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Kennedy Center recognizes Women’s Writing Project with two national awards

A year ago, 24 female Liberty University Department of Theatre Arts students set out to create more substantial roles for women in theatre by writing and performing an original play about some of Virginia’s most compelling women. This month, the play was recognized with two national awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

“Bloodroot: The Ballad of Clinch Mountain” earned Distinguished Production of a New Work. Senior Adell Ehrhorn, who played country music icon June Carter Cash, was honored for Distinguished Performance in a Play. This is the first time that a Liberty theatre production has earned national honors. The production was among a select group of finalists featured at the KCACTF Region 4 festival in February.

With support from Theatre Arts Chair Linda Nell Cooper and Liberty’s Center for Research & Scholarship, the Women’s Writing Project was created to offer a solution to a common problem in theatre — lack of female representation. The writers mined Virginia’s history, particularly the Clinch Mountain region (a ridge in the Appalachian Mountains that runs through parts of Tennessee and Virginia), for rich stories of women who exhibited strength, creativity, bravery, and ingenuity. They tied the stories together with the imagery of the bloodroot, a beautiful blossom native to the area and known for its resilience.

“To guide these women through the art form of written storytelling was rewarding for me as a teacher and administrator,” Cooper said. “As a woman, it was gratifying to view another generation find their individual and group voices within the words written on paper – words which not only empowered the characters written but the women who wrote them. I am proud of the boldness they showed with the choices they made, the way they overcame obstacles as a group, the way they did not listen to the naysayers but followed their own instincts, and especially the way they allowed the Lord to speak through them in the richness of what they wrote and in the gracefulness in which they performed. They have now paved a way for other students in the department to give meaning to pen and to make action happen on stage for themselves and others.”

“The national recognition reinforces Liberty’s perspective of the importance of faculty/student collaboration for creative scholarship,” added Scott Hayes, dean of Liberty’s School of Visual & Performing Arts and the play’s director. “We have had such wonderful support from the Center for Research & Scholarship and the Provost’s Office on a number of faculty/student collaborations.”

He said the play gave them a chance to exercise their creativity and their faith.

“I know firsthand that the Women’s Writing Project is full of creators that seek to follow Jesus in all they do, and each rehearsal and performance was clearly characterized by this,” he said. “KCACTF recognizes excellence, and all of the participants in ‘Bloodroot’ know the source of any excellence exhibited in our efforts is Jesus Christ.”

Read more about the project in the Liberty Journal.