Student Work

Decision Height
Decision Height, October 2012

Kennedy Center American College TheatEr Festival (KCACTF)

Every year, we actively participate in KCACTF. In the past five years we’ve had three productions selected to be showcased at the regional festival and compete for the top honors at the national level as well as four original scripts. Our students compete regularly with some of the finest college talent in the country for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Award.

  • 2007: Paper Cup Ocean, written by Rachel Nelson ’07, was selected as a finalist in the KCACTF. The Association for Theatre in Higher Education subsequently honored the theatre department with a cash prize for Paper Cup Ocean in the national student playwriting contest sponsored by the KCACTF.
  • Theatre department chair Ernie Zulia was named outstanding teaching artist by KCACTF.
  • 2013: The Kennedy Center awarded the Hollins Theatre production of Natasha Trethewey’s (M.A. ’91) Bellocq’s Ophelia with the equivalent of four silver medals for production of a new work, performance and production ensemble, scenic design, and choreography, the last by Lexi Martin Mondot ’12.
  • 2013: Meredith Levy ’12 (now a student in Hollins’ M.F.A. program, Playwright’s Lab) received the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award (considered a gold medal) and the regional David Shelton Award for her original script, Decision Height.
  • 2013: Kevin Ferguson, also an M.F.A. student in Hollins’ Playwright’s Lab, was named a national finalist for the John Cauble Award for Outstanding Short Play for his work, Losing Sight.

Hollins Playwright’s Lab and No Shame Theatre

Hollins Theatre provides a home for the Playwright’s Lab, our dynamic M.F.A. graduate program in playwriting, and undergraduates have the opportunity to work with our renowned faculty to explore playwriting at the undergraduate level, and can pursue a concentration in this area.

Recently, two undergraduates produced, directed, and designed productions of plays they wrote for their senior thesis capstone projects. Rachel Nelson ’07 wrote, directed, and starred in Paper Cup Ocean, which was honored by KCACTF, and after her black box thesis production of Decision Height, Meredith Levy’s 2012 original script not only won the prestigious KCACTF David Cohen Award, but it was also given a lavish main stage production directed and designed by Hollins Theatre faculty and professional guest artists. It went on to win the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award in February 2013.

Student-written-and-produced Ten-Minute Play Festivals have become regular events on campus, and many undergrads test their writing muscle at No Shame Theatre, a national phenomenon founded by Hollins professor Todd Ristau. This late-night showcase attracts large crowds and artists from throughout the region.

Student work: “Do it yourself!”

At Hollins Theatre, we work hard to create an atmosphere that empowers students to take the lead and make student-produced theatre. Using the skills they’ve honed while working with faculty, guest artists, and peers in department productions as well as applying classroom knowledge and experience, students are encouraged to direct, design, act, and even write or devise original work in the Upstairs Studio Theatre.

Improv nights are common, and the annual Ten-Minute Play Festival has dozens of students working together every fall to create a sold-out event that has the campus buzzing for days. Senior thesis projects occupy the spring semester and range from fully mounted productions of traditional published scripts to original work written, adapted, or devised by students.

Internships at the Cleveland Play House, and the Alley Theatre in Houston

Every January, Hollins students get the incredible opportunity to intern at two of the nations leading professional regional theatres, not only learning how it’s done in the major leagues, but also making valuable professional connections for the future. We also have a strong relationship with Mill Mountain Theatre in downtown Roanoke, where Hollins students are offered internships as well as professional job opportunities.

Musical theatre

Every year Hollins produces a major musical, offering the opportunity to sing, act, and dance. Shows like Chicago, Into The Woods, and 9 to 5 have been major hits, attracting sold-out crowds. In addition we offer musical theatre training, which includes acting styles, voice, and dance.

Children’s theatre tour

Every January, we form a touring company that rehearses and builds an entire children’s theatre production that tours and performs for over 3,000 school children on the road. Another 1,500 children are bused onto the Hollins campus.

Regional symposium

In January 2007, the department produced a regional symposium on the work of playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Academy Award-winning actress Jane Alexander and Tony Award-winning designer William Ivey Long joined college students from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Radford University, Washington & Lee University, and Roanoke College to celebrate this great writer with the Hollins community.

Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC)

Every March, students from Hollins accompany faculty to SETC, which is the largest theatre conference in the nation. Students are able to participate in diverse workshops as well as audition and interview for summer theatre employment.