Featured Faculty
CofC Home Page The Students Special Thanks Feedback
Department of Communication College of Charleston Home Page

Professor Patrick Harwood
Department of Communication


Professor Joy Vandervort-Cobb

Professor Joy Vandervort-Cobb


The Heart and Soul of the Theatre Department
By Icelynn Baldwin

On a regular day in the Theatre Department you can find a heavy flow of traffic going in and out of this professor's office. Many of her students call her the "Momma" of the department, and she has the persona that matches her nickname.

Joy Vandervort-Cobb started at the College of Charleston in 1994 and is today an associate professor of African American Theatre and


Performance. Vandervort-Cobb began her career almost 30 years ago with the Freedom Theatre in upstate New York. She says she never anticipated becoming a theatre professor; her aspirations were always to be acting in a theatre.

"Unlike directing and teaching, as an actor, I only have to worry about my character and its connections to the other folks on the stage- not the entire world of the play or the classroom," she says of how the responsibilities of an actor differ from those of the director and teacher.

But direct and teach she has! Vandervort-Cobb has directed nationally, regionally, and locally. Nationally her works include "From the Mississippi Delta," "Dreamgirls," and "Purlie." Regionally Vandervort-Cobb has directed "Crumbs from the Table of Joy," "Trouble in Mind," "Angels in America," "The Colored Museum" and many other productions.

Here at the College of Charleston she has directed "Chocolate on the Outside," "Trouble in Mind" and others. She says her favorite play that she directed at the College, to date, has been "Funnyhouse of a Negro.""I liked directing "Funnyhouse of a Negro" because it was a challenge, and the staging was some of the prettiest work I've ever seen done," Vandervort-Cobb said.

Currently, Vandervort-Cobb is working on her new project called "Jackie, Vi, & Lena" by David Barr.

When asked if there has ever been a play that she wanted to direct but felt the College of Charleston was not ready for it, Vandervort-Cobb says no. "This is the perfect place to do what you want," she says.

She is looking forward to her plans of directing several plays such as "The Story" by Tracey Scott Wilson, "Jar the Floor" by Cheryl Ward and possibly "Before it Hits Home."

Todd McNerney, Theatre Department Chair, says, "Joy is the heart and soul of our department. Her office door is always open for both formal and informal advising and our students take advantage of it. JVC is one of the very special faculty at the college, and someone I am proud to call friend."

After being spoken so highly of, Vandervort-Cobb had nothing but great things to say in return about the theatre department. "It's like family including the students," she says. "It is caring and nurturing here. Here I am really free to express and students can learn from the diverse set of teachers."

Vandervort-Cobb is admired by many of her students who often call her "Momma." Her students are how she chooses her work. "If my students are engaged in a play that I am reading in class that I never thought of doing then I will explore it more," she says. "I like plays that are button-pushers, and I like exploring with students, myself, and the community."

As for artists she admires, Vandervort-Cobb mentions the work of Morgan Freeman, Dael Orlandersmith, Whoopi Goldbergh and August Wilson. She proclaims Prince, who she absolutely loves, and Spike Lee, as brilliant geniuses.

Although, she likes and respects the college and its students, they are not what brought her to the College of Charleston almost 13 years ago. She was pregnant with her second child and was merely looking for work when she was offered a position as an adjunct professor. Her two children, oldest son JonRoss and youngest, daughter Jaymie, are her soul inspiration.

In the future, Vandervort-Cobb's main focus is to be on her kids and writing.

"I want to empower my kids to help them find out what they are to become, and in some ways I hope I do the same with my students," Vandervort-Cobb says. "I believe in karma; hopefully some teacher will take the time to leave an impact on my child as I hope I am leaving with a few of my students."

To learn additional information about Professor Joy Vandervort-Cobb please visit www.cofc.edu/theatre/bios/vandervort.html.