June 24, 2024

Theatre Alum Creates Costumes For Hit Shows on Hulu, HBO

[caption id="attachment_166882" align="alignright" width="150"]Alicia Austin Alicia Austin[/caption] Alicia Austin ’16 had never even attended a play before coming to the University of Mary Washington. But after her first costume design course, she realized theatre was the perfect fit. “It was so interesting to me that I changed my major,” said Austin, who planned to study psychology but found elements of that in her new field. “I discovered that costuming could be a visual language to express each character’s personality.” Now she’s putting those sartorial skills to work. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Mary Washington, Austin completed an MFA at Yale University. Graduating just before COVID shuttered Broadway, she made a leap from stage to screen, joining design teams for remakes of HBO’s Sex and the City and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, as well as the Hulu hit Only Murders in the Building, which just began its second season. It’s a success story she’s been stitching together a little at a time. Read more.

Class of 2022: Stellar Student Stories, Part 2 of 3

The Class of 2022 began freshman year like any other, swept up in longstanding University of Mary Washington traditions like Move-In Day, Eagle Gathering and Honor Convocation. That all changed when they were sophomores. Classes went online, study abroad trips were postponed and everything – activities, internships and volunteer experiences – became virtual. But these […]

UMW’s ‘Bee’ Leaves Audiences Spellbound

U-n-e-x-p-e-c-t-e-d. Unexpected. Definition: unforeseen; surprising. Used in a sentence: University of Mary Washington Theatre’s season-closer, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is filled with UNEXPECTED and fun twists. In a battle of spelling prowess, this musical spells out what it’s like to be kids uncomfortable in their own skin and conveys the challenges of […]

Gregg Stull: Return to the Stage

Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Gregg Stull sets the scene as he shares his first impressions of his alma mater.

Theatre and Dance Professor and Chair Gregg Stull

Theatre and Dance Professor and Chair Gregg Stull

“I discovered Mary Washington when we visited my aunts who lived on Kenmore Avenue,” said Stull, who earned a bachelor’s degree in dramatic arts in 1982. “I remember sitting in the backseat of my mother’s car as we passed by the gates.”

First in his family to attend college, Stull described campus life as “idyllic” and slow paced – with one exception. In the theatre department, amid the hustle and bustle of rehearsals and shows, he learned not only to perform onstage but how to run lights, paint scenery, build costumes and manage the box office, under the guidance of supportive faculty members. “They encouraged us to stretch ourselves in every direction.”

Stull, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland, put his studies to work as managing director of D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre, before being hired first as an adjunct in 1990, then as a full-time instructor.

Now, as department chair, Stull ensures UMW’s aspiring thespians still receive a well-rounded education, even during the pandemic. With stages going dark everywhere, the department pulled together and persevered, delving into virtual productions, offering online and socially distanced courses, and employing professional actors to teach via Zoom.

But nothing compares to performing for a live audience, Stull said. In September, COVID precautions in place, UMW Theatre returned to the stage to perform Joan Holden’s Nickel and Dimed. After an 18-month hiatus, Mary Washington served as model to other schools as to how to safely resurrect live performances.

Next up is the Tony Award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, about a teen who investigates the mysterious death of a neighbor’s dog, opening Nov. 11, followed by The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Julius Caesar.

“Ours is work that demands we share space, proximity and even breath with each other,” Stull said. “We need to be in dialogue with an audience; nothing can replicate that moment of connection.”

Purchase tickets for UMW Theatre’s upcoming performances. Masks and proof of vaccination or a negative test are required.


Q: As a student, did a particular professor make an impact on you?
A: My advisor, Roger Kenvin, sparked a curiosity in me about the world that made me see myself beyond my rural high school and Mary Washington. We still exchange handwritten letters, 43 years later.

Q: How will Curious Incident resonate with audiences?
A: It’s an extraordinary story about challenging assumptions, exceeding expectations and navigating the chaos of life. It’s filled with hope and joy, which we could all use more of right now.

Q: Thoughts on UMW’s planned new theatre complex?
A: We’ve outgrown duPont and need facilities that support our work and project the theatre spaces students will encounter when they enter their professional lives.

Q: You were executive director of the NAMES Project, which displays the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and recently contributed to UMW’s LGBTQ+ Alumni Oral History Collection. What message do you hope to convey to the next generation doing this work?
A: Being part of a global project fighting for the rights of people who were dying without a voice affirmed for me that art is powerful and can change the world. I hope today’s young people will honor the struggle that brought us to this point in history and remember those whose lives were lost when the world – not so long ago – did not value difference.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: When students discover themselves as a result of working on a production, I know I’m doing what I was called to do.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Meeting and responding to our ever-changing world on our stages and in our classrooms and studios.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I went to culinary school in Italy and was a stage (French for “cooking apprentice”) at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Emilia-Romagna.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Thinking and doing, doing and thinking,
That is the sum of all wisdom. – Goethe

Stull’s Great Lives Lecture on Lillian Hellman Airs on C-SPAN

Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull

Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull

Professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull’s Great Lives lecture on playwright Lillian Hellman recently aired on C-SPAN. Watch here.

UMW Students Creating Theatre for Young Audiences

UMW Theatre and Studio 115 has teamed up with Fairfax County Public Schools to present Bedtime Stories (As Told By Our Dad) (Who Messed Them Up) by Ed Monk.

Dad is determined to make bedtime a smashing success. How hard could it be?! Just read a few books and then . . . REST AND RELAXATION! Little does he know that the kids have impossibly high standards and, as he begins to dive in, Dad quickly realizes he doesn’t remember the classics as well as he thought. As his retellings teeter off the rails, he weaves unforgettable stories from familiar, yet fractured, tales.

This performance is free and presented virtually one time only with Broadway On Demand on April 9 at 7:00 pm.

Please visit http://www.broadwayondemand.com/signup to register for an account prior to the performance. To attend the performance, visit: http://www.umwtheatre.org/bedtime.

If you would like to share information about the performance with parents of young children (aged 4-11) or any educators in your life you may share this linked PDF.

We are excited about this opportunity for our students to share this story with our community. We hope you will join us and spread the word. Should you have any questions, please email jreynol2@umw.edu.

Stull Pens Editorial on Lillian Hellman for ‘Great Lives’ Lecture

Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull

Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull

Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull penned an editorial about playwright Lillian Hellman for The Free Lance-Star in advance of his “Great Lives” lecture on March 18. The lecture can be viewed at umw.edu/greatlives.

PLAYWRIGHTS hold a mirror to demand an unforgiving reflection of life while posing provocative questions and providing few easy answers. Their characters illuminate a world where equity, justice, and possibility often elude all but the truly privileged.

Few American playwrights have interrogated this truth more than Lillian Hellman (1905–1984), who made an indelible mark on mid-20th century realism, even as she found herself overlooked among other playwrights of her time—such as Tennessee Williams, Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, Horton Foote, and William Inge. Read more.

Faculty Members Receive Emeritus Status

The 2020-21 school year will start with five noticeable voids as long-serving faculty leave the University of Mary Washington with emeritus status. The College of Education will say goodbye to professors George R. Meadows and Leslie Jo Tyler, the Department of Theatre and Dance will do the same with Professor Helen M. Housley, and two Jacks – Kramer and Bales – are departing the College of Arts and Sciences.

Professor of Education Emeritus George Meadows

Professor Emeritus of Education George Meadows

George Meadows came to Mary Washington in 1997 not only with an Ed.D. from West Virginia University, but also with a wealth of teaching experience. After earning degrees in geology – a bachelor’s from Marshall University and a master’s from Emory University – the West Virginia native served more than two years with the Peace Corps as a lecturer in geology at the National University of Malaysia, where he taught in the local language.

Meadows was an early adapter to technology. Known today for his instructional technology skills, he was already teaching online in the 1990s when he was research instructor for a National Science Foundation-funded project to support K-12 science teachers across a large geographic area. At Mary Washington, he was as likely to help faculty as students on use of technology, said longtime colleague Professor of Education Marie Sheckels.

She said that Meadows’ students loved his classes and appreciated the opportunities he gave them to explore new technologies, instructional equipment and hands-on material. She said his career demonstrated “he is a generous person who enjoys sharing his knowledge, expertise and excitement for learning with others.”

Meadows has focused in recent years on community outreach in the development of technology and makerspaces in local schools and libraries. He volunteers to support environmental education and STEM studies for the Fredericksburg area’s diverse, low-income children, and he plans to continue both in retirement.

Professor Emeritus of Education Leslie Jo Tyler

Professor Emeritus of Education Leslie Jo Tyler

Leslie Jo Tyler was hired in 1999 for a new master of education post-baccalaureate program in what was then the Mary Washington College of Graduate and Professional Studies. She “single-handedly directed the development” of UMW’s program to prepare classroom teachers to support English language learners – just when the need was taking off in the Fredericksburg area, according to Professor of Education Jane L. Huffman in a tribute to her colleague.

A linguist with a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master of education from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Tyler taught linguistics, sociolinguistics, cross-cultural communication, phonetics, phonology and other courses.

Huffman said that Tyler’s students recognized her demanding standards, just as they recognized her excellence. She became known for hosting annual gatherings so graduates and area professionals could get to know one another and share knowledge and best practices.

“Jo embodies the standards of quality, principles of innovation, and collaboration that are at the core of our programs,” Huffman said.

Professor Emeritus of Theatre Helen Housley

Professor Emeritus of Theatre Helen Housley

In her two decades at Mary Washington, Helen Housley directed 29 productions and was the department’s primary vocal instructor and coach. She taught an impressive variety of theater courses and stepped forward to develop a first-year seminar, which she taught every fall since its inception, according to Gregg Stull, department chair and professor of theater. An example of Housley’s devotion to her craft is that she volunteered over the years to watch thousands of high-schoolers audition for UMW Theatre.

An expert in the Lessac technique of voice, speech and movement training, Housley holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, a master of arts from Western Illinois University, and a bachelor of arts from St. Mary’s College.

In a tribute to Housley, Stull said the department in 2019 scheduled Much Ado About Nothing just so his colleague could direct her favorite Shakespeare comedy before retiring. Rehearsals were under way when the pandemic hit, and the production seemed doomed.

But Housley’s show went on. She innovated and directed the performance via Zoom. More than 1,500 people in 37 states and five countries watched a livestream of the performance, and thousands more saw it on YouTube.

“I never would have imagined when we left campus on March 12 that this semester, in all of its uncertainty, would reveal to me, yet again, Helen’s gifts as a teacher, director and colleague. But it has,” Stull said. “Helen ends her career at UMW in the same way she has lived it for the last 20 years – by giving tirelessly to our department and selflessly to our students, demanding as much from all of us as she does from herself. Such is her hallmark of excellence.”

Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jack Kramer

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs Jack Kramer

Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jack Kramer is retiring with numerous distinctions after half a century at Mary Washington. During his long tenure, Kramer served as visiting professor of strategy and policy at the United States Naval War College, research fellow for the Russian Research Center at Harvard University, senior fellow for the National Defense University, and Fulbright-Hayes Fellow in the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

After earning an undergraduate degree at LaSalle College and a master’s at the University of Virginia, Kramer received a doctorate in political science and Soviet area studies from U.Va., where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a DuPont Fellow and a University Fellow. In 2002, the Virginia Social Science Association named him the “Outstanding Political Scientist of Virginia,” and UMW awarded its 2006 Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching to Kramer. He wrote The Energy Gap in Eastern Europe (D.C. Heath, 1990) and numerous articles and professional papers on political life in Communist and Post-Communist polities in Europe. In addition, he was the longtime co-leader of Mary Washington’s unique study-abroad program called European Capitals.

“I’m a happy camper,” Kramer declared on the eve of his retirement. “I’ve had a good run [having] been blessed with many fine colleagues and wonderful students and been paid to teach and write about a subject I still find fascinating and gripping.”

His colleague and current department chair, Professor Elizabeth Freund Larus, said Kramer, longtime chair, “has been the cornerstone of the department … building a collegial environment in which we all appreciate what each of us contributes to the department and the discipline.”

Kramer added: “I had never heard of Mary Washington – or Fredericksburg, for that matter – before I came here; I took the job because we were dead broke and desperately needed money.”

He used that experience as a life lesson for his students, many of whom have gone on to fill high-ranking government positions. “It’s good to plan,” Kramer said, “but don’t obsess about it.” He added, “Life works in funny ways and much of what happens in it is purely serendipitous so be open and receptive to unanticipated opportunities and seize the moment to exploit them.”

Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales

Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales

After four decades at Mary Washington, Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales has retired from the University of Mary Washington. But the meticulous researcher and expert on the history of baseball won’t quit studying and writing about his beloved Chicago Cubs.

“What am I going to do without Jack?” asked University Librarian Rosemary Arneson, his friend and colleague. Bales has led about 100 research sessions for students annually, she said, and his Citing Sources is UMW Libraries’ most popular guide, with over 6,000 hits. Faculty depend on him for support, too, including some of his former students who now teach at their alma mater.

“He is happiest when he is in the library early on a Saturday morning, poring over the microfilm of early Chicago newspapers, and he loves nothing else so much as a good footnote,” Arneson said in a tribute to Bales.

The Positivity Post, a UMW student-led weekly newsletter designed to spread good news during the gloomy COVID-19 days, recently described Bales as a UMW “institution.” The article went on to say that Writing Center director Gwen Hale once hailed Jack Bales as “the Mick Jagger of librarians.” A student countered, according to the article, ‘‘Mick Jagger is the Jack Bales of rock and roll!”

In 2019, Bales released Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team, published by McFarland & Co. A book about the life of Violet Popovich, the woman who shot Cub Billy Jurges, will be published later this year by The History Press. Bales’ books include literary studies on American authors Horatio Alger Jr., Kenneth Roberts (Northwest Passage), and Esther Forbes (Johnny Tremain).

In addition, he’s written extensively about the late Southern author Willie Morris, who is best known for his award-winning North Toward Home and the memoir My Dog Skip, which was made into a popular film. Morris and Bales became friends, leading to Morris’ memorable guest lectures at Mary Washington in 1998, during which he captivated students, faculty and community members.

“Jack is much more than a great teacher and researcher,” Arneson said. “He is a generous colleague, always willing to take an extra shift on the reference desk or to offer words of praise. We will all miss him greatly. And we hope he doesn’t have to wait another 100 years to see the Cubs win the World Series again.”

Alum Skyrockets in Career as NASA Videographer

Paul Morris, who received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UMW in 2010, is now a video producer for NASA. A documentary he created for the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope has garnered more than 400,000 views on social media. Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

Paul Morris, who received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UMW in 2010, is now a video producer for NASA. A documentary he created for the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope has garnered more than 400,000 views on social media. Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

Paul Morris ’10 grew up recording epic space battles on stop-action film. He’d pose and re-pose Star Wars figures, capturing them with a Sony Super 8 camera that kept conking out.

Now a video producer for NASA, Morris’s outer-space odysseys are a bit more high-tech. A documentary he created – from conception to final cut – for this spring’s 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, went into orbit on social media. With a theatre degree he didn’t know existed when he got to college – and the teamwork and storytelling skills that came with it – Morris turned his innate fascination with all things galactic into a soaring career.

“It’s been an absolute dream,” he said. “I’ve always been obsessed with space and with NASA.”

UMW, too, was ingrained in Morris, whose grandparents Marceline Weatherly Morris ’50 and Elmer “Juney” Morris Jr. ’50, married seven decades this month, began their courtship at Mary Washington. Paul Morris took a cue from the couple, meeting fellow theatre major Cassie Lewis ’11 on campus and marrying her beneath a magnolia tree in his Nana’s backyard. Read more.

Alum Skyrockets in Career as NASA Videographer

Paul Morris ’10 grew up recording epic space battles on stop-action film. He’d pose and re-pose Star Wars figures, capturing them with a Sony Super 8 camera that kept conking out. Now a video producer for NASA, Morris’s outer-space odysseys are a bit more high-tech. A documentary he created – from conception to final cut […]