Brook Davis, Associate Professor of Theatre at Wake Forest University, sits for a portrait on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.

Growing up, Brook Davis was a self-proclaimed theater brat; she even has memories of falling asleep backstage while her mother worked on a community theater project.

“The theater was my comfortable place,” says Davis, an associate professor of performance at Wake Forest University.

Though she started as a psychology major at WFU, by her second year, she had played Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and switched to a double psych-theater major. After graduation, she earned her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park.

So few were surprised when she wound up teaching theater at Wake Forest more than 20 years ago — and even fewer were surprised when Davis earned the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. “Building the Dream” award.

“I come from theater. Part of what theater does is tell stories to a community — stories about relationships,” Davis says. “We talk a lot about the importance of having an audience in the room, so it’s natural to move out into the community. Try things out. Have them hear what you have to say and listen to their responses.”

The award is given annually to either a teacher or administrator and a student from both Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University who “exemplify King’s qualities and promote diversity within the community.” Moving easily between town and gown, Davis was recognized for her mentorship and volunteer work in local schools.

Humbled by the award named for her hero — she recently took her son to cross the bridge at Selma — Davis sees her community involvement as a natural extension of what she does at Wake Forest. She and her students are now working with Old Town Elementary School.

“In our Theater in Education classes, we use theater games that work with what they’re studying in the classroom,” she says.

Since 2006, she has been the director of Shakespeare Day, a program that mentors and provides performance opportunities for local high school students. She’s a mentor at Paisley Middle School and an adviser for “Seussification of Romeo and Juliet,” where she works with student-teachers on coaching, directing, and producing.

“We’re not just working in the vacuum of theater,” she says. “I also view Wake Forest students working with a wide range of kids as part of my mission.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities in Forysth County, visit Hands On Northwest North Carolina

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