In spring 2019, K’yundra Martin got the opportunity to portray Angel, her dream character in the play Marisol, an apocalyptic, coming-of-age story that addresses homelessness and environmental destruction set in New York City. Martin describes Angel as one of God’s favorites, a commanding, determined warrior. Presented by the Department of Theatre and Dance, the 1993 Obie Award–winning show was directed by local theater legend Sharon Graci. The experience gave Martin a taste of the theater world beyond the classroom.

“It was a life-changing experience,” says Martin.

In more ways than one – for it was that performance that led to her receiving the Emmett Robinson Scholarship, awarded in the memory, honor and recognition of a man who was a leader, artist, teacher and innovator. Recipients are selected based on their leadership and artistry.

“The theatre faculty have long awarded this scholarship to a senior theatre student who most exemplifies the traditions and traits of Emmett Robinson,” says Todd McNerney, associate dean of the School of the Arts, “and none have been more fitting than K’yundra Martin.”

Martin was completely surprised when Brent Laing, a senior instructor in the department who taught Martin Acting 1 during her freshman year, presented her the award. “It was like coming full circle,” she says.

From a young age, Martin spent many afternoons at a community theater within walking distance of her home in Seneca, S.C. Her passion continued to grow through middle and high school, and in her sophomore year, she played Florence in The Curious Savage, a comedic play about an elderly woman whose husband died and left her
$10 million. Martin was moved by the story and her character’s struggle with mental illness, and the experience gave her confidence to pursue theater in college.

As an incoming freshman at the College, Martin was awarded the R.E. Davis Scholarship for students involved in the arts. The financial support has enabled Martin to spend time doing the things she loves: working with students and performing. Instead of having to work to help pay the bills, she can volunteer her time and give back to the community. “As a senior, I can say to younger students, ‘I was once in your shoes and look where I am now,’” she says. “It helps them to know that everything is going to be okay.”

Over the years, Martin has been a vocal advocate and champion for students within the theatre department and across campus. These leadership roles include working with incoming students as a peer facilitator and team leader, peer academic coach and orientation intern. She has also been on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council for the School of the Arts for two years. As a past president of Center Stage, a student-run organization, she helped create several productions and continued to refine her acting skills.

Martin laughs at the suggestion that she has an overflowing plate and says, “I’ve learned to find the time for the things I enjoy.”

Looking back on her time at the College, Martin is grateful for the opportunity to learn a wide range of skills from costume design to scenic/lighting design and technology, and, of course, performance. She has learned the importance of being fully present in a role, ignoring the worries about who’s in the audience and allowing herself to be truthful to her character.

“What I love most about theater is the life-changing impact it can have on actors, designers, directors and, most importantly, members of the audience,” she says. “It’s a feeling I will never get used to, but it’s one that I want to be a part of forever.”

Featured image of K’yundra Martin by Aleece Sophia