Posted: Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania University’s theater department has received a $204,769 gift to expand student and faculty opportunities and bolster community engagement.

Over the next four years, the Dixon/White Theater Fund will benefit the university in a variety of ways, including travel grants, free theater tickets, conference attendance for students, visiting artist residencies and workshops, faculty development and guest speakers.

“These funds offer students co-curricular experiences that complement our work in the classroom and in production,” theater professor Michael Dixon said. “For example, we’re initiating a lecture series to address issues of diversity in world theater. And each year we’ll provide funding for students to travel somewhere in the world to experience theatrical events in other cultures. It’s definitely mind-expanding, and it could be mind-blowing.”

The donation—made by Dixon’s family in memory of his mother, Marion—will make it possible for the university to offer free admission to its theater productions, with the goal of making performances accessible to more of the Lexington community. This ties into Transylvania’s broader Project One initiative to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. The grant also will fund an artistic residency, which will begin in May with Lexington theater company Project SEE and its production of “No Spring Chicken” in Little Theater.

“Professional theater residency is just one of many projects this gift allows us to pursue, and it adds Transylvania to a prestigious group of colleges with professional companies on campus, including Yale, Harvard and Vassar,” theater program director Sullivan White said. “This project gives students the opportunity to observe and work alongside professionals who are pursuing careers in the American theater.” 

Transylvania’s theater program—in addition to staging original productions—has a history of bringing to Lexington quality talent such as storyteller Kevin Kling, German puppet/mask performer Kristi Hughes and the American Shakespeare Center. 

The grant will build on what has been five years of significant growth for the program. “These funds provide incredible new opportunities for Transylvania theater students,” White said.