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UGA Theatre & Film Studies Student's Sensational Summer

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The summer was all but stagnant for UGA Theatre & Film Studies students, with students traveling both within the country and beyond its borders to see family, study, teach, and above all – create art!

Globetrotters Fiona Schirmer, Hannah Grace Laughlin, Priscilla Jackson, Sofia Ruíz, Victoria Highsmith, and Waminja Marekia-Cleaveland joined professor Ray Paolino in Cortona, Italy to study Shakespeare and perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an 18th Century Theatre. Hannah Laughlin describes her time abroad:

Professor Ray Paolino alongside UGA Theatre students outside of the Duomo in Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

“It was more than I could have imagined. I was pushed as an artist and feel as I’ve grown as a person in many different facets. It was amazing, challenging, exhilarating, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Theatre major Collin Hendley served as dance captain for Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Valdosta’s professional theatre repertory company, Peach State Summer Theatre. Not content in a leadership role alone, Hendley also performed in Sister Act and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella!

Collin Hendley
Collin Hendley in Peach State Summer Theatre's production of Cinderella

Recent alum Caro Caden spent the summer in Martha’s Vineyard working as an administrative assistant for the African-American Heritage Trail on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, helping to streamline their tour booking system while also working with community groups like The Yard to use art to bring awareness to marginalized histories. 

Caro slide
Caro leading a walking tour group alongside the grandson of Anne P. Jennings, the first Black nurse of Hartford Hospital in CT and the first Black nursing student at Yale.

Two-time alumna Elise Nation (B.A. Film Studies, MFA Film) recently became an instructor at Emory University’s Department of Film and Media. She completed her Master's in Film, Television, and Digital Media from the University of Georgia where she was 1 of 13 students selected for the inaugural class. During her time there, she was awarded the Prentiss Courson Scholarship, a Graduate Research Award, and a Grady grant for her Thesis film. Her short film Ripped Seems was recently selected for Atlanta Shortsfest within the Atlanta Film Series and she is currently in the process of entering her latest short into the film festival circuit.

Elise Nation (second from right) alongside faculty member Shandra L. McDonald and fellow graduates of the MFA Film program

Shannon McCarthy joined Grady LA in Los Angeles to intern with HBO Max in Television Programming. While there, they shadowed pitches for productions, assisted development executives, and covered new scripts in comedic, dramatic, non-fiction, and international television. 

Shannon McCarthy outside of Warner Bros. Discovery Headquarters (HBOMax)

Back home, MFA and PhD candidates Alexis Lygoumenos, Anna Corbould, Gabby Sinclair Compton, Jingyi Zhang, Lyndsey Cole, and Meg Grey served as instructors of Theatre and Film with UGA’s Summer Academy.

Also teaching over the summer, Performance MFA Julian Borris served as an instructor at The Levine School of Music’s Drama Department. There he taught classes “based on improvisational skills, animal studies, creative, collaborative, and other introductory games for theatre children and teens.” While at Levine, he also wrote a play called Rocking the Red Carpet: Music from the Movies, which was rehearsed and put up in collaboration with the other camp instructors.

Performance MFA Maurice Chinnery will be performing in The Lyric Theater’s production of Guys & Dolls in Marietta, GA – running from August 25-September 4. The cast includes another familiar face in alum Emma Ruth Mathews!

Performance MFA Di Quon Wilms also had an extremely eventful summer: her professional directorial debut Agu, a moving short film featuring UGA’s own Julia Reilly, Lyndsey Cole, Maurice Chinnery, and honorary MFA Performance member Mina Wilms.

Behind-the-Scenes of Di Quon Wilms' award-winning directorial debut, featuring Performance MFA Lyndsey Cole

Agu was produced for the Asian American Film Lab 72 Hour Shootout and won third place, receiving recognition at the Asian American International Film Festival. MFA Film students Albin Pepe (editor) and Kelsey Schmitt (director of photography) made their way to New York for the premiere. 

 “This project would not have been possible without the help of UGA,” says Wilms, further stating that the film could not have been completed without “Julie Ray and Dr. Springston allowing the collaboration and usage of the equipment and school.” 

UGA’s inaugural MFA Film cohort spent their summer filming in the Athens and Atlanta areas, casting department students in their various projects. 

  • Mary GoodwinQueue – A science fiction short with Sofía Ruiz
  • Caroline PattersonGood Kisser – with Lyndsey Cole
  • Xavier BrownWings – A dramedy with Maurice Chinnery
  • David WhiteheadThe Arcade – Featuring alum Mac Escalante
  • Albie PepeLucky – A mystery film featuring several iconic Athens spots


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