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College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance / News / Archive / Spring 2010 / Theatre major wins ACC undergraduate research fellowship

Theatre major wins ACC undergraduate research fellowship

Al Heartley

Al Heartley

Al Heartley, a junior in the FSU School of Theatre, has been awarded an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Fellowship for Undergraduate Research. Heartley, from Stone Mountain, Ga., was awarded $5,000 to further his ongoing research. He joins his counterparts at the other 11 ACC universities, all of which are showcasing and promoting cutting-edge research and innovative creative work by undergraduates.

Heartley’s fellowship, awarded by Florida State's Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, is the largest award for undergraduate research at the university and is funded by the ACC International Academic Collaborative with revenue from the ACC football championship.

Heartley sees his fellowship as an opportunity to advance the public's awareness and appreciation of an important African-American playwright. As an actor, director and researcher while working toward his bachelor's degree in Florida State's School of Theatre, Heartley said he became familiar with the play "The Brothers Size" when working as a casting intern for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. He felt that Tarell Alvin McCraney, the play's author, had a unique writing style and represented a new, distinguished voice in African-American theater.

This discovery launched Heartley's current project, which is being conducted under the direction of Assistant Professor Irma Mayorga in Florida State's School of Theatre.

"I'm very excited. It's a wonderful honor," said Heartley, who plans to use his award not only to research how McCraney incorporates traditional Yoruba religion and its oral traditions into his plays but also to produce and stage "The Brothers Size" on April 1-4 at the Augusta Conradi Theatre at Florida State. In advance of the Tallahassee performances, McCraney, the 2009 winner of The New York Times' Outstanding Playwright Award, will visit Florida State to discuss his play, which is part of his trilogy "The Brother/Sister Plays." Both the performance and the discussion with McCraney will be open to the public.

"Al's project is a unique combination of theater research and creative performance, and is an excellent example of the kind of mentoring that undergraduate students are getting at FSU," Levenson said. "At many universities, the opportunity that Al and Andrew are getting to work one-on-one with a professor is reserved for graduate students. The value of research experience to their education is immense.

"The creation of this prestigious fellowship program shows the commitment of the ACC and its member schools to academic excellence," she said.