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 She is shy and withdrawn, but with the help of an old friend of Alvin’s mother, a Japanese/English dictionary, and 1,000 paper cranes, her story is slowly revealed.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.


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.

 


Hollins M.F.A. in Dance to Partner with The Forsythe Company, Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts

mfadanceBeginning in the summer of 2014, Hollins University’s master of fine arts (M.F.A.) program in dance will collaborate with one of the world’s leading dance companies and an internationally acclaimed German university of performing arts.

The M.F.A. program is partnering with renowned choreographer William Forsythe’s The Forsythe Company and the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, both located in Frankfurt, Germany, to expand its students’ ability to engage with an international community.

“This new collaboration continues our history of innovative programming in research, education, and professional influence,” said Jeffery Bullock, program director. “We are committed to integrating our program with professional dance centers and metropolitan locations around the world.”

Hollins’ graduate program in dance offers a Year Residency Track, which is intended for recent graduates with an eye on the professional world of dance; a Low Residency – Two Summer Track, designed for mid-career artists, teachers, and dance professionals who must study in a limited time frame that accommodates their employment/performance schedule; and a Low Residency – Three Summer Track that serves emerging artists, teachers, and dance professionals. Previously, a course of European study was available only to students in the Year Residency Track, and the new alliances will enable Hollins to expand this experience to all students: They will spend five weeks on the Hollins campus and three weeks in Frankfurt.

Christopher Roman, former principal dancer with The Forsythe Company, will serve as the European study coordinator and will curate the three-week dance study and experience. He is a winner of the Faust Theatre Prize, Germany’s highest theatre honor, and has been a soloist and principal with ballet companies in Seattle, Miami, Montreal, and Philadelphia.

Ingo Diehl, professor and director of the contemporary dance program at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, will also work closely with the M.F.A. program.

“Using the resources of multiple institutions, our students and faculty are able to establish a unique community of committed artists and scholars who range in ages and experiences and are working to sustain their careers and deepen their relationship to dance,” Bullock said. “We are providing students with a wide range of opportunities and mentorships as well as exposure to other practitioners in the international dance field.”


Hollins, Mill Mountain Theatre Host American College Theater Festival

PrintHollins University and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre will host 900 students and faculty from colleges and universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and southwest Virginia at the Region Four festival of the 46th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), February 4 – 8.

Individual participants and full-scale productions are eligible for awards in a number of disciplines recognizing excellence in the art and craft of theater. Individual awardees and representatives from selected productions will be brought to Washington, D.C., for an expense-paid trip to the national festival, April 14 – 19, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Productions invited to be showcased at the Region Four festival are presented by Appalachian State University, Asbury University, Auburn University – Montgomery, Clayton State University, Georgia Southwestern State University, Hollins, Morehead State University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Mississippi, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Troy University. Ten invited productions were selected from 42 eligible productions from the region. Two additional productions earned slots after receiving recognition during the Short Play Awards at last year’s Region Four festival, including Hollins Theatre’s production of Decision Height by Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’15. The drama is the story of six women whose lives are changed when they become Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II.

Three public performances of Decision Height will be staged on Mill Mountain Theatre’s Trinkle Stage: Friday and Saturday, January 24 – 25, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, January 26, at 2 p.m. Admission is $10. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.hollins.edu/theatre or call the Hollins Theatre box office at (540) 362-6313.

Launched in 1969, the KCACTF encourages and recognizes the finest and most diverse theatrical productions from colleges and universities nationwide. Through its regional and national festivals, the KCACTF celebrates the achievements of theater programs, individual students, and faculty of colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Eight regional festivals provide opportunities for colleges and universities to showcase their finest work to diverse audiences of theater students and faculty from their regions.

Since its establishment, KCACTF has reached millions of theatergoers and made important contributions to the professional development of countless college and university theater students nationwide.


Library Hike Seeks to Inspire Creativity

coveWyndham Robertson Library and the Hollins Outdoor Program are inviting the campus community to explore the connections between movement, nature, and literature with a Library Hike, September 12 – 22.

Students, faculty, and staff can stop by the library and check out a “hiking pack,” containing a blanket, sunscreen, and bug spray to help with the hike, and a journal, pens, and disposable camera to use when inspiration strikes. Then, they can head off on the trail from Hollins to Carvins Cove Nature Reserve.

Hikers are encouraged to stop and look at books from the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences along the trail, and use the journal and camera to document their creativity. They can leave their journal writings to inspire others, or take the pages with them. All cameras will be developed by the library and photographs may be shared in a library display and/or posted to a curated online collection.

The Library Hike is part of Outside the Lines, a national initiative designed to reintroduce libraries to their local communities. This month, organizations from across the U.S. and Canada are hosting either an event or campaign to get people thinking – and talking – about libraries in a whole new way.

For more information, contact Rebecca Seipp, outreach and humanities liaison librarian, at seippr@hollins.edu or 540-362-6328.


Hollins, Roanoke College Announce Perry F. Kendig Award Winners for 2014

kendigLocal artist and Hollins University Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White, Mill Mountain Theatre, Member One Federal Credit Union, and the Roanoke Arts Commission have been honored with this year’s Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

The awards were presented during a ceremony at Hollins on September 30.

Co-sponsored by Hollins and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards recognize distinction in arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley. Awards are presented in each of the following categories: Individual Artist, Individual or Business Supporter, and Arts and Culture Organization.

Also highlighting the ceremony was the presentation of the Harriett Stokes Memorial Award, a special award this year that commemorates the life and work of the Salem artist who was called the “grande dame of art in the valley” by LinDor gallery owner Dorsey Taylor. Stokes, who passed away in May, was one of the originators of Art in the Alley and was an exhibitor at Roanoke’s Annual Sidewalk Art Show for more than 50 years. Last October, she received the Kendig Award in the Individual Artist category.

White, a painter, educator, leader, and facilitator who has contributed to the arts in Roanoke for decades, is this year’s Individual Artist award recipient. He has earned acclaim for his artistic technique, his commitment to teaching, and his organization of exhibits at local museums.

Mill Mountain Theatre, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was recognized in the Arts and Cultural Organization category. Despite challenges during its half-century of existence, MMT has succeeded through tenacity and perseverance. At the same time, it has given back to the community through education and partnerships with other arts organizations.

The Kendig Award for Individual or Business Supporter was presented to Member One Credit Union. Member One provides financial support for arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley, along with leadership, volunteer initiatives, and business practices.

The Roanoke Arts Commission received the Harriett Stokes Memorial Award. This all-volunteer body has worked to support and lead the development of arts and culture in Roanoke, developing the nationally recognized Park and Arts program and overseeing funding for local arts and cultural organizations.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards were established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered last year to bestow the honors, and congratulate the 2014 winners.