MAFC Graduate Integrates Faith and Theater
For eight years in Houston and Los Angeles, Sara Kumar worked as an electrical engineer by day and a theater artist, writer and director by night. In 2010, Kumar stumbled across the University of St. Thomas Center for Faith and Culture website and flew to Houston that weekend for a visit.
"I've always been a free spirit," Kumar said. "I went to Houston on a whim and I fell in love. I met Fr. Donald Nesti, CSSp, and everything clicked; the way he presented the conflicts I was experiencing between faith and culture in my own life resonated with me and I knew I was supposed to be here. I called my boss and said, 'I have to take a leave of absence.'"
Kumar's six month leave of absence quickly turned into dedicating two years to the program. She is among the first six graduates of the Master of Arts in Faith and Culture program and is one of 323 undergraduates and 747 graduate students graduating during the 62nd Commencement Ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12 at Reliant Arena, One Reliant Park.
"I was living in that Hollywood culture and environment and I was going through my own metamorphosis," Kumar said. "I had stumbled upon some difficult things in my personal life; I was going through a conversion and it led me to question and want to know more about my faith."
The MAFC graduate program provides working professionals, educators and ministers with an intellectual and practical formation program that responds to the demands of living in today's culture as a people of faith.
"My favorite part of being at St. Thomas is that your faith can be incorporated into everything," Kumar said. "The spiritual component of St. Thomas allows for an integration of disciplines that can't happen on a secular campus."
Kumar, originally from Houston, earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Rice University at the recommendation of her father, but said her true interest has always been theater. Attending UST has not stopped her from pursuing what she loves.
"Over the past two years, not only did I get to do the academic work, but I also got to go after my real passion of writing and acting," she said. "For my group project, I wrote a play based on the life of Mary Magdalene. It's a conglomeration of Gospel characters, my own tinges of life experiences and the writings of Anne Catherine Emmerich, blending music, dance and humor."
Kumar ran a theater production company in Los Angeles and transferred the company to Houston. She hired a director and more than 20 professional actors to produce the play.
"Sara is an incredibly creative person who is able to integrate science and the liberal arts," said Fr. Donald Nesti, CSSp, director of the Center for Faith and Culture. "She has proven the value of our Master of Arts program in Faith and Culture. The fact that she has written a play which incorporates the insights she gained through her studies gives witness to the diverse ways of bringing the Gospel to our American way of life. She has made an immense contribution, as well, to building a sense of community among our students in the program."
In the fall, Kumar will be attending Columbia University in New York to earn an MFA in Playwriting and she hopes "Magdalene" gets picked up on a New York stage. She wants to address issues on a human level through media, music, dance, drama, art and television.
"Everyone emphasizes the importance of careers, but I think that it's important not to worry," Kumar said. "If you have the luxury to sit and stop and think and meditate and discern in your heart what you're called to do, your biggest dreams can come true because they will match up with God's dreams for you. At the Center for Faith and Culture, the opportunity is there."
"Magdalene" is presented in association with Paragon Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the performing arts to understand and impact the relationship between faith and the many cultures that constitute the American way of life to promote dialogue and solve real-world problems.
The play will be performed at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays the weekends of May 4-20 at Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak Dr. Tickets are $15 or $10 for students or groups of 10 or more, available at tickets2events.com. For more information, email Greg Arbogast at firstname.lastname@example.org.