Storytelling Magic


Theater student rewrites fairy tales

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 16, 2018) —  

Each year, thousands of undergraduates from all over the United States participate in the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). NCUR, the largest conference dedicated to undergraduate research in the country, features work from some of the nation’s best and brightest students. Kennesaw State, which will serve as the host institution for NCUR 2019 April 11-13, had almost 100 students present at this year’s conference at the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. Dylan C. Carter of Valdosta is one of many KSU students who have presented at NCUR. 

Dylan Carter, a senior theater and performance studies major, is using his theatrical prowess to tell new stories, turning the world of fairy tales upside down. For the past two years, Carter has participated in NCUR, giving spotlight to performance as scholarly work. Earlier this month, he attended the Georgia Conference on Undergraduate Research and earned the coveted top student researcher award in the creative arts category. He plans to graduate in May.

Dylan Carter

What is your research area?

I explore social issues through historic, popular text. I’ve created a series of fairy tales and I’ve worked on three different tales so far. I write each one and I take the basic structure of the fairy tale and change it in small ways. I begin with a question and hypothesis and perform a case study, in the form of a fairy tale for each. My research is performance based, and although performance can be scholarly, traditionally it is not often seen as academic.

So far, I’ve explored human trafficking through the fairy tale Udea and her seven brothers, and I’ve created a version of Sleeping Beauty where I artificially create a world where queer identities are normalized. In 2019, I hope to address the topic of the environment through fairy tales.

What (and/or who) has been your inspiration for your research?

My niece has been a big inspiration. She always wanted me to tell her stories, and I enjoyed telling them to her. Once, I used her mom’s name – my sister – backward in a fairy tale I wrote.

When I was younger, I couldn’t find stories that resonated with me, and that I wanted to read. So I took matters into my own hands.

From a research perspective, I gained inspiration in class when we studied Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon as part of a theater history course. We discussed race, identity and stereotypes, and in that analysis, we explored dramaturgy – the theory and practice of dramatic composition – and its subtleness within theater and storytelling. I’m able to use that same subtleness within my own research and performance.

What motivated you to get involved with undergraduate research and NCUR?

My interest in research started in the KSU Tellers, a co-curricular storytelling group under the direction of Dr. Charles Parrott (associate professor of theatre and performance studies). He encouraged me to present my story, which would later become my Sleeping Beauty performance, to the College of the Arts’ RadnoculUR (undergraduate research in the arts). Through that process I began to work with Dr. Angela Farr-Schiller (assistant professor of theatre and performance studies). Dr. Schiller is a huge proponent of undergraduate research, particularly through the arts, and with the help of her and Dr. Parrott, I went to my first NCUR in 2017.

What have you gained (or hope to gain) from your experience with NCUR?

One of the best things to come from my NCUR experiences has been the people that I’ve met and the friends that I’ve made. I also like that Theatre and Performance Studies is getting more exposure in the area of research. And of course, it’s great to have the opportunity to attend sessions for other disciplines and to see what others are doing. One session I sat in on was three researchers who were working with NASA, an organization that I’ve always looked up to.

Through NCUR, I also have had the chance to assist in conducting biology-related research in the BioInnovation Lab at KSU with Dr. Chris Cornelison (KSU research scientist and director of the lab), and that’s been very interesting.

People seem to value the research that I’m doing, and because of NCUR, I’m thinking about possibly pursuing a career in academia.

Dylan Carter

What advice would you give to others about doing undergraduate research or participating in NCUR?

In general, undergraduate research is a chance to explore whatever you are interested in. There are projects on dragonflies, and dungeons and dragons, and it might spark an interest in art history or philosophy. There is so much room to explore whatever you’d like. The key to doing undergraduate research is finding a professor who trusts you to follow through on your research and work with you. You still have to bring it, and they rely on you to do the work.

My advice to others who attend NCUR is to go to projects not in your discipline. I suggest that everyone go to one poster presentation, one oral presentation and one performance. Go and explore. Attend the graduate fair, even though it is often heavy STEM. I also think it’s fun to explore the area, even if it’s your own city.

– Tiffany Capuano

Photos by Lauren Kress


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit