Theatre Throughline: Performer and Playwright Amelia Lumpkin ’13 Cultivates Connection On Stage

a young woman wearing bright clothes while in a theatre production

Amelia on stage performing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike with the Cary Players Community Theatre Company.

Amelia Lumpkin ’13 can’t imagine a life without theatre. 

Growing up in Raleigh, she attended magnet schools with well-funded theatre programs that immersed her in everything from acting to playwriting to tech. Although she initially planned to major outside the arts, her first semester at Davidson College was the first time in half a decade that Lumpkin only had one theatre class on her schedule. 

“One class just wasn’t going to cut it,” she said. “I suffered immensely from withdrawal. By my second semester, I submitted to reality and declared as a theatre major.”

Lumpkin had multiple academic interests as a student — she studied both Arabic and Spanish — but she brought her love of theatre into everything she did. As a Bonner Scholar, she especially loved Theatre Professor Sharon Green’s Community-Based Theatre for Social Change class. Helping lead productions for local middle school students and Davidson first-years, she grew to love theatre as a teaching tool. 

After graduating, Lumpkin taught fifth grade in Guadalajara, Mexico, and spent her summers in Raleigh helping run The Justice Theater Project’s summer camp for grade school students. 

“Teaching is one of the ways that I learn best,” she said. “It’s an easy way to be of service and to be in community with people interested in the same things as you.”

Back in Raleigh and working full-time as a design consultant for tech company Slack, Lumpkin spends most of her evenings and weekends at Raleigh Little Theatre, where she both directs plays and serves as the stewardship committee chair on the board of directors. 

“It’s all about building relationships and creating an environment of mutual generosity and gratitude,” she said. ”I truly believe that community theater is a necessary part of society. We need more open spaces where anyone can try something new, tell their story and see themselves reflected on stage.”

The first show Lumpkin directed at Raleigh Little Theatre, a children’s play called My Wonderful Birthday Suit, showcased both her love of theatre and her passion for education. With a colorful, immersive set design, interactive floor seating and a giant puppet named Bobo the bird, it remains one of her favorite directing experiences. 

a colorful stage filled with actors and actresses in bright colors

Cast of My Wonderful Birthday Suit

“After teaching for the past several years, I believe that our kids deserve joyful experiences that are built for them,” she said. “It’s important for them to see that theatre can be fun, interactive and designed for you.”

Last month, Lumpkin witnessed another highlight of her community theatre career — watching her 70-year-old father perform in his first ever play. When the casting call went out for Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, a play that nearly became the first Broadway show written by a Black woman, she encouraged her dad to audition. Both of her parents are long-time theatre patrons, but Lumpkin says the experience has given her a new way to connect with her family. 

She feels the impact of her theatre background on her tech career, too. At Slack, she uses her sharp teaching, presentation and production skills to engage virtual audiences.

“Getting people to retain information takes all kinds of collaboration across different roles, much like putting on a play does,” Lumpkin said. “Theater forces you to be scrappy, resourceful and creative. We do all this in service of guiding an audience through a story that we’ve taken months to dissect.”