwell was a resident dramaturg at Swine Palace where she worked with directors John Dennis, Leon Ingulsrud, and Jane Drake Brody.

As a theatre historian, Sartwell’s research explores the ways in which history is written and codified through performance. Her specific research focus is the performance of ethnicity on the 19th-century American stage. She has presented papers and articles at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Mid-American Theatre Conference, and the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference.