Queensborough is the Only Community College in the U.S. to Win Prestigious Grant That Celebrates Historic Female Playwrights

Published: September 21, 2018

The inaugural Sallie Bingham Grant to fund student-directed productions and readings of historic women's plays was awarded to Queensborough student Ksenia Volynkina and her faculty mentor, Dr.  Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson. Together they collaborated on a recent production of The Owl Answers, a powerhouse one-act play by renowned African American writer Adrienne Kennedy.  Queensborough is the only community college in the country to win the grant.

Sallie Bingham was a writer, teacher, feminist activist, and philanthropist who made a generous gift to History Matters/Back to the Future towards the furthering of the company’s mission to promote the study and production of women's plays of the past. The monetary award of $2500 supports a faculty-mentored student-directed reading series or full production of a play or plays by a historic female playwright. Four grants were awarded.

“This is an extraordinary accomplishment that reflects the talent of our students, the dedication of our faculty and our excellence in theatre education,” said Georgia McGill, Professor and Chairperson, Speech, Communication and Theatre Arts.

 “The Sallie Bingham Grant was an exciting opportunity to work with a student-director. Ksenia immediately came to mind as I have worked with her in the past, and saw firsthand her creativity and commitment to developing as a theatre artist. We wrote the grant together and are thrilled to be recipients of one of the awards. The production team from the director to the lighting and costume design was made up entirely of students. Michael Birnbaum, a College Lab Technician in our department oversaw the technical components, but it was Ksenia’s vision, leadership, and creativity that brought it all together. The work the students did speaks highly of the Theatre program, faculty, and training students receive here,” said Dr. Van Der Horn-Gibson.

”This play spoke to me in part because of my own background,“ said Ksenia, who directed the production of The Owl Answers.  “I was born and raised in Russia and since I arrived in the U.S. four years ago, have increasingly valued the issues reflected in the play such as identity, women‘s rights and family. It was an incredible experience to direct a play for the first time and it would not have been  succesful without my professors who have taught me and every student in the department all skills related to stage production. The knowledge I’ve gained in two years at Queensborough is on a par with theatre people I’ve worked with on the outside.“

Ksenia has been an outstanding student at Queensborough. She won Distinguished Performance by an Actress in a Play for anOTHER, which was showcased at the 2017 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The play was written and directed by C. Julian Jiménez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts, together with the student-led QCC Theatre Ensemble. The play won several additional awards including Distinguished Production of a New or Devised Work.

Ksenia is planning to graduate this semester and then apply to  CUNY colleges as well as private institutions.

In 2017, Queensborough was named one of only eight community colleges out of 189 accredited theatre programs nationwide to receive certification for the Associate in Science Degree by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, the sole accrediting body approved by the Department of Education.  Queensborough’s theatre program is the only institution in all of CUNY, including its four-year colleges and graduate programs, to be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre. Queensborough is the only public college in the metropolitan area to have an accredited theatre program.





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