My Winthrop Experience

T. Fulton Burns '99
Residence: Greenville, South Carolina
Degree: Theatre performance
Occupation: Educator, South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities

Imagine the most epic fight scene from your favorite movie or theatrical production. The perfect punch, kick or illusionary slap — known as stage combat — is intricately choreographed by professionals like T. Fulton Burns '99.
The Winthrop alumnus, now an educator with the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, didn't know when he first came to Winthrop University that he would become a theatre teacher or even a teacher at all.
"I originally came to Winthrop with the idea of being a history major and then going on to become a lawyer. This was after I had worked as a professional dancer and felt that going to college was about getting a specific kind of career. I thought that great jobs had to come outside of the arts," Fulton explained.
As an undergraduate, a theatre appreciation class with Blair Beasley ignited two things: his passion for the arts and his interest in teaching.
"I realized I was a child of the arts and this was where my passion truly was," said Fulton, who later shared with Marc Powers, a previous chair of the theatre and dance department, that he wanted to become an educator. Other influential faculty include: Anna Sartin, Alex Starr, Mary Beth D. Thompson and Anne Fletcher.
Fulton said the experiences as a theater major/dance minor were about figuring himself out and coming into his own.
"It was the fact that the entire department was focused on serving the students' professional goals not just mine," Fulton said.
His theatre professors supported many of his goals, including a pivotal one during his senior year at Winthrop when he directed the production of "The Serpent" in the Johnson Studio Theatre.
"I still hold the entire cast and creative team in such high regard. They all trusted where we could go with the show and this paid off with not only sold out performances but we added an additional show which was a huge honor for us all," Fulton recalled.
He has carried that creative high with him throughout his busy career. He obtained his M.F.A. from Western Illinois University and has garnered several teacher certifications (Society of American Fight Directors, Expressive Actor Technique, National Michael Chekhov Association) that have led him to teach fight directing, stage combat and movement at schools and universities in California, Montana, Illinois and Alabama.
And in 2017, his career came full circle when he was able to return to South Carolina, more specifically to Winthrop, to teach theatre majors — 18 students became certified in stage combat — in the very space he discovered his passion.
"That was a very proud moment for me as both an instructor and an alumnus," said Fulton, who came back to support Winthrop productions of "Hamlet," "Extremities," and most recently this past April, "She Kills Monsters."

Whether he's teaching students at Winthrop or the Governor's School of the Arts — in addition to being a certified yoga instructor — Fulton said his biggest sense of pride comes from watching his students succeed in their craft.
"I love watching a TV show or movie and seeing someone that had been in one of my classes succeeding in their goals. This is why I teach for their needs, which is what I learned from Winthrop University," he said. "[Winthrop] is an amazingly supportive community that truly fosters students' ideas and helps us to become better versions of what we want to become and accomplish," Fulton added.
Fulton has worked as an assistant director with playwright Moises Kaufman, collaborated and performed with the Living Theatre, danced with Charleston Ballet Theater and Greenville Ballet, and has worked with Cirque du Soleil's production of "Quidam."