Little Theatre’s big impact

on May 15 | in Giving | by

Gift makes building better than ever

Elizabeth McDonnel '62

Elizabeth “Libby” Hall McDonnell ’62 and her husband, James, in the theatre’s lobby.

Hollins’ 550-seat proscenium theatre was constructed in 1924 at the height of the “Little Theatre” movement, a trend toward smaller, more intimate theatre that began in response to the advent of motion pictures. And it was the students who made the Little Theatre come to vibrant life.

Before the holidays in December 1922, a notice appeared on a campus bulletin board: “If you have the Hollins spirit, come back after Christmas with a pledge for $30 or the $30.” The administration’s initial reluctance to support such an ambitious project vanished as students proved they could successfully lead the charge. The enthusiastic student body of slightly more than 300 women raised the $40,000 needed to build the facility. The New York Drama League called it “the best equipped theatre south of Washington.”

As Shakespeare said, “The wheel is come full circle.” A former student has shown that same vision and initiative to keep the Hollins Theatre thriving for future audiences. In 2009, Elizabeth “Libby” Hall McDonnell ’62 and her husband, James, took a great interest in the theatre’s pressing needs. Recognizing that today’s students and future theatre-goers would require more than what the 1924 facility offered, the McDonnells pledged $3 million to transform and update the space.

Thanks to the commitment from the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation, the theatre underwent a comprehensive renovation over the past three years. In addition to an accessible entrance and restroom, the gift brought new electric rigging, lighting, sprinklers, flood control, paint, carpeting, motorized blackout shades, and—finally—air conditioning.

At last October’s performance of Decision Height (written by playwriting graduate student Meredith Levy ’12 about the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs), the Hollins Theatre was dedicated in honor of the McDonnells. The benefactors were also inducted into the Levavi Oculos Society, which honors Hollins’ most generous donors whose cumulative gifts surpass $1 million.



1842 Society event

More than 100 members of the 1842 Society and Miss Matty’s Circle enjoyed a weekend last November in Atlanta. In addition to a tour of the World of Coca-Cola (pictured), alumnae and friends enjoyed a gallery talk by Susan Cofer ’64 on her exhibition at the High Museum, a tour of Civil War artifacts at the home of Bo DuBose (father of Elizabeth DuBose ’89), and remarks by Distinguished Young Alumna Award recipient Catherine Wannamaker ’96. Enjoying the World of Coca-Cola tour: Donna Fuller ’66, Suzanne Whitmore ’60, Knox Goodman ‘56, Jo Ann Mooney ’60, and Betty Pearson ’62.

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