Playwright’s Lab Director Earns Kennedy Center Theatre Festival Honor

Todd Ristau

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) has presented its highest award to the director of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University.

Todd Ristau, who has guided the M.F.A. program in playwriting since its inception in 2007, has received the KCACTF Gold Medallion, one of the most prestigious honors in theatre education.

The medallion recognizes “individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry, and enthusiasm to the development of the KCACTF.”

In announcing the award, the KCACTF praised Ristau for having “demonstrated innovative leadership in the field of new play development and [making] a tremendous impact in the vitally important area of nurturing playwrights and new plays. Todd Ristau works tirelessly to bring quality instruction and experiences to students. An innovative and engaging teacher, he has developed a program that truly puts students at the center, fostering the individual growth of each playwright’s style rather than turning out a specific type of playwright.

“One salient example of the Playwright’s Lab’s contributions is student Meredith Dana Levy, 2014 winner of KCACTF’s National Student Playwriting Award for her play Decision Height, which has been published by Samuel French and has enjoyed over 40 productions to date.”

“To say we are proud of Todd Ristau and all the members of the Hollins Playwright’s Lab is about as big an understatement that one could make,” Ernie Zulia, director of the Hollins Theatre Institute, told The Roanoke Times. “Receiving such an honor brings a national spotlight to Hollins and Roanoke, affirming our goal to be an ignition point for new work in the United States.”