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Tonya Hays Awarded the 2019 Linda P. Wise Grant

Tonya Hayes

EdTA has awarded the 2019 Linda P. Wise Grant for Theatre Educators to Tonya Hays, theatre teacher and director of Thespian Troupe 4779, at Gulfport High School in Gulfport, Mississippi. The grant is awarded to an EdTA professional member and theatre educator who presents a plan for an in-class program in need of financial support.

Hays will develop a Devised Theatre Project with her students. This sort of theatre does not include pre-written scripts and is based on an ensemble’s research and development of an original topic. Students explore a topic, conduct interviews, then develop a script for performance. This grant will allow Hays to purchase props, costumes, and textbook copies of Moment Work: Tectonic Theatre Project’s Process of Theatre and Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate epidemic, the subject she plans to explore with students. Because adolescents initiate substance use as early as 12 – 17 years old, Hays believes theatre is the best way to discuss substance use with her students. “Theatre promotes literacy, tolerance and understanding while countering ignorance, stigma and prejudice.” These additional resources will advance Hays’ work with her students and put a “human face” on addiction.  

Linda P. Wise spent her 42-year career as an English teacher and theatre educator in Georgia. She was a five-time Governor’s Honors Teacher in Theatre, Teacher of the Year at Rockdale County, and an Honoree of the Georgia High School Theatre Hall of Fame. Wise’s former students include Holly Hunter, Jerry D. Smith, and Hunter Bell, among others who have made a career in theatre. Wise directed the Atlanta Children’s Theater and founded the Depot Players. She was an active member of the Georgia Thespians Chapter Board and created the Individual Events program at the Georgia Thespian Chapter Conference. Wise’s husband, Henry J. Wise, funded this grant in her memory to honor her lifetime of dedication to theatre education.

Each year, the Educational Theatre Association’s awards, grants, and scholarship opportunities honor the achievements of individuals and theatre programs, providing award-winners with the financial support to attend Association events or further educational endeavors. Awards are presented in recognition of notable accomplishments by individuals or theatre programs. Grants are one-time financial awards presented to individuals or troupes to attend Association events such as the EdTA National Conference or the International Thespian Festival. National scholarships are presented to students, typically based on a combination of merit and career goals. Many of the opportunities have a deadline to apply by February 1, 2020.


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