Skip to main content

Associate in Arts: Rebekah Brown

Read about Rebekah Brown, an Associate in Arts graduate and her involvement in the College of The Albemarle’s (COA) Performing Arts Center.

When Rebekah Brown watched auditions for COA’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in January 2013, she went solely to support her sister who was trying out for a role.

An extremely introverted and quiet person, Brown had no ambition to be a performer. But two years later, that’s actually what she’s become. She has had significant roles in nearly every production since “Fiddler on the Roof,” as well as worked on set design and production.

But it didn’t come easily, and Brown admits she often felt out of her comfort zone and frequently had to push herself to continue.

Diagnosed with autism at 15, Brown said she had difficulty socializing with people, had no friends and didn’t understand how to carry on a normal conversation. Now, anyone who meets Brown would have trouble believing that description.

“It’s hard to think about a year ago when I didn’t know how to do any of this,” said Brown who graduated from COA in May 2014 with a 3.8 grade-point average and an Associate in Arts degree. “When I look back on the person I was in January 2013, I don’t think I’m the same person. I think I’m just better able to handle life.”

Though Brown’s evolution was gradual, it did not go unnoticed by those she worked with at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). In fact, her transformation was so profound, that along with her academic performance in the Associate in Arts program, it was the reason COA honored her with the 2013 – 2014 Campus Cup Award for the Elizabeth City Campus. That lead to her selection as the 2013 – 2014 President’s Cup Award.

The leadership Brown exhibited both on campus and in the community was significant. In addition to the countless hours she toiled away building sets and props as a volunteer with the PAC, she also volunteered with the Elizabeth City SPCA and the Kid’s First Abuse Center and served as a volunteer sound technician at Evangelical Methodist Church in Elizabeth City.

Steve Woodburn, COA’s former Vice President of Student Success and Enrollment Management, said he remembers seeing Brown during the “Fiddler on the Roof” production. “Rebekah was this quiet person who I knew played softball,” Woodburn said. “She didn’t talk much.”

Slowly that changed, and as Brown volunteered to help with props on subsequent productions, Mariah Schierer, manager of COA’s PAC, said she came out of her shell more and more. As she did, Schierer asked her to take on additional roles both onstage and off.

One day when Schierer realized she was short a dancer for COA’s production of “Carousel.” She saw Brown nearby working on a prop for the musical.

“I looked at her and said, ‘I’m putting you in this dance number,'” Schierer said, adding that Brown became one of the featured dancers in the musical. “She’s so athletic, she picked up on dance pretty easily.” Brown also performed in “Little Women,” “Diary of Anne Frank” and “Wizard of Oz.” In addition to acting and dancing, she also designed props for the productions.

“She has never said ‘no,’ or ‘I can’t,’ to me ever,” Schierer said, who hired Brown to work at the PAC as a part-time employee. “If she doesn’t know how to do something, she will figure it out and come back with something fabulous.”

Brown credits the acceptance and encouragement of the faculty and staff at COA for helping her develop into the socially active person she is now.

“I’m more comfortable being in social settings,” said Brown, who returned to COA to take theater courses as she continues to work at the PAC. “It makes me more comfortable in my own skin.”

“The people here were always encouraging me,” she added. “I’m the one that actually did it, but I never would have done it if they hadn’t encouraged me to.”