Christal Brown teaching
Joe Forbes '76 BFA Theatre on the Red Carpet

School of Theatre Alumnus Receives Tony Award

Joe Forbes, ’76 BFA Scenic Design has been selected as one of four recipients for this year’s  Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre.
The award was established in 1990 and are awarded annually to institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories.
Forbes is the founder of Scenic Art Studios, Inc. which has become the premiere scene painting studio for Broadway Scenery. Since its inception, the company has created backdrops, sculptures, and painted built scenery for more than 350 Broadway productions. Productions include, Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, Hello Dolly, A Bronx Tale, School of Rock, Beetlejuice, and Beautiful.
In an effort to share his love for scene painting, Joe also founded The Studio and Forum of Scenic Arts in 2004, a not-for-profit school, where he still enjoys being an instructor. It is the studio’s mission to teach the traditional skills of scene painting, while incorporating new materials and techniques. His passion for teaching also lead him to Purchase College, where he was a Lecturer in Theatre Design/Technology for 12 years.

Sherrill Roland ’09, ’17 MFA awarded the Fellowship in Documentary Arts from Duke University

SHERRILL ROLAND has been awarded the Center for Documentary Studies’ 2018-19 Post-MFA Fellowship in the Documentary Arts. He will be in residence at the Center for Documentary Studies for 10 months. He is the founder of the acclaimed Jumpsuit Project, intended to raise awareness around issues related to incarceration. Rolland created the Jumpsuit Project after a wrongful conviction just as he had started his last year of grad school in 2013. He was exonerated of all charges in 2015 and returned to UNCG to complete his degree. For his MFA thesis project, Sherrill wore an orange jumpsuit every day and documented his interactions with the public until his graduation in spring 2017. Rolland has shared The Jumpsuit Project around the country with speaking  engagements and performances at many educational institutions and museums. Read more here.  (image by Todd Turner)

Follow Rolland’s project by visiting the following links:

@JumpsuitProject on Twitter
the.jumpsuit.project on Instagram.


UNCG Alumna Beth Leavel nominated for TONY Award

UNC Greensboro Alumna Beth Leavel, MFA ’80 has just received another Tony nomination, this one for her role as Dee Dee Allen in the hit Broadway musical, THE PROMThe nomination was announced this morning by The American Theatre Wing.

Ms. Leavel holds a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for THE DROWSY CHAPERONE in 2006.   THE PROM is her twelfth Broadway show.  She debuted in 42ND STREET in 2001 and other credits include YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, MAMMA MIA, BANDSTAND and ELF.

Beth Leavel attended Meredith for her undergraduate degree in social work, but she had been bitten by the acting bug and decided to pursue graduate work in theatre.  She says her selection of UNCG’s MFA program was a great decision.

A group of UNCG Trustees and supporters saw THE PROM in mid-April and after the show Ms. Leavel joined the group for a private talkback.  She credited UNCG Faculty with helping her find her voice and her passion.   She says it was important to be surrounded by “like minds and supportive teachers”.

In THE PROM,  Ms. Leavel plays one of four fading Broadway stars in desperate need of a new stage.  They travel to a small town in Indiana to help a student bring her girlfriend to the prom, and in hopes of using their involvement in the cause to help jumpstart their careers.

Her show-stopping solo is “The Lady’s Improving”(watch it here),  but it’s almost impossible to imagine Beth Leavel getting any better.  Congratulations Beth!

THE PROM opened at the Longacre Theatre on November 15th, and the show has a total of 7 Tony nominations.  Winners will be announced during the 73rd Annual Tony Awards Presentation on Sunday June 9th, televised on CBS.

Photo credit:  Publicity photo from THE PROM

Michelle Mason ’18

“KATS: The Meerkat Musical” and “Indiana Bones and the Kingdom of the Camarasaur” are examples of presentations at Greensboro’s Science Center, where actors educate and entertain a vital audience: children. Michelle Mason ’18 contributes to our community by using her acting skills to connect with kids.

UNCG’s School of Theatre has long valued young audiences. The North Carolina Theatre for Young People (NCTYP) productions are a signature piece of the MFA Theatre for Youth program and represent the importance UNCG places on the arts as a pivotal community connection. For decades, families have made the NCTYP performances a part of growing up in Greensboro.

How do college actors accumulate their tools for the craft of acting? A variety of teaching methods and performance opportunities, integrated with guidance and supervision by world-class faculty provided Mason with chances to hone her skills. A scholarship from the International Honors College Travel Fund helped her broaden her vision of the world through study abroad, piquing her imagination and artistic growth, exposing her to global perspectives and performance approaches. Associate Professor Michael Flannery describes Mason’s experience at UNCG:

“Michelle Mason participated in every part of UNCG Theatre during her four years here. She was in main stage shows, studio shows, theatre for young audience tours, directing class scenes and students’ workshops. Her broad experience here is what we hope for every one of our students.”

Mason took advantage of opportunities to apply her actor training at the Greensboro Science Center and was also recently hired by “Reserving Royalty,” a birthday event company in which characters interact with children.

UNCG provides a myriad of opportunities for cultural enrichment as an active partner contributing to the vibrancy of the larger community. With the state’s largest College of Visual and Performing Arts and 75 percent of alumni remaining in-state, UNCG arts graduates significantly impact the quality of life in North Carolina communities. Students are transformed by their college experience and become active contributors in our schools, studios, museums, cultural centers and recreational facilities.

According to the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, youth involved with theatre are less likely to drop out of school and more likely to score well on standardized tests. Youth with disabilities can improve their academic performance and communication skills through theatre. Interest in the arts can begin at home, at school or at a science center. A make-believe interaction with a birthday event character may ignite the spark of imagination that results in lifelong creativity.

With the support of caring faculty and international insight, Mason brings fairy dust to encourage our youngest citizens to engage and empathize – inspiration for tomorrow’s vibrant communities.

Story by Zoe Dillard, Donor Relations

2016 Art School Alumni Carmen Neely Exhibition at Jane Lombard Gallery, New York


Carmen Neely’s work—a combination of painting and found objects—is imbued with deep intention and awareness of her identity as a young black woman making art in the twenty-first century. “The mark”, revered and mythologized as the purest form of artistic intention in the art historical canon, becomes an act of subtle subversion in Neely’s paintings. Her own sexuality and female body appropriate the traditionally masculine gesture, and turn painting into an act of femininity. With each brushstroke, she pushes back against the status quo, inserting herself into a larger dialogue about signification in contemporary abstract painting.

Extract from Jane Lombard Gallery