They call her Momma. Students, colleagues, alumni … everyone wants a little love from Joy Vandervort-Cobb.
She’s happy to give it, but be forewarned: Half the time it’s tough love she’s dishing out. The associate professor of African American theatre and performance laughs that she has a “nurture/murder” relationship with her students. Sometimes she helps them put the pieces together – sometimes she cracks them in half.
“If you fall short and I think you can do better, I growl,” says Vandervort-Cobb, who arrived at the College in 1994. “I’ve been known to attack.”
For Vandervort-Cobb, being a teacher is much like being a parent, and she considers it important to coax her students into doing their best. The stage, she explains, is a place to be provocative and a place to reveal feelings and emotions not otherwise expressed in routine life.
“It’s a place to holler,” she observes. “It’s a place where I want to start a dialogue.”
Besides teaching, Vandervort-Cobb’s career has included much acting and directing. In recent years, she’s performed to rave reviews her own one-woman, autobiographical show, Moments of Joy, during Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
Vandervort-Cobb shrugs off the acclaim. What’s more, she says people only call her Momma because she’s “round.”
Don’t believe her. People at the College, with all of their hearts, call her Momma because they love her.