Robert Porterfield Scholarship

About the Scholarship

The Robert Porterfield Graduate Scholarship is awarded to a student pursuing a graduate degree in theatre. Robert Porterfield was the founder and longtime director of the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA. A charter member of SETC and a co-founder of its annual auditions, he continued to support the organization throughout his career. When the Endowment Fund was created, Bob became SETC’s first life member, and the Board later named its first scholarship in his honor.

‏‏‎2020-2021 Winner

Stepanek Headshot - Porterfield 20-21

Katherine Stepanek

Katherine is a scenic and lighting designer, currently a graduate student at the University of Tennessee for scenic design. She graduated from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in 2012, with a double major in Theatrical Lighting and Scenic Design. She has worked professionally as a designer and an assistant throughout the country, including two seasons with Shawnee Theatre as both the resident lighting and scenic designer, four years as an assistant scenic designer for Dunsi Dai in St. Louis and as assistant lighting designer at the Repertory Theatre in St. Louis. Currently, she works as a scenic and projection designer at the Clarence Brown Theatre, a LORT Theatre in Knoxville, TN, and as a freelance designer.

She has also worked outside of the traditional theatre, designing a book store, an art gallery, a restaurant, a concert venue, and a bar. Additionally, she has worked with the art departments for Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Along with being a graduate student in Tennessee, Katherine will continue freelance designing with ANU productions in Dublin as an assistant for their new immersive show in October; an assistant directing a show at the Clarence Brown Theatre with Kate Buckley; and designing a set for the Clarence Brown, as well as assistant designing. She has upcoming scenic designs in Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Nebraska; lighting designs in Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri; and projection designs in Tennessee and Florida.

  • Applications Accepted: Jan. 1 – April 1, 2020
  • Application Reviews / Candidate Interviews: April – June 2020
  • Winning Scholar Announced on SETC Website: June 30, 2020
  • Scholarship Funds Available: Upon Proof of Matriculation, 2020-2021 Academic Year
  • Winning Scholar Attends SETC Convention: 72nd Annual Convention
  • $2,000
  • Free one-year SETC student membership
  • Free registration for the 2021 SETC Convention
  • Photo and bio recognition on the SETC website

Candidates must meet each of these qualifications to be eligible for this award:

  • You must be planning to attend an accredited program of graduate studies in Theatre during the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • You must have graduated from, be currently attending, or have plans to attend an accredited academic institution in one of the following 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia.

For consideration, eligible candidates must submit the following materials by the deadline:

  • A personal letter outlining plans and objectives
  • A complete resume
  • Three letters of reference speaking specifically to the applicant’s potential as a graduate student
  • Complete, current transcripts from all colleges/universities attended

Questions about submitting application materials should be sent to

Scholarship Stories

Recent Porterfield Scholars share what winning the scholarship meant to their studies and how the award funds helped them pursue their ambitions:

Liz Haynes headshot

Liz Haynes!

Liz Haynes is a Technical Director from Nashville, TN ( She began her college studies at Clemson University graduating with a BA in Production Studies in Performing Arts and a BA in Modern Languages with an emphasis in Spanish. She currently resides in Las Vegas where she is a third-year graduate student in the MFA Technical Direction Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. With a passion for sustainability in the performing arts, Liz is formulating her thesis on sustainability in entertainment production, focusing on systematic ways for any size performing arts company to make renewable and reusable choices regardless of staffing and monetary resources. Her professional work has taken her throughout the country to South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts and Nevada. With a background in carpentry and a love for fabricating custom furniture, Liz honed her skills in the theatre through a range of positions with Porthouse Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Chautauqua Theater Company. Liz returns each summer to Chautauqua Theater Company as the Technical Director, where she oversees the build and rigging for seven shows in nine weeks as well as facilitates the education of carpentry and scenic painting apprentices. A believer in maintaining positivity in all facets of her life, Liz switches her steel toes for hot pink fringe cowboy boots and goes line dancing most Wednesday evenings.

Jane Reichard ~ 2018-2019 Scholar

“The Porterfield Scholarship was very helpful to me in my graduate studies (MFA in Costume Production from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). I was able to use the funds to buy materials for my portfolio projects including digitally printed fabric, new tools, and supplementary books for my classes.”

Leah Thomas ~ 2017 Scholar

“SETC has been an organization that has set me up for success for nine years now! Through SETC I was connected with my first professional gig out of undergrad, and receiving the Porterfield Scholarship made it possible for me to afford a summer opportunity that led to the completion of my thesis project in graduate school! As I begin my new role of Director of Education and Engagement at Victoria Theatre Association, in Dayton, Ohio, I have to stop and recognize that I did not get here by myself. This organization jump started my career that has made it possible for me to make connections with theater companies far and wide, and I am forever grateful. ”

Joseph D’Ambrosi ~ 2016 Scholar

“I am so thankful to SETC for its emphasis on the professional and academic growth of graduate students in multiple subject areas in theatre. It’s an incredible honor to represent this organization as the Porterfield Graduate Scholar. As a Ph.D. student in Theatre History and Literature at Indiana University, I will use this award to further my scholarship opportunities at future theatre conferences.”