Leighton M. Ballew Directing Scholarship

About the Scholarship

The Leighton M. Ballew Directing Scholarship is awarded to a graduate student studying directing at an accredited university. The award is named after Dr. Leighton M. Ballew who served as Chair of the Drama Department (now Theatre and Film Studies) at the University of Georgia for more than 40 years.

Application Deadline
April 3, 2023 at 11:59PM ET

  • Applications Accepted: January 1 – April 3
  • Application Reviews / Candidate Interviews: April – June
  • Winning Scholar Announced on SETC Website
  • Scholarship Funds Available: Upon Proof of Matriculation, Upcoming Academic Year
  • Winning Scholar Attends SETC Convention
  • $2,500
  • Free one-year SETC student membership
  • Free registration for the following year’s SETC Convention
  • Photo and bio recognition on the SETC website

Candidates must meet each of these qualifications to be eligible for this award:

  • You must be planning to attend an accredited program of graduate studies in Theatre Directing during the upcoming academic year.
  • You must have graduated from, be currently attending, or have plans to attend an accredited academic institution in one of the following 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia.

For consideration, eligible candidates must submit the following materials by the deadline:

  • Complete resume, including any work in stage management or play direction
  • Three (3) letters of reference speaking to the applicant’s potential as a graduate student in Theatre Directing*
  • Letter of acceptance by an accredited graduate program in Theatre Directing (if available)
  • Complete, current transcripts from all colleges/universities attended

Questions about submitting application materials should be sent to info@setc.org.

Scholarship Stories

Recent Ballew Directing Scholars share what winning the scholarship meant to their studies and how the award funds helped them pursue their ambitions:

Sarah Mayhew has been making theatre since she was eleven years old. An Alabama native, Mayhew earned her BA in Musical Theatre from Birmingham-Southern College in 2020, graduating as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. During the pandemic, she moved across the country to Lubbock, TX to pursue an MFA in Performance and Pedagogy (with a concentration in Directing) from Texas Tech University. As part of her graduate assistantship, Mayhew teaches Introduction to Acting to undergraduate students and works as a student recruiter for the J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts. In the summers, she facilitates drama camps and classes for children. In 2022, Mayhew co-taught a theatre workshop for stroke survivors with aphasia (a neurological condition that affects the parts of the brain responsible for speech) through the STAR program at Texas Tech University. As a director, Mayhew is interested in developing new work and served as the director for the world premiere of Bradley Hewlett’s Snake Eater at Texas Tech University in Spring of 2022. She is also an experienced deviser and participated in the 2021 Marfa Intensive, a two-week devising workshop produced through TTU School of Theatre and Dance that focused on creating site-specific vignettes. On Sunday mornings, Mayhew can be found in the choir loft at First United Methodist Church, where she is employed as a choral singer. Her music experience extends to the world of theatre as well, where she has served as an Asst. Music Director for productions like Into the Woods, Nunsense, and Honk Jr. Mayhew is also a founding member of the Feminist Commune Theatre Collective, which will be producing a cabaret of monologues as a way of raising funds for Women’s Protective Services. In Spring of 2023, she will direct The Five Lesbian Brothers’ The Secretaries in Spring of 2023 as her MFA thesis project. As a jack of many trades, Mayhew values interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships, and is always on the hunt to learn something new.

Rouba Palmer is currently undertaking her MFA in Directing at Florida State University. She has a wealth of dramatic experience and has been directing, writing and acting for the theatre since 1991. With a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma in Education majoring in Drama, Rouba has been teaching Middle and High School Drama since 1997 and is currently teaching University students.

Outside from her work as a Theatre educator, Rouba has written and directed numerous plays, run adult Drama workshops, been invited to schools and camps to curate performances and adjudicated Regional Shakespeare Competitions.

Rouba is also a fully qualified and experienced Theatresports® and Improv Coach and has taught Theatre at a tertiary level, lecturing at Oxford Falls School of Creative Arts, Hillsong Creative Arts College in Sydney, Australia and at Florida State University.

Rouba wrote the first edition of ‘The Jewellery Box’, a play about human trafficking in 2010, which she later directed in 2011. The production raised $10,000 for the A21 Campaign, a charity that focuses on combating human trafficking by rescuing girls caught in sex slavery and convicting their traffickers.

Rouba also worked with senior under-grads at FSU on another devised piece about human trafficking called The Human Circus, which premiered in the Lab Theatre at Florida State University in December 2019.

Bunter Headshot - Ballew 20-21

Jasmine B. Gunter

Jasmine is a 2021 recipient of the Hangar Directing Drama League fellowship and a proud associate member of the Stage Director and Choreographers Society. Recent directing credits include Intimate Apparel (SUNY Brockport), Ghost Story (Kane Repertory Theatre), Lines in the Dust (Geva Theatre Center), Reroute (24 Hour Plays: Nationals). Assistant directing: Nina Simone: Four Women (Arena Stage), In the Heights (Seattle Rep), Quixote Nuevo (Hartford Stage/Huntington Theatre Company), and The Luckiest People (Actors Theatre of Charlotte/NNPN). As well as being a freelance director, Jasmine has a wealth of experience as a teaching artist. She taught for the Berkshire Theatre Group and the Redhouse Arts Center in Syracuse NY. www.JasmineBGunter.weebly.com

Karen Sabo headshot

Congratulations, Karen Sabo!

Karen Sabo is a director, teacher, writer and actor. She has been a member of three different resident acting companies, including the Barter Theatre in Virginia where she was also a resident director, dialect coach and, eventually, director of education. Karen studied acting with the American Conservatory Theater, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Saratoga International Theater Institute (SITI) and Shakespeare and Company. She has a BA in liberal arts from Hampshire College, and an MA in liberal arts from East Tennessee State University. As a writer, her plays have been produced in New Mexico, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia, and she has had dozens of articles published, including in Southern Theatre magazine. Karen also runs Performing Excellence, which uses acting and improv skills to improve customer relations and worker happiness for businesses. She has led three non-profit organizations, including In/Visible Theatre of Boone, which she co-founded. Karen is thrilled and grateful to be the recipient of the Ballew Directing Scholarship and to be an MFA Directing candidate at the University of Alabama.

Shane Strawbridge

Shane Strawbridge ~ 2018-2019 Ballew Directing Scholar

“The honor of being chosen as a Ballew Directing Scholar pushed me to take risks in my research and practice as a director throughout the year. The title served as a constant reminder that I am not finished learning and growing, therefore giving me the added push I needed to explore techniques and methodologies outside of my usual comfort zone. Additionally, the money generously provided by SETC allowed me to spend more time focusing on experiential learning opportunities and less time wondering how to pay for tuition and fees. Although my ‘term’ as Ballew Scholar has ended, I continue to push my own boundaries and conceptions about what directing is and what it can be.”

Tom Alsip

Tom Alsip ~ 2017 Ballew Directing Scholar

“The Ballew scholarship was incredibly helpful to me in ways that I didn’t realize it would be. I had initially planned to find local work in the summer to save money to pay for my final year in graduate school at the University of Alabama. However, with the money given to me in my scholarship, I was free to accept an acting job with the University of Alabama’s SummerTide Theatre and use the money from the scholarship to pay the tuition for my final year of graduate school.”

Lauren Ellis

Lauren Ellis ~ 2016 Ballew Directing Scholar

“The Ballew Directing Scholarship opened so many doors for me to continue my education as a theatre director. The scholarships provided by SETC are gateways to wonderful opportunities as a student, an artist and a human being, and I am so appreciative.”

Kristin Rose Kelly ~ 2015 Ballew Directing Scholar

“The Leighton M. Ballew Directing Scholarship allowed me to attend SITI Company Theatre Workshop at Skidmore College. I was able to practice Viewpoints, Suzuki and Composition with amazing SITI ensemble members while collaborating with theatre artists from all over the world. The workshop has been integral to my MFA directing projects at Virginia Tech. I frequently use Viewpoints for dance and directing projects for warm ups, group connection and awareness, and staging. Suzuki has allowed me to reconnect to myself as a performer and the rigor, focus, breath, and energy needed in performance. Finally, Composition has given me tools and theories as a director to consider and attend to the how of storytelling.”



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