Originally from Strongsville, Ohio, Krissy Brown, Wittenberg University class of 2013, became involved in theatre at the age of four, landing a role as an orphan in a local production of Annie. Since then, her tenacity, work ethic, and dedication to teaching others the craft she loves has earned her two distinguished recognitions: the international Freddie G. Fellowship Award and Arts Educator of the Decade.
“I am overwhelmed and grateful, but [I am also] feeling a sense of responsibility to my students and a need to continue to improve myself professionally,” Brown said.
Given to a select group of arts educators each year, the Freddie G. Fellowship Award included an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to train with Broadway professionals, which was regrettably postponed by COVID-19. Like most worthy award-earners, Brown felt driven by this award to work “even harder” to instruct and inspire her students. In January, Brown’s efforts were again recognized, as she was deemed Arts Educator of the Decade for the greater Dayton area by Broadway World, a theatre news website based in New York City.
“I’ve been so lucky to have many opportunities to perform, direct, costume design, light design, choreograph, and participate in every other aspect of the theatre,” Brown said. “I was exposed to all sides of theatre at such a young age that it just makes sense I would be an arts educator today.”
With an older sibling working professionally in theatre, Brown said she was inspired to continue to explore her childhood passion at the collegiate level. In addition to earning a theatre major and music and communication minors, Brown was an avid participant in several theatre productions and dance concerts during her time at Wittenberg.
Brown has since worked to hone her various theatre talents through numerous professional work experiences. She started a youth theatre program while continuing to act in both professional and non-professional capacities. Brown has also served as the Miami East High School music director and has taught courses at Clark State Community College. She currently serves as the arts education director for The Springfield Arts Council and recently directed Frozen Jr. and Oliver. With every new musical production, she continues to experiment with her “ever-changing” directorial style.
“I have directed age 4 to age 80 and continue to learn new things about how to work with actors, technicians, and production staff in each show experience,” said Brown, who was a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Kappa Delta Pi, and the University Honors Program while at Witttenberg.
Brown has received praise and recognition for her award-winning endeavors from many of her past Wittenberg mentors—many of whom she credits with guiding her toward impactful, local opportunities. In fact, Brown stated that she heard about her current position with The Springfield Arts Council from the Wittenberg theatre department professors. From lighting techniques to costume design, Brown continues to utilize the skills she gained as a Wittenberg student.
“Being a part of a small theatre department gave me the opportunity to learn about every aspect of theatre and truly be hands-on in the theatre-making process, which is incredibly important in my line of work, and not something I would’ve been able to do if I [had] attended a school with a larger program,” Brown said.
Though social-distancing restrictions have proved challenging for the performing arts, this new year is already bringing some eagerly anticipated and safe local events. The Springfield Arts Council recently began a new live entertainment series called Downtown Sounds that features rising indie artists. Music lovers can listen to these free performances at the Market Bar in COhatch. Looking forward, The Springfield Arts Council is hopeful that the annual Summer Arts Festival, a free six-week long live music event, will return to Veterans Park after being virtual last year. Brown is personally holding out hope that the Youth Arts Ambassadors will be able to perform a live fall concert this year.
“All of their workshops and performances have been virtual since March 2020, and I am really hopeful that this fall we will be able to gather with a live audience and perform something spectacular!” Brown said.
The abundance of local opportunities is something that Brown encourages current students to explore. Brown admitted that she had originally planned to move to New York City after graduation and “make it big” in “The Big Apple.” Continuously guided by her supportive professors and by local Wittenberg alumni, Brown remains grateful to those who made her dreams a reality.
“While it may not be New York City, Springfield has an incredible arts community, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it,” Brown said.
-By Emily Nolan ‘21