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Jason Rapp

Val Dunn named 2020 winner of the Trustus Playwrights’ Festival

Get a preview with online reading event this month


Trustus Theatre has named Down in the Holler by Val Dunn the winner of the 2020 Trustus Playwrights’ Festival, an annual national new works competition that was founded by the theatre in 1988.

Trustus TheatreThe theatre will present a free, online reading reading of the winning script on its website Saturday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. Here is a synopsis:

As the play begins, audiences are transported to a holler in the Shenandoah Valley. Juniper prepares to spend a perfect life in a perfect cabin with her perfect partner, Blake. That is, until Maeve appears in the doorway. Telling tall tales and crooning high lonesomes, Maeve beguiles Juniper's return to Gin—a past self who once lived and loved in this here house. As Juniper attempts to exorcise her pursuit of passion and maintain the stable life she's created with Blake, Down in the Holler witnesses a collision of class and queerness, ultimately asking how we reconcile who we were and who we thought we would become.

Trustus Theatre received more than 800 submissions to the 2020 Trustus Playwrights’ Festival. The Festival Selection Committee, comprised of Trustus company members, selected Dunn’s work. The winning script is traditionally produced as a part of Trustus’ Main Stage subscriber season the year after it is named the winner, however Trustus leadership expects this script to be staged in Summer 2022 because of the pandemic. After the reading event on Sept. 26, the show’s production team, including director Dewey Scott-Wiley, will work with the playwright over the next two years to finalize the script for production.
Val Dunn is a writer/deviser who creates plays, performance art, and rituals. Her work possesses a strong sense of place and tackles issues of feminism and queerness while pushing against the limitations of form. She is a member playwright of Azuka’s New Pages, Writers on the Rocks, and an alumna of the Foundry @ PlayPenn. She has received developmental support from the Orchard Project (Core Company), Signal Fire, Centrum, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, and SANDBOX. Val holds a bachelor's with honors in drama and English from Washington College where she received the Stewart Award for Drama, The Mary Martin Prize, The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize, The William W. Warner Prize for Writing on the Environment, The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize, and was a finalist for the Sophie Kerr prize in Literature. Val has also created zines about depression, the border crisis, and late-stage capitalism.
Directed by Trustus Company Member Dewey Scott-Wiley, Down in the Holler will feature the acting talents of Christine Hellman (Juniper), Susan Swavely (Gin), Katie Leitner (Maeve), and Tashera Pravato (Blake). Virtual scenic and lighting design will be created by Trustus staff members Curtis Smoak and Sam Hetler, editing will be done by staff member Abigail McNeely, and Producing Artistic Director Chad Henderson will be composing the additional media used to provide contextual imagery. This reading event will also feature music by Columbia folk bands The Prairie Willows and Post-Timey String Band. “We’re getting very energized about creating virtual events,” said Producing Artistic Director Chad Henderson. “This reading of Down in the Holler will allow us to share Val’s script with our fans and followers—a show we deeply believe in and look forward to producing. This event also gives us a chance to play and stir our creative impulses. Director Dewey Scott-Wiley has embraced this new format for theatrical experience, and with the addition of virtual backgrounds, sound design, music, and film—I think this reading is going to offer much more than one would expect.”

Submitted material

Trustus Theatre names Chad Henderson producing artistic director

Trustus Theatre On Monday, the Trustus Theatre board of directors voted to end the organization’s search for a managing director that began in September 2019 and named Artistic Director Chad Henderson as the producing artistic director. Henderson will now serve the organization in an executive capacity to lead artists, staff, board and the community in realizing the theatre’s mission. He is a native of Spartanburg and began working at Trustus Theatre in 2007 as the marketing director after graduating from the University of South Carolina. After an eight-year career as a professional director, he became Trustus' third artistic director at the start of the theatre’s 31st season in 2015. This is Henderson’s fifth season as the artistic leader of the organization, and the South Carolina Theatre Association recognized him with the 2019 Founders Award last season in recognition for his contributions to South Carolina theatre the previous year. The theatre intends to hire an administrative assistant of production in the coming months to assist in the management of productions, contribution programs, and communications.


Sumner Bender, president of Trustus Theatre’s board, is confident in the board’s decision to make Henderson the producing artistic director. “Over the past several years, Trustus Theatre has been in a structural transition,” said Bender. “One of the only constants during that change has been Chad Henderson. The board of directors worked diligently over the past year to assess and evaluate the responsibilities and duties for an organizational leader. Many of those duties were already being performed by Mr. Henderson. A theatre organization is mutable, just like many smaller arts organizations, and it must be able to recognize when that change is needed. Therefore, when hiring an organizational leader, you can only hope for one that understands the mission, is a champion for the vision, and willing to work hard to maintain that integrity. We’re lucky that Mr. Henderson possesses all of those qualities and will continue to serve as a leader for Trustus Theatre.” Henderson is honored by the opportunity to serve Trustus in this new capacity. “Trustus has been my artistic home for over fifteen years,” said Henderson. “Being given the chance to lead the organization in this capacity is humbling, and it is also energizing. I can’t quantify what this theatre has given me since its co-founders Jim and Kay Thigpen hired me right out of college, but I constantly endeavor to give back in whatever way I can. While our strategies may transform on occasion, the organization continues to be a vital cultural institution in South Carolina. My hope is that my service to the organization can position it for continued success in the next 35 years by celebrating artistry, community, and the power of storytelling.”
Trustus Theatre is currently in its 35th season as the Midlands’s contemporary professional theatre. Founded in 1985 by Kay and Jim Thigpen, Trustus Theatre boasts two performing venues with the Thigpen Main Stage seating 132 and the Trustus Side Door Theatre seating 50. The theatre and the Trustus Company endeavor to enrich the lives and deepen the experiences of their artists and patrons by producing works that examine humanity in the 21st century. The theatre’s goal is to select challenging scripts that will start and nurture dialogues that promote discussion within the community with productions that are brought to life through dynamic storytelling and inventive designs.

What’s that? Accessibility Grants from the SCAC

'Trustus in the Round' a result of grant


It's a small grant category, but it helps South Carolina organizations do big things in the arts. Notice we didn't say "arts organizations" there. That's because Accessibility Grants are intended help South Carolina organizations make arts programs and existing facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. Non-profit organizations, units of government, and designated S.C. Department of Disabilities & Special Needs boards who provide arts programming can use an Accessibility Grant to get up to $2,500 to improve access to that programming. Sounds nice, and you should definitely read more about these grants, but what does it look like in real life? Well... Trustus Theatre in Columbia wanted its audiences to experience "theater in the round" for three consecutive productions in early 2020. Extensive renovation to the main stage would be required to convert it to a round configuration. But a problem arose: even though it's temporary, the round stage would nonetheless compromise current accessibility enjoyed by Trustus' disabled patrons. The answer was to remove 88 fixed seats to integrate accessible seating into the temporary stage structure which, when complete, would be able to reintegrate some of the removed fixed seating while allowing ramp access to patrons who need it. A $2,500 Accessibility Grant from the S.C. Arts Commission made that happen. And, because partnerships are a key way SCAC accomplishes its work, it's here that we'll note Trustus partnered with ABLE SC to develop a viable solution. The round stage debuts Feb. 7 with the theater's production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Tuning Up: Trustus puts grant to use + indigenous performers grant

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


Collaboration looks to be a main theme of the 34th season of Columbia's Trustus Theatre. Read more in this story from Broadway World. Something else caught The Hub's attention, though: Trustus used a Presenting and Performing Arts (PPA) Initiative grant from the SCAC to allow Scott Pattinson to make his Trustus debut in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The "play focuses on the story of an autistic teenager, and this production is also a partnership with Autism Speaks and S.C. Autism Academy." South Carolina dance, music, and theatre organizations are encouraged to learn more about, and apply for, PPA grants.
Western Arts Alliance (WAA), the Portland-based performing arts service organization, has announced the launch of a new grant opportunity for Native artists – the Advancing Indigenous Performance (AIP) Artists Travel Assistance Fund – and is accepting applications beginning Monday, November 18, 2018 through December 7, 2018. Advancing Indigenous Performance (AIP) is a national program to create new touring and presentation opportunities for Indigenous performing artists, made possible by lead funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation. AIP invests in building the professional capacities of Indigenous artists as it works to break down barriers in the performing arts.

Tuning Up: SCAC fellow’s new play to debut + Camden gallery’s season opens

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


SCAC fellowship recipient to debut new play. “Boy About Ten” will debut Aug. 17 and run until Aug. 25 on the Thigpen Main Stage at Columbia’s Trustus Theatre. It is playwright Dr. Jon Tuttle's sixth world premier at Trustus, where he is resident playwright. Tuttle received the SCAC's fellowship for playwriting in 2000. Read more on "Boy About Ten" and Tuttle from the Morning News/SC Now. Bassett Gallery opens new season. "Tuning Up" is happy for a quick check-in just up U.S. 1 in Camden, where grantee the Fine Arts Center is set to open the 2018/2019 Bassett Gallery season on Thursday night. Camden artist Dot Goodwin's exhibition "Life with HeART" is first up. Spartanburg 1 touts ABC Project grants. Spartanburg School District 1 scored the largest percentage of ABC — Arts in Basic Curriculum — grant funding of any district in the state, according to the Herald-Journal. The total amount headed to the district is $67,000 distributed among seven district schools. Thanks for promoting your grant!
[caption id="attachment_34666" align="alignright" width="251"] The world-famous Hub Calls for Art Megaphone.[/caption] ICYMI: Calling all potters! The Macon (Ga.) Arts Alliance would like to share with you Fired Works 2019 Regional Ceramics Exhibition and Sale featuring 60 potters from Georgia and the Southeast to be held April 5-14, 2019 in ... Macon, Georgia. The entry fee and exhibition are free to the exhibitors. Get, ahem, fired up! Hard details here. Let's show them what #SCArtists can do! (The deadline is Dec. 1, so we'll remind you once or twice between now and then.)

Leila Ibrahim joins Trustus Theatre as executive director

Leila IbrahimTrustus Theatre has hired Leila Ibrahim as the new executive director. Partnering with Trustus Artistic Director Chad Henderson, Ibrahim will work to further develop business oversight, event execution and sponsorship support. Ibrahim comes to the Columbia community with more than nine years of experience, having spent the last year in Florence, S.C., as Florence Little Theatre's executive director. "Trustus has accomplished a lot in its short history and has a great, positive momentum," said Ibrahim. "I really get the impression that they are on the cusp of becoming a true leader and regional presence in the arts -- a theatre that other theatres look up to. I hope to help continue that upward climb and help push the organization to the next level." Ibrahim's experience includes supervising, hiring and training box office staff as the box office manager at The Liacouras Center at Temple University, managing all operational aspects of ticket sales and executing 20+ events as the interim director at the Grand Opera House at Mercer University, and developing and implementing fundraising plans as the development director at Cherokee County Arts Center. "One of the benefits of a smaller, local theatre is that it can be community-focused," said Ibrahim. "We can really program and adapt to the community we serve, whether that means serving parts of the community that are currently underserved or doing work that really speaks to the current community. A smaller organization has the ability to change quicker to be more reflective of what is going on and that is a really exciting environment to be a part of." Via: Trustus Theatre

Trustus Theatre seeks new Executive Director

Trustus Theatre, located in Columbia S.C., is looking for a full-time executive director. Trustus is a nonprofit theatre that produces live theatre year round. Trustus also offers a theatre education program for youths as well as training workshops for corporate organizations. The Executive Director is one of two key management leaders of Trustus and is responsible for developing and administering the budget, fundraising, managing non-artistic administration, programming and strategic planning. Other duties include marketing, and community outreach and connectivity. The position reports directly to the board of directors. Specific responsibilities include: • Developing and administering annual budget • Hiring and managing administrative staff members • Raising money • Creating and implementing development plan • Soliciting donors • Identifying funding sources • Writing grants • Overseeing fundraising events • Overseeing annual audit • Implementing strategic plan • Seeking sponsorships • Working with marketing firm to develop marketing materials for public relations • Collaborating with artistic director and staff to create programming. Qualifications: The candidate must have a Bachelor’s degree and possess nonprofit, fundraising and grant writing experience. Also, the candidate should have theatrical experience and an understanding of the business, technical and artistic demands associated with operating a dynamic performance and evolving educational organization. The candidate should possess some background in business. The candidate must have strong interpersonal and verbal communication skills as well as advanced, persuasive writing skills, and must have the ability to interact and navigate issues at the executive level and work with a board of directors. Strong relationship building and solicitation skills are critical. The candidate should have proficient computer skills in word processing, spreadsheet applications and PowerPoint and a working knowledge of QuickBooks. Application deadline is September 15, 2015. Send resume and cover letter to Search Committee, Trustus Theatre, 520 Lady Street, Columbia SC 29201 or via email to Chad@trustus.org. Via: Trustus Theatre

Trustus Theatre announces new staff and board members

Trustus Theatre in Columbia, S.C., recently added three new staff positions. Debbie Cohn has been hired as director of development to help launch The Trustus Preservation Society capital campaign.  Cohn, a veteran fund raiser, has worked previously at the Katie & Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center, The Family Shelter, SCADVASA (The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault), and the South Carolina Philharmonic, as well as serving on many nonprofit boards. Along with Cohn, Jeremy Polley has been hired as audio/projection director and resident musician and Charles Felsberg as the Trustus Company liaison.  Additionally, Chad Henderson has been named co-artistic director for this season, sharing the position with former Artistic Director Dewey-Scott Wiley. Additionally, four new board members have joined the organization for the 2014-15 season including Marjorie Huntington, Lucy Grey McIver, Len Marini and Stewart Rawson.  Executive officers for this season include President Harrison Saunders, Vice President Lynn Stokes-Murray, Secretary Thomas Black, Treasurer Jason Richardson and Members-at-Large Stewart Rawson and Susan Levi-Wallach. Trustus is Columbia’s professional theatre celebrating its 30th anniversary this season.  For more information, visit trustus.org. About Trustus Theatre Trustus Theatre is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. Trustus Theatre is dedicated to high-quality productions that speak to today’s most important issues. We are a safe place for exploration and expression of the political, the personal, and all things human. Our theatre is your theatre! Via: MidlandsBiz.com, Trustus Theatre

Trustus Theatre recognized with three major awards

From Broadwayworld.com:

Trustus Theatre (located in Columbia, S.C.) has received three major awards from prominent national and statewide arts organizations: a national grant award from the Shubert Foundation, the South Carolina Theatre of Distinction Award from the South Carolina Theatre Association, and SCTA's Founders Award, which was presented to Trustus Artistic Director Dewey Scott-Wiley. Trustus received a $15,000 grant from the Shubert Foundation for the 2014-2015 theatre season. The Foundation provides general operating support for not-for-profit professional theatre and dance companies across the nation. The grant award was based on a strong track record of artistic achievement, administrative strength and fiscal responsibility. In addition, SCTA presented Trustus with the first South Carolina Theatre of Distinction Award. In presenting the award, Professional Theatre Division Chair Anne Tromsness described Trustus as a "theatre that became, very quickly, a safe place for exploration and expression of the political, the personal, and all things human. Its art inspired thought, and thought inspired action. It quickly became a center for embracing the counterpoint - and giving visibility to perspectives and experiences that had traditionally been marginalized." Dewey Scott-Wiley's SCTA Founders Award is presented annually to the person or organization judged to have done the most for theatre in South Carolina during the preceding year. Dewey is the professional division chair of the Southeastern Theatre Conference and is an associate professor of theatre at USC-Aiken. Most recently at Trustus she directed "See Rock City and Other Destinations" and will be directing the 2014 Trustus' Playwright's Festival winner "The Velvet Weapon," in August. "We are honored to be awarded a grant that recognizes not only the theatre's contribution to professional theatre in the U.S., but also the development of new work, which continues to be a vital part of the mission at Trustus," said Scott-Wiley. "Being acknowledged by The Shubert Organization in this way is a profound affirmation of our longstanding commitment to producing important new American theatre." For more information, visit http://www.trustus.org.