Drama, PlayMakers Get Largest-Ever Arts Gift

PlayMakers Repertory Company and the department of dramatic art have received a $12 million gift that will significantly increase the University’s performing arts programming, and rename the department’s building for a longtime arts patron.

The endowment is the largest single gift by a living individual to benefit the performing arts at Carolina. The home to the department and PlayMakers will be named the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art.

Gillings’ commitment will enable the department to recruit and retain top graduate students by funding additional scholarships in acting, costume production and technical production annually. It also will expand PlayMakers’ education and outreach programs, including the Mobile Shakespeare initiative, its K-12 educational matinee program and its residency program for teaching artists. In addition, the gift will foster the development of new plays to engage the University and national theater community with innovative and socially conscious work.

“I acquired a love of theater while attending plays on Broadway and in London’s West End,” Gillings said. “The high quality of PlayMakers productions, including the work of the graduate students, has inspired me to make this gift. The future of theater is in the hands of our students. I am excited about what the future holds for them.”

Established in 1925, the department of dramatic art is the second oldest theater department in the country, and PlayMakers recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

“This wonderful gift provides us with a historic opportunity to take our work to the next level — as scholars and artists, teachers and theater practitioners,” said Adam Versényi, chair of the department. “Joan’s incredible generosity will enable us to attract and, most importantly, support the best graduate students and faculty. These are the individuals who enhance our undergraduate students’ learning experience as well as our audiences’ experience of the highest possible artistry.”

PlayMakers is the University’s professional theater-in-residence. The theater is a living laboratory where professional actors, costumers and technicians, many of whom also teach in the department, work closely with graduate students in the nationally recognized MFA programs in acting, costume production and technical production.

Previous philanthropy by Gillings to the University includes UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Carolina Performing Arts and UNC Children’s Hospital. In 2011, she was awarded the William Richardson Davie Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Trustees, for extraordinary service to Carolina. She received the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2008.


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