Conference Celebrates Undergraduate Work

Hollins is showcasing students’ scholarly and creative endeavors at the annual Hollins Student Conference on Saturday, April 30, from 1 – 5:15 p.m. in Moody Student Center.

Sponsored by the President’s Office, the conference features a variety of podium presentations, poster presentations, and performances from across the disciplines. Awards are given for the top presentations and performances.

“The conference reflects our goal of preparing our students for a life of educational and professional development,” said Associate Professor of Communication Studies Jill Weber, who each year coordinates the event with Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Patty O’Toole.

All Hollins undergraduate students are invited to submit an abstract of sound scholarly or creative work that has been completed under the guidance of a current faculty or staff member.

During the conference, students will present during three separate sessions:

  • Session 1 (1:30 – 2:20 p.m.)
    Exploring Ideas: Hollins 102 Honors Program Projects
    Exploring Identity and Sexuality
  • Session 2 (2:30 – 3:20 p.m.)
    Exploring Modes of Expression – Performances
    Exploring Politics and the Political
    Exploring Women in History
  • Session 3 (3:30 – 4:20 p.m.)
    Exploring Questions in Science – Poster Presentations
    Exploring Art and Architecture
    Exploring Sustainability and the Myths that Sustain

This year’s conference schedule and a complete list of the event’s 29 student presentations is available here.


“Goodnight Moon: The Magical Musical” Returns to the Hollins Theatre Stage

Hollins Theatre is opening its 2015-16 season with a revival of Goodnight Moon: The Magical Musical. The show, which is intended for children of all ages, runs October 10 – 18.

Goodnight Moon is based on the beloved children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown, a member of Hollins’ class of 1932. The classic story of a bunny who won’t go to sleep was first published in 1945 and went on to sell millions of copies around the world.  The musical adaptation by Chad Henry first appeared on the Hollins Theatre stage in 2011 as the inaugural production of the Hollins Legacy Series, which was created to bring the work of Hollins writers to the stage.

“When this tale was received with such tremendous enthusiasm, we decided to turn it into a Hollins tradition, with multiple productions over years to come,” said Ernie Zulia, director of the Hollins Theatre Institute. “It is our hope that each new crop of youngsters in the Roanoke Valley will bring their favorite grownups to Hollins Theatre for an experience they will long remember.”

Zulia estimated that about 4,000 school children, families, “and people of all conceivable demographics” saw Goodnight Moon during its 2011 run. “Add that number to what we hope will be thousands in the years to come, and it makes us mighty proud to play our part in this phenomenal math equation that illustrates how one author can affect the lives of so many.”

Zulia noted that there are currently over 14 million copies of Goodnight Moon in print in multiple languages around the globe. “Consider the number of times a single owner of a copy has urged a parent or loving adult to read and re-read the bedtime story aloud, and then multiply that by 14 million. Add to that the number of times the book has been opened by a child who can recite it from memory while gazing at Clement Hurd’s iconic illustrations, not to mention the number of children who reach for their favorite book as a reading primer over and over and over, and you can easily imagine a number that reaches far into the billions. That’s how often this simple little story has come alive in the world.”

Goodnight Moon: The Magical Musical will be presented on Hollins Theatre’s main stage on Saturday, October 10, at 11 a.m.; Thursday and Friday, October 15 and 16, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, October 17, at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, October 18, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for children, $10 for adults. Current Hollins students, faculty, and staff will receive one free ticket. For online ticket sales and more information, visit www.hollins.edu/theatre. Or, call the Hollins Theatre box office at (540) 362-6517 for more information.

 


Hollins Announces Website Redesign

Hollins University has launched a redesign of its website, Hollins.edu, the most recent step in a continuing effort to better serve its community through the school’s growing digital platform.

Features include easy navigation, a refreshed look, and clean content to provide a user-friendly online experience. The site also boasts a new responsive design to accommodate the increasing amount of web traffic that comes from tablets and mobile devices.

“The redesigned website highlights Hollins’ standing as a prestigious liberal arts university,” said Hollins President Nancy Gray. “The intent is to showcase our close community and the strength of our student body and academic programs.”

Hollins produced the redesign in partnership with NewCity, a nationally recognized consulting, design, and development firm based in Blacksburg.

“Hollins’ approach should serve as a textbook to any school wanting to enhance its identity,” said Brian Maddox, creative director at NewCity. “The design sits comfortably where heritage meets contemporary, much like Hollins itself. They took the time to not only discover who they were speaking to as an institution, but also what voice they were using to do so.”

Gray added, “The redesign perfectly portrays our history and personality. It reflects our longstanding mission of preparing students for lives of active learning, fulfilling work, personal growth, achievement, and service to society.”


Hollins, Mill Mt. Theatre Partner to Present Winter Festival of New Works

The Hollins Theatre Institute and Mill Mountain Theatre (MMT) are joining forces to produce three never-before-seen plays as part of the Hollins – Mill Mountain Winter Festival of New Works during January and February.

The productions are all written by playwrights from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University and will be presented on MMT’s professional stages.

“The Winter Festival of New Works is becoming a very important part of the theatre season in town,” says Hollins Theatre Institute Director Ernie Zulia. “Exciting stuff is coming out of the Playwright’s Lab, and the festival is the major showcase for our plans, hopes, and dreams to make Roanoke and Hollins a major national force in the development of new work for the American stage.”

This year’s schedule includes:

  • Helvetica by Will Coleman
    January 16 – 17, 23 – 24 at 7:30 p.m., January 18 and 25 at 2 p.m.
    Waldron Stage, Mill Mountain Theatre
    Admission: $10 general (Purchase tickets online or call the Hollins Theatre box office at 540-362-6517.)
    With wit and charm, an unlikely guide leads bestselling children’s storybook Helvetica Burke through the adventures of life and death, family and fantasy, and past and present, encountering laughter and tears along the way. “Helvetica is a beautifully lyrical and whimsical play that is certain to grab your heart,” says Zulia. “It won this year’s top national award from the Southeastern Theatre Conference.”
  • The Adventures of Iris and Walter, based on the books of Elissa Haden Guest and adapted by Nicole B. Adkins (both Guest and Adkins earned their Master of Fine Arts degrees from Hollins in 2012)
    February 5 – 6, 10 a.m.
    Main Stage, Hollins Theatre
    February 7, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
    Trinkle Stage, Mill Mountain Theatre
    Admission: $5 for children, $8 for adults (
    Purchase tickets online or call the Hollins Theatre box office at 540-362-6517.)
    Iris is lonely and unhappy when her family moves from the big city to the country, until she climbs a tree and meets her new best friend, Walter. A rambunctious baby sister, an ornery cousin, and several surprises present the duo with great adventures and important learning opportunities. “This is the first year we are expanding the festival into the realm of children’s theatre,” explains Zulia. The play, a Hollins Legacy Series production, is recommended for children of all ages, especially pre-K through fourth grade.
  • An Initial Condition by Taylor Gruenloh
    February 17 – 21 at 7:30 p.m., February 21 – 22 at 2 p.m.
    Waldron Stage, Mill Mountain Theatre
    Admission: $10 general (
    Purchase tickets online or call the box office at 540-362-6517.)
    Chance, a young mathematician, is brought on to help map out cancer in a young woman’s body. His determination to solve the problem of Sarah’s illness through mathematical oncology takes Chance to places that are unimaginable – professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. “An Initial Condition will also be staged in New York March 13 – 15 at Playwrights Horizons, a writer’s theater dedicated to the support and development of contemporary American playwrights, composers and lyricists, and to the production of their new work,” Zulia notes. The play is directed by Playwrights Horizons’ founding artistic director, Bob Moss.

Zulia calls the Winter Festival of New Works “the cornerstone in the growing partnership between Hollins and MMT. We are exploring new levels of collaboration that we think will advance the impact of live theatre on the Roanoke Valley.”


Unique Learning Opportunities Highlight January Short Term

Putting together navigation plans, learning more about the Roanoke Valley, touring with a children’s theatre production, producing comic books and graphic novels, researching the history of Hollins University, and even identifying and avoiding BS are some of the distinctive course offerings engaging Hollins students during the school’s January 2015 Short Term session.

Throughout the month, while many students participate in travel/study programs (the Caribbean, France, Greece, Japan, Spain, and Turkey are among this year’s destinations), internships, and independent study projects, others are choosing from a creative mix of on-campus seminars that are unlike anything they experience during the rest of the academic year.

This year’s highlights include:

  • Learning Navigation Skills. Associate Professor of Chemistry and licensed pilot Daniel Derringer leads this class in which students learn to navigate using a compass, sextant, and GPS technology.
  • Getting to Know the Roanoke Valley: A January Term Primer. This course is part of a broader project intended to educate students about the entertainment, cultural, recreational, and culinary scenes within the greater Roanoke Valley. Students will work throughout the semester designing and publishing a new website designed for Hollins students focused on the Roanoke Valley. Students will go into the community, meet and speak with local business owners and groups, and write reviews about their experiences.
  • Touring Theatre Production for Children. Taught by Associate Professor of Theatre Ernie Zulia and Theatre Technical Director John Forsman, this class will mount a production of The Adventures of Iris and Walter, based on the award-winning children’s storybooks by Elisa Haden Guest and adapted by Nicole B. Adkins. Both Guest and Adkins received their Master of Fine Arts degrees from Hollins in 2012. The production will be staged at Hollins Theatre, February 5 – 6, and on Mill Mountain Theatre’s Trinkle Stage, February 7.
  • Think It, Ink It, Bind It. Students will learn how to make prints that will be incorporated into book formats. They will explore the mechanics and terminology of books and how to design and bind them. Students will also be introduced to three different printmaking processes that will be used for the imagery in their books. Students will make their own comic books, graphic novels, and zines.
  • History of Hollins and Its Social Movements. After reviewing the fundamentals of public history and strategies of social change, this class will create a smart technology application based on research of the Hollins campus. Possible objects of study include campus artifacts, buildings, and artistic representations. Students will use resources at Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library to investigate social change movements at the university. Groups will create a museum-quality feature display at the library based on their study.
  • On BS. The aim of this class is to recognize BS in all of its many forms and then prevent it in one’s own thinking.

Other on-campus courses at Hollins in January cover such diverse topics as jazz cinema, snakes, female scientists in film, women’s travel writing, and wilderness survival for the modern world.

Hollins’ Short Term began January 5 and continues through January 30. It has been a valuable component of the Hollins curriculum since 1968 and serves as an avenue for Hollins to inject fresh courses, programs, and approaches to education into the curriculum.


Playwright’s Lab Graduate’s Drama to be Produced in Los Angeles

macherThe SkyPilot Theatre Company is introducing  Los Angeles theatre-goers to a compelling new drama by a recent graduate of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University.

The world premiere of Samantha Macher’s  (M.F.A. ’12) play War Bride will be staged at T.U. Studios in North Hollywood, August 11 through September 16.

War Bride takes place in the fall of 1945. With the end of World War II, Private Alvin Rhodes is returning home to California with an injury he doesn’t want to discuss and a new wife, a Japanese nurse. Yumi is greeted with suspicion, fear, and even hatred. She is shy and withdrawn, but with the help of an old friend of Alvin’s mother, a Japanese/English dictionary, and 1,000 paper cranes, her story is slowly revealed.

SkyPilot says War Bride “combines sharp, witty dialogue with Japanese Butoh-influenced contemporary dance to create a completely new play that will tear at your heart while challenging your ideas of right and wrong.”

A non-profit organization, SkyPilot Theatre Company is a member of the LA Stage Alliance and is dedicated to fostering relationships with playwrights to develop the most compelling, challenging and humorous new plays. War Bride is the fourth production of the 2012 season, the company’s second full year of exclusively producing world premiere plays.


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.


Playwright’s Lab’s New Works Initiative Builds Artistic, Economic Partnerships Locally and Nationwide

PlaywrightsLabFrom Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City to Burlington, Vermont, and here in Roanoke, the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University is developing an impressive number of new stage productions by emerging student writers, thanks to a collaborative program described as “re-inventing Off-Off-Broadway.”

The New Works Initiative of the Playwright’s Lab was established in 2008 and has already helped provide production assistance and travel costs for dozens of student readings and productions in legitimate theatres nationally and locally. It enables student writers to work with guest professional directors and offers support for them to work as actors, dramaturgs, and designers on plays by prominent guest writers associated with the Playwright’s Lab such as Lucy Thurber, recipient of the first Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting; television writer and playwright Jeff Goode; and Obie Award-winner W. David Hancock.

“We have been able to bring more than 70 top-tier artists to Roanoke to work with our students and build an energized, enthusiastic audience for new plays,” says Todd Ristau, program director of the Playwright’s Lab. “It is the perfect place to develop new work that can go on to productions in major theatre centers.” For example, The Arctic Circle and a Recipe for Swedish Pancakes, written by Playwright’s Lab student Samantha Macher, was produced at Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre and then transferred with the original cast to the Playwright’s Horizon Studios in Manhattan.

“We’ve mounted more than 25 full productions of plays associated with our program, and we’ve staged dozens of readings, presented special touring events and workshops by nationally known theatre artists, and provided support for our students who are creating their own new companies and doing new work all over the country.”

Ristau notes that in many cases the biggest barrier to producing new work is finding adequate funding to cover the production and travel costs. However, he emphasizes that “the Playwright’s Lab feels it is an important part of our mission to sponsor our student writers when opportunities to realize their work on stage arise. That’s why we have established a separate fund for the sole purpose of offsetting costs associated with the production and presentation of plays by or involving our students,” a fund that depends largely on individual donors as well as local businesses and area arts organizations.

“It’s mutually beneficial,” he explains. “In exchange for financially supporting the work that we’re doing, businesses and organizations get exposure to a growing demographic of hip, smart, vocal audiences. The relationships we forge therefore have a profound cultural and economic impact on our community.” In addition, Ristau says these associations are helping make Roanoke more and more of “an ignition point” for new work that creates strong connections with the international theatre scene.

“Building partnerships like this and creating opportunities for the success they afford our students is nothing short of revolutionary.”

The Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University will present The Matador, “a one-act anti-play” by Robert Plowman and directed by Todd Ristau, on the Waldron Stage of Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre February 6 – 10.


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.”


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.