Education

PlayMakers, UNC drama department get $12M gift

Posted September 11

— PlayMakers Repertory Company and the department of dramatic art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have received a $12 million gift to increase the university’s performing arts programming by expanding educational opportunities for students and enhancing performance and outreach offerings available to the community, officials said Monday.

The endowment, from longtime arts patron Joan Gillings, is the largest single gift by a living individual to benefit the performing arts at UNC-Chapel Hill, officials said. The Center for Dramatic Art, home to the drama department and PlayMakers, will now be named the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art.

"We are incredibly grateful to Joan for her extraordinary gift that builds upon Carolina’s century-old dramatic arts tradition of educating students, thrilling audiences and inspiring communities," Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. "This wonderful gift will create innovative and exciting educational, performance and outreach opportunities for our PlayMakers Repertory Company and nationally recognized department of dramatic art. It also supports our Arts Everywhere initiative, taking our existing strengths in dramatic arts to an even higher level by unleashing creativity and opening minds."

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

"I acquired a love of theater while attending plays on Broadway and in London’s West End," Gillings said in a statement. "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."

The endowments will enable the drama department to recruit and retain top graduate students by funding additional scholarships in acting, costume production and technical production and will expand PlayMakers’ education and outreach programs, including the Mobile Shakespeare initiative, and its K-12 educational matinee and teaching artist residency programs, officials said. 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, they said.

Gillings and her husband, Dennis, have previously provided financial support for the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Carolina Performing Arts and UNC Children’s Hospital. In 2011, Joan Gillings was awarded the William Richardson Davie Award, the highest honor bestowed by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, for extraordinary service to the university.

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