Hollins Theatre Takes Natasha Trethewey’s “Bellocq’s Ophelia” to The Kennedy Center

bellocq'sHollins Theatre has been invited to present a concert reading of its acclaimed production of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia at the 11th annual Page to Stage Festival of New Play Readings, which will be held September 1 – 3  at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The festival showcases the works in progress of professional theatre companies from throughout the Washington, D.C., region. Admission to festival events is free, no tickets are required, and limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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 newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States.  The performance, which takes place Monday, September 3 (Labor Day) at 1 p.m. on The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, will be a partially staged reading with music, samples of the original choreography, and audio-visual projections reflecting the elaborate theatrical imagery of the original production, which features 25 of Trethewey’s poems.

Bellocq’s Ophelia follows the journey of a young biracial woman in 1911 who leaves the cotton fields of her home in southern Mississippi to pursue her dream in the cosmopolitan center of New Orleans. Confronted by the roadblocks of racial and gender discrimination, her only opportunity for survival is found in an octoroon brothel, where “women with white skin offer the promise of the wild African continent.” She meets photographer Ernest Bellocq, first becoming his model, later his muse, then finally his apprentice. Through the artistic lens of a camera, and with the unique perspective of a woman who is both African American and white, Ophelia begins to see the world more clearly as she steps out of the picture frame and into her life.

Adapted by Associate Professor of Theatre Ernest Zulia, Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III, and Lexie Martin Mondot ’12, Bellocq’s Ophelia premiered at the Hollins Theatre in February 2012 during the highly successful Legacy Series, “Five Stars and a Moon,” which featured the works of six of Hollins’ acclaimed alumnae authors, including Annie Dillard, Lee Smith, and Margaret Wise Brown.


Hollins Among The Princeton Review’s “Best 377 Colleges”

best377Hollins University has been named one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education in the 2013 edition of The Princeton Review’s The Best 377 Colleges.

Only about 15% of the nation’s 2,500 four-year colleges are profiled in the book, which is the educational service company’s flagship college guide.

“We commend Hollins for its outstanding academics, which is the primary criteria for our selection of schools for the book,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president at The Princeton Review and publisher and author of The Best 377 Colleges. “Our choices are based on institutional data we collect about schools, our visits to schools over the years, feedback we gather from students attending the schools, and the opinions of our staff and our 30-member National College Counselor Advisory Board.”

Hollins students note in the university’s profile that the school “feels like a community or family, not an institution,” and that “a Hollins education is nothing short of life-changing.” According to The Best 377 Colleges, “The women of Hollins describe themselves as ‘empowered, enthusiastic,’ ‘worldly, aware,’ ‘strong, and confident.’”

Hollins is also one of 135 colleges and universities The Princeton Review commends in the “Best in the Southeast” section of its Web site feature, “2013 Best Colleges: Region by Region.” The 12-state Southeast Region includes colleges in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.


Hollins Student Hopes to Blend Dance and Physical Therapy to Help Others

chaniceAnyone who tears two of the four major knee ligaments can face a long and often painful road to recovery. But for an aspiring dancer, such an injury is especially devastating because it calls into question when, if ever, they will be able to fully recapture their ability to perform.

Chanice Holmes ’15 faced this dilemma during the summer before her senior year in high school. The Hollins University sophomore and life-long dancer from New Orleans tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in June 2010 while playing basketball, just as she was preparing to choreograph and join three other performers in staging a dance piece as her senior thesis.

“The doctors told me I would need six to 12 months to heal and return to dancing, and I said ‘No, I need to be back dancing so I can be in my piece.’ I was so determined to do that,” Holmes recalls. Remarkably, after having surgery that July, she returned to dancing in November.

Holmes credits her experience rehabilitating her knee not only with getting her on her feet and performing by her self-imposed deadline, but also with influencing her education and career path.

“The physical therapist who treated me kept saying, ‘You can do this, you can do this.’ She motivated me so much. After that, I decided I wanted to combine dance with physical therapy to help others. The two go hand-in-hand as far as learning different muscles and how they work and how they can stop functioning if you do a certain move the wrong way or if you don’t stretch as much as you should.”

A Hollins admission counselor’s visit to her high school was critical in Holmes’ decision to enroll at the university in the fall of 2011 to pursue a double major in biology and dance. “She told me about the dance program, which of course interested me. But the  options Hollins offers during January Short Term (J-Term) and the chance to travel anywhere I wanted to go through the study abroad program also caught my attention, as did the Batten Leadership Institute. I never visited the campus until I got here, but I fell in love with it as soon as I arrived.”

In her first year at Hollins, Holmes took immediate advantage of J-Term opportunities. Associate Professor of Dance Jeffery Bullock helped arrange for her to dance with the renowned American Dance Festival at the Alvin Ailey dance studio in New York City during the first two weeks of January 2012. She then spent the last half of the month interning at a physical therapy clinic in New Orleans. Last spring, she also got to travel and pursue another of her passions, volunteer service, by participating in Hollins’ Jamaica Service Project, which takes place each year during Spring Recess.

Another milestone for Holmes last spring was winning the first scholarship pageants she had ever entered, both sponsored by the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. By excelling in  the interview and talent competitions, she won the Miss Teenage Daughters of the Promise state contest in Louisiana in April, and then went on in June to capture the Miss Teenage Daughters of the Promise International title in Atlanta, where she was also selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants and voted Most Elegant and Most Influential.

During her reign, Holmes says she is promoting her youth outreach platform as often as possible, beginning by talking to Sunday School classes at her home church, Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans.

“I am speaking to my peers and those younger than me about avoiding the distractions from the media and other sources that divert us from what we need to doing as far as going to college, getting a degree, and prospering,” she explains. “No matter what, you can do all things you set your mind to do.”

Holmes is hoping again this academic year to devote half of her J-Term to dance and half to something related to her biology major, and she already has at least one specific goal in mind for herself after graduation.

“I want to start a non-profit organization for kids to get them interested in science through dance. A lot of kids say they don’t like science because it’s boring, but if you approach it with them from a different perspective, maybe that will open their minds.”


Hollins Honors Catherine Moore Wannamaker ’96 with Distinguished Young Alumna Award

wannamakerHollins University has presented Catherine Moore Wannamaker ‘96 with its Distinguished Young Alumna Award, recognizing her extraordinary accomplishments since graduation in the fields of law and environmental advocacy.

Wannamaker majored in biology at Hollins and studied under Professors Renee Godard and F. Harriet Gray. She went on to earn her master’s degree in biology from North Carolina State University and in 2003 received her law degree from Stanford University. After clerking for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, she drew upon her background in biology and served three years as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, where she was a member of the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries.

Since 2008, Wannamaker has been a senior attorney and lead litigator at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Atlanta. She has been a principal spokesperson on behalf of environmental groups seeking to sue the energy company BP under the Endangered Species Act for the unlawful harm or killing of endangered and threatened wildlife caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010. In addition, she has led litigation on a number of nationally prominent cases, including challenging the U.S. Navy’s creation of a training range in right whale breeding grounds, saving wetlands along Georgia’s fragile coastal region, and leading efforts to end unfettered industry control of offshore drilling.

Wannamaker’s award citation calls her “a force of and for nature” and describes her legal expertise and commitment to the environment as “a perfect combination.”

The citation concludes, “You have devoted your professional life to fiercely protecting and preserving the ‘rich web of life upon which so many depend.’”

Wannamaker was honored during Hollins’ annual 1842 Society Weekend, which this year was held November 9-11 in Atlanta.


Dance Magazine Honors Iconic Dancer and Hollins Alumna Renee Robinson

reneerobinsonRenee Robinson, a principal dancer with New York’s renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) who earned her master of fine arts degree in dance this fall from Hollins University, is one of four artists to receive the 2012 Dance Magazine Award.

Robinson was honored at a ceremony December 3 in New York City along with Julie Kent, senior ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre; New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff (who was a guest lecturer in Hollins’ master of fine arts program in dance from 2006 to 2008); and tap dancer Dianne Walker.

Each year, Dance Magazine recognizes leading members of the professional dance field who have made extraordinary contributions to the art form. Robinson joined the AAADT in 1981 and holds the longest tenure of any female member. In addition to Ailey, she has worked with such acclaimed choreographers as Lar Lubovitch, Jerome Robbins, Bill T. Jones, and Judith Jamison, who presented the award to Robinson at the event. Her televised performances include President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, the Kennedy Center Awards, and the PBS special, “A Hymn for Alvin Ailey.” In 2003 she performed at a White House State Dinner honoring President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, and in 2008 she appeared in the first dance event hosted in the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Robinson is perhaps best known as “the woman with the umbrella” in “Revelations,” considered Ailey’s “signature work” by The Washington Post in a February 2012 article.

“It is among the most popular and most performed works of modern dance,” the Post explains, “and millions of ballet fans around the world regard the woman with the umbrella with particular reverence.

“Renee Robinson.”

Originally from Washington, D.C., Robinson trained at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet, attended the School of American Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and The Ailey School, and majored in dance at New York University.


“I Could Not Do Everything I Do If I Wasn’t at Hollins”

carmanThroughout most of her life, Hollins University senior Macy Carman has naturally blended leadership and sportsmanship. But lately, the environmental studies major from Billings, Montana, is going the extra mile to strengthen those inner qualities.

Carman first started taking riding lessons at the age of four and three years later became a member of Pony Club, a youth equestrian organization that serves more than 100,000 members in over 30 countries. “Pony Club is dedicated to developing young people as riders, leaders, team players, and teachers,” Carman says. “It focuses on responsibility and building good character as well as becoming good horsemen and women.”

In 2010, Carman was elected to the National Youth Board of the United States Pony Club (USPC). When the youth board chose her as chair in January 2012, she not only went on to design a campaign, appear on a radio show, and meet with groups of the British Pony Club, she was also nominated and elected to the USPC Board of Governors.

“That’s been the most exciting thing. Going in, I didn’t know how much I would be able to do as a youth member, but the rest of the members of the board have given me so much opportunity to have a real say.”

Carman’s dedication to her sport is a big reason why she’s earned such a prominent role in the USPC. After spending two years on the Hollins riding team, she decided to concentrate on three-day event riding, or eventing, one of the most demanding disciplines of equestrian competition. “Eventing is the triathlon of horse sports,” she explains. “The first day is dressage, where you ride a set of prescribed movements and are scored by a judge. The second day is cross-country, which is what eventing is best-known for – galloping over terrain and jumping natural or fixed obstacles. The final phase is show jumping, a course of stadium fences in an arena. It was originally designed as a test of discipline, bravery, and stamina for military horses.”

While Carman mostly competes during the summer months because of her academic responsibilities the rest of the year, training for eventing is a year-round job. “My horse is stabled about 15 minutes away from campus and we train six days a week. It’s an investment of time and financial resources, but it’s important for his fitness and my fitness.”

In addition, Carman has worked for international eventer and Pan American Games Gold Medalist Michael Pollard, and served as a groom for the U.S. eventing team during its trip to Holland during the fall of 2011.

Hollins’ Batten Leadership Institute has also had a profound influence. “I’ve always been classified as the leader, the Type A personality who took over group projects,” Carman notes. She admits to having been “a little dubious” at the outset about what the program could teach her. However, as a result of Batten, she says she has discovered the tremendous value in playing a supportive role. “I’ve learned to delegate, trust, and support others and realize that I don’t have to do everything, to look at a situation and not take over. It’s important to balance those things.”

One of the approaches Carman says she has learned in Batten that is helping her meet her responsibilities within the USPC is taking a “balcony perspective” when performing her board work. “It’s stepping back and saying, ‘What’s happening here?’ That’s fairly easy to do in the classroom but much harder when you’re in a situation with real results on the line. But just having the awareness of needing to look at the overall picture is really important. You have to look at how the board itself is functioning and what you need to change to get the results you want, rather than just focusing on the results themselves. Batten has helped me to prioritize and put the focus on the process rather than the product.”

While deeply committed to equestrian competition, the USPC, and the Batten Leadership Institute, Carman has still found time to serve at Hollins on the Senior Legacy Committee, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and in the Office of Admission. She also enjoyed what she calls a “life-changing” adventure, studying abroad her junior year in London and interning with the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. The trip culminated with a solo trip to Scotland, where she hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano that’s the highest point in Edinburgh. “It was the most liberating experience of my life. It’s given me a whole new perspective on who I want to be and where I want to go from here.”

Carman is now applying to architecture schools with the hope of embarking on a career in sustainable architecture. The encouragement she has received at Hollins has given her every confidence she will succeed.

“When I went to Holland last year, it was very short notice, just 48 hours, and it ended up I was gone eight days during midterms,” she recalls. “But my teachers, they knew me, they knew I could catch up, and they were so supportive. That’s the thing I love the most about Hollins, everyone wants to make it work. I could not do everything I do if I wasn’t at Hollins.”


Multiple Honors Propel Hollins into Spotlight at Region’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

bellocq'sA Hollins Theatre original production, two of the university’s student playwrights, and three Hollins student actors have been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), a national theatre program dedicated to improving the quality of college theatre in the United States.

Hollins Theatre’s staging of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia is one of five full productions from the southeastern United States chosen for performance at the Region IV KCACTF, which takes place February 5 – 9 at Darton College in Albany, Georgia. One of the productions will be selected to represent the region and compete for the top prize at the 45th annual national KCACTF in Washington, D.C., in April.

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 premiered at Hollins Theatre last February and was presented as a concert reading at The Kennedy Center’s 11th annual Page to Stage Festival of New Play Readings in September.

In addition, the KCACTF’s Region IV awarded its top playwriting honor to Meredith Dayna Levy, who graduated from Hollins last spring. Levy was recognized for her drama, Decision Height, which Hollins Theatre originally staged in October. The play will be presented as a concert reading at the Region IV KCACTF and as a full production at the festival in 2014. Decision Height has also been nominated for two major national prizes to be awarded at The Kennedy Center in April.

Kevin Ferguson, who along with Levy is currently a graduate student in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, had two of his original scripts selected for the regional festival as part of the Region IV National Playwriting Program. Follies a Deux and Losing Sight were chosen for the Ten-Minute Play and One-Act Play categories, respectively. Both will be presented in staged readings and will compete for the top prize for Short Plays at the national KCACTF this spring.

“Naturally, all of us in the theatre department are proud and excited to have our work receive such validation,” said Zulia. “It’s highly unusual that one university should win so many honors. As the Region IV chairman said, ‘It sort of looks like it’s going to be an all-Hollins festival!’”

Zulia also announced that three Hollins students, seniors Kaitlin Heath and Maria Latiolais and sophomore Russell Wilson, have been nominated to compete for the national Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships, which provide recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. Approximately 400 students vie for this prestigious acting award.

“This could not have come at a better time,” Zulia stated. “We now have fantastic, newly renovated facilities, and have earned a strong reputation for excellent productions, so we are poised to take the next steps to make Hollins a place where students want to come specifically to study theatre and playwriting on the undergraduate and graduate levels. This valuable recognition will definitely help advance the cause.”


Hollins Ranked Among the Nation’s “24 Colleges with the Best Professors”

dixonHollins University is among the country’s “25 Colleges with the Best Professors,” according to The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). Hollins also received this recognition in 2010.

The CCAP based its rankings on the evaluations found at RateMyProfessors.com. CBS Moneywatch reports, “The center generated its list by looking at the composite teaching scores that schools received via RateMyProfessors. The website has captured more than 15 million student ratings of college professors from schools across the country.”

Hollins is featured along with some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including the United States Military Academy, Carleton College, and Sewanee – The University of the South. In addition to Hollins, three other single-sex colleges are on the list (Wellesley College, Bryn Mawr College, and Wabash College). “Single-sex colleges routinely get high marks from their graduates,” CBS Moneywatch notes.

The complete list can be found here.

Founded in 2006 and based in Washington, D.C., the CCAP is an independent, not-for-profit research center that helps produce the annual college rankings for Forbes magazine.


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.