Will Shutt MFA ’09 Receives Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly

schuttPoet Will Schutt, who earned his MFA in creative writing from Hollins University in 2009 and went on to win the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets competition last year, has received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly for his first collection of poetry, Westerly, published by Yale University Press.

Publisher’s Weekly is widely considered to be “the bible of the book business” and publishes approximately 8,000 pre-publication book reviews each year.

The review of Westerly notes, “The latest winner of the venerable Yale Younger Poets Prize turns out to be terse, well-traveled, resolutely unfashionable, and, finally, wise,” and concludes, “everything in [Westerly] heralds a seriously important career.”

Schutt’s poems and translations appear in Agni, FIELD, Harvard Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He has also received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the James Merrill House.


Hollins Named to 2013 Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service

honorFor the sixth time, Hollins University has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). By recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve, the program annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement.

The CNCS has administered the award since 2006. In addition to this year, Hollins was recognized in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. (The President’s Honor Roll was not produced in 2011.)

“Communities are strengthened when we all come together, and we are encouraged that these institutions and their students have made service a priority,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Civic engagement should be a key component of every student’s education experience. Through reaching out to meet the needs of their neighbors, these students are deepening their impact, strengthening our democracy, and ultimately preparing themselves to be successful citizens.”

College students make a significant contribution to their communities through volunteering and service, according to the most recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country – a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.

Hollins offers students a number of ways to get actively involved with community service. For example, the annual Day of Service helps new students connect with the Roanoke Valley during their first week on campus. Students Helping Achieve Rewarding Experiences (SHARE) recruits and places student volunteers with a variety of community agencies and organizations. Sandusky Service House is a campus residence hall where students are required to perform at least ten hours of volunteer work each month and promote service activities on campus and in the community. And, for more than 20 years, the Jamaica Service Project has invited students to spend Spring Break helping an impoverished community in the island nation.

The CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

 


Kennedy Center Bestows National Recognition to Hollins Theatre, Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University

bellocq'sThe Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) honored a Hollins Theatre original production and two of the university’s student playwrights with national awards as part of its annual recognition of outstanding theatrical work by colleges and universities across the country.

Hollins Theatre’s staging of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia received the equivalent of four silver medals, including “Distinguished Production of a New Work,” “Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble,” “Distinguished Scenic Design,” and “Distinguished Choreography.” Bellocq’s Ophelia is based on the book of poetry by Trethewey, a 1991 graduate of Hollins’ master of arts program in English and creative writing, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and the current Poet Laureate of the United States. Adapted by Associate Professor of Theatre Ernest Zulia, Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III, and Lexie Martin Mondot, a member of Hollins’ class of 2012, the play debuted at Hollins Theatre in February 2012. It was subsequently one of five full productions from the southeastern United States chosen for performance at the Region IV KCACTF, which was held in February of this year in Georgia.

Meredith Levy, who graduated from Hollins in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, won the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award, considered a gold medal, as well as the regional David Shelton Award for her original script, Decision Height, which premiered at Hollins Theatre last October.  The play was presented as a concert reading at this year’s Region IV KCACTF and will be staged as a full production at the festival in 2014.

Another graduate student in the Playwright’s Lab, Kevin Ferguson, was honored as a National Finalist for The John Cauble Award for Outstanding Short Play for his script, Losing Sight.

The awards will be officially presented at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which takes place April 17 – 20 in Washington, D.C.


Hollins Endowment Rises Despite Downward Swing Nationally

campusHollins University saw the value of its endowment grow over the past fiscal year in defiance of a declining trend overall among colleges and universities nationwide.

Hollins’ endowment rose 1.1 percent during the 2011-12 fiscal year from $152.7 million on July 1, 2011, to $154.4 million on June 30, 2012. As of December 31, 2012, Hollins’ endowment stood at $163.5 million.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) – Commonfund Study of Endowments gathered data from 831 U.S. colleges and universities and found that their endowments generated an average return of  -0.3 percent for FY2012.

Hollins’ endowment has enjoyed robust gains in recent years despite the challenges presented by the country’s economic downturn in 2008. The university’s endowment ranked among the nation’s strongest in weathering the recession, and was by far the most important priority of the Campaign for Women Who Are Going Places, the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in Hollins’ history, which began in 2002 (when the endowment stood at $85 million) and concluded in 2010 (with the endowment valued at $145 million).


Graduate Student’s Work Is Showcased at International Film Festival

susieA new film featuring the behind-the-camera talents of a student in the MFA program in screenwriting and film studies at Hollins will have its world premiere this month at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Susie’s Hope, co-written and produced by Dan A.R. Kelly, will be screened on Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. at the UNCSA Main Theater and on Tuesday, April 16 at 3 p.m. at the Hanesbrands Theater.

The film follows the true story of Donna and Susie Lawrence, the inspiration behind the passage of Susie’s Law, which stiffened the penalties for animal abuse in North Carolina. After surviving a pit bull attack, Donna adopts an abandoned pit bull mix, Susie, who suffered severe abuse at the hands of her former owner. Donna sees many parallels between the two as their wounds heal. With Susie by her side, Donna starts a grassroots campaign to change penalties for animal abusers in North Carolina. Susie’s Law was passed in 2010 by Governor Bev Purdue, who insisted Susie sign it with her paw print.

“When I first got in touch with Donna, I knew I had to help her tell her story,” said Kelly, who is creative director for Walk in the Park Pictures, a North Carolina-based production company. “Besides being very dramatic, the story hits close to home. Literally and figuratively – I remember when Susie’s Law passed and how our state pulled together over the issue. In fact, 23 of the 26 actors and 85 percent of our crew are North Carolina natives.”

Susie’s Hope stars Emmanuelle Vaugier, who has appeared in such television series as Lost Girl, The Mentalist, CSI:NY, and the Hallmark Channel movie, It’s Christmas, Carol! The film was shot during May 2012 in Winston-Salem and surrounding areas.

Kelly earned his BFA from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for Film Directing in 2001. He has won awards and recognition from the Cannes International Film Festival, the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and others. His career as an actor has included lead roles in many films, television programs, and commercials. He has also worked in film and television as an assistant director, casting associate, script supervisor, and editor.

 


Poole Takes Fourth in Open Equitation Over Fences at IHSA Nationals

pooleEmma Lane Poole ’13 captured fourth place today in Open Equitation Over Fences (Individual) at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships, under way at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

In addition to Hollins, riders from Skidmore College, Penn State University, Mount Holyoke College, Savannah College of Art and Design, Boston University, Miami University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and St. Andrews University competed in this category, which was won by Julia Mazzarella of Skidmore.

Poole qualified for IHSA Nationals on April 6 at the IHSA Zone 4 Finals held at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

Photo above (from left to right): Hollins Riding Center Associate Director Liz Courter; seven-time ODAC Coach of the Year Sandy Gerald; Emma Lane Poole ’13; and Riding Center Director Nancy Peterson at the IHSA Zone 4 Finals on April 6.

 

 


Hollins Writers Karen Osborn and Shelby Smoak Win Gold IPPY Awards

centervilleKaren Osborn, this year’s Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University and a 1979 Hollins graduate, and Shelby Smoak M.A. ’99  have each received a 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award gold medal for their latest work.

The “IPPY” Awards, launched in 1996 and designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers, honored Osborn in the Popular Fiction category for her novel, Centerville (West Virginia University Press), and Smoak took top prize in the Autobiography/Memoir III (Personal Struggle/Health Issues) category for Bleeder: A Memoir (Michigan State University Press).

Set in the summer of 1967, Centerville (which shared the gold with All the Dancing Birds by Auburn McCanta) is the story of how the bombing of a small Midwestern town’s drugstore alters the lives of the community’s residents. The book is based on an incident that occurred during Osborn’s own youth and explores how a small town copes with a senseless act of violence.

Osborn is the author of three other novels: Patchwork, Between Earth and Sky, and The River Road. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in journals nationwide, including The Southern Review, Kansas Quarterly, Clapboard House, Poet Lore, Wisconsin Review, New England Watershed, and The Centennial Review. Her grants and awards include fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and a Notable Book of the Year Award from The New York Times.

In Bleeder, Smoak, a hemophiliac, discovers at the start of his college career that he has been infected with HIV during a blood transfusion. This devastating news leads him to see his world from an entirely new perspective, one in which life-threatening illness is perpetually just around the corner.

Smoak’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in journals and magazines such as Northern Virginia Review, Clues, Cucalorus, Juice, The Crutch, New Thought Journal, Cities and Roads, and Coastal Plains Poetry.


M.F.A. Playwright Honored by the Southeastern Theatre Conference

PlaywrightsLabRobert Plowman, an M.F.A. student in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, is the winner of the 2014 Charles M. Getchell New Play Award for his work, The Missing Link.

A Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) panel of readers who are prominent in the profession selected The Missing Link for recognition from 58 submissions.

As the winning playwright, Plowman will receive a staged reading and critique at the SETC’s annual convention in Mobile, Alabama, and an all-expense paid trip to attend. He will also be presented a $1,000 cash award at the SETC’s annual gala on March 9, 2014. The play will be considered for publication in Southern Theatre magazine.

The Missing Link will contend for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Award for Excellence in Playwriting. That award will be announced next year and the winner will receive further development opportunities through SETC’s partnership with the ATHE.

“We’re especially proud to note that the winning play was written for the course First Drafts,” said Playwright’s Lab Program Director Todd Ristau, who teaches the class. “The Missing Link joins an impressive list of plays from this course that have received professional readings, productions, and publications. At Hollins, we do indeed get work done.”


Playwright’s Lab Enjoys Banner Year in 2013

PlaywrightsLabHollins University is earning a stellar reputation nationally for the study of playwriting, thanks to a Master of Fine Arts program that is only in its sixth year.

Launched in 2007, the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University has to date generated roughly 250 productions of student-penned plays and nearly 140 readings at festivals and theatres across the United States. Thirty student plays have been published and student playwrights have garnered more than 60 honors and awards.

“A low-residency, six-week program designed to be completed in three to five summers was a radical approach to teaching playwriting, but the Playwright’s Lab has attracted a growing number of students who are rapidly gaining success and recognition in the profession,” said Program Director Todd Ristau.

Mark Bly, head of playwriting at Hunter College, described the Playwright’s Lab as “a real gem, a one-of-a-kind program. This is a hot bed of American playwriting,” while Robert Patrick, who has been called “America’s Most Produced Playwright,” said in a television interview, “These are real professionals training people to be real professionals.”

The past year alone offers ample evidence to support Bly and Patrick’s respective acclaim. In January, Playwright’s Lab students Meredith Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’15, and M.F.A. playwright Kevin Ferguson were both honored by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Levy received the KCACTF Region IV’s top playwriting award for her drama, Decision Height, and Ferguson had two of his original scripts, Follies a Deux and Losing Sight, selected for the regional festival as part of the Region IV National Playwriting Program. They were chosen for the Ten-Minute Play and One-Act Play categories, respectively.

Follies a Deux was subsequently selected for performance at the second annual New Voices Playfest, held in April at the Atlantic Stage Theatre in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The event also featured the one-act play, The Place Between, by M.F.A. playwright Wendy-Marie Martin. In addition, the Atlantic Stage Theatre presented the world premiere of Ferguson’s drama, Child’s Play, last spring.

Other highlights from 2013:

  • Bo-Nita by Elizabeth Heffron M.F.A. ‘14, first read in public at the Hollins Playwright’s Festival, was produced by Portland Center Stage and Seattle Repertory Theatre for their respective 2013-14 seasons. In its review, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated, “Sometimes the stars align perfectly in the theater. The play is excellent, the directing crisp and the acting picture perfect.” Heffron’s comedy/drama, Mitzi’s Abortion, was Hollins Theatre’s fall production and played to sold-out audiences.
  • Jonathan Galvez M.F.A. ‘13 won the tenth annual New Jersey Playwrights Contest and was appointed guest artist by the University of Great Falls theatre department.
  • Neeley Gossett M.F.A. ‘12 was named a finalist in the 2013 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and her play, Roman Candle Summer, was staged at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre in Atlanta. The play also had a reading at the Lark Play Development Center in Manhattan.
  • M.F.A. playwright Robert Plowman won the 2014 Charles M. Getchell New Play Award for his work, The Missing Link. His one-act “anti-play,” The Matador, was presented on Mill Mountain Theatre’s Waldron Stage in Roanoke.
  • Plays by Samantha Macher M.F.A. ‘12 (To the New Girl: Sound Advice for My Former Husband’s Wife or Mistress) and Royal Shirée M.F.A. ‘13 (Cat House) were published by Original Works.
  • In March, the SkyPilot Theatre Company in Los Angeles announced that of the 26 plays it had in development, ten were written by Playwright’s Lab alumni.

The Playwright’s Lab is closing the calendar year by creating two new certificate programs, one in new play writing and the other in new play performance.

“Exposure to actors and directors is vital for the development of playwrights and their work,” Ristau explained, “and it seemed an exciting challenge to come up with a community wherein playwrights, directors and actors could be brought together with specialized training in working on new plays without the expectations, expense and demand on resources that a full degree program would require.

“With the help of visiting faculty and other advisors, we’ve created something that will expand Hollins’ reputation and attract new students in a very exciting way.”


Hollins Earns Prestigious Designation with Steinway Piano Delivery

steinwayHollins University has been named one of just a few “All-Steinway Schools” in Virginia following the arrival of seven instruments designed by the company regarded as the world’s finest piano maker.

Steinway & Sons, which crafts approximately 2,500 pianos a year in the United States and Germany and is the choice of 97% of piano soloists performing at major venues, shipped five grand pianos and two upright pianos by truck from Baltimore to Hollins’ Presser Hall, home of the university’s music department. The instruments were delivered on July 2.

Professor of Music and Department Chair Judith Cline said Hollins has  joined George Mason University, James Madison University, Radford University, and Episcopal High School in Alexandria as Virginia’s only “All-Steinway Schools.” Worldwide, just over 150 conservatories, colleges and universities, and other schools of distinction have earned this designation.

“At least 90 percent of an institution’s instruments must be Steinway & Sons, Boston, or Essex pianos and must be in good condition to qualify for ‘All-Steinway School’ recognition,” Cline explained. “The use of a certified Steinway piano technician for tuning the instruments is also required.”

Recently renovated Presser Hall will provide the pianos with a climate-controlled environment. “These are brand-new pianos that need time to adjust to humidity and other factors,” Cline noted. “It’s similar to breaking in a new pair of shoes. Our technician, Andy Lyford, will be able to give attention to all our instruments in the coming months and have them ready for the start of the new academic year.”

Hollins will officially mark its “All-Steinway School” designation during the university’s annual Founder’s Day event on February 20, 2014. Highlighting the celebration will be a recital by Alexander Schimpf, who has performed at important music centers throughout the world and in 2011 became the first German pianist to win the Cleveland International Piano Competition.