Writers' Colony awards first needs-based scholarship

Thursday, February 13, 2020
Kholoud Sawaf

The Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow has awarded its first scholarship since establishing a needs-based scholarship fund in November 2019 as part of the WCDH's 20th anniversary celebration.

The awardee, Syrian director and creator Kholoud Sawaf, is working on the adaptation of Arabic poetry into a stage presentation to tell the story of a refugee through poetry and movement. As the project has not yet been funded, Sawaf inquired about financial assistance for a residency. Michelle Hannon, executive director at WCDH, said it is a privilege to bring Sawaf back to the Writers' Colony for another residency.

"We are grateful for the outpouring of financial support we are receiving for the scholarship fund and for the opportunity to offer another way to support emerging writers," Hannon said.

Sawaf first stayed at the Writers' Colony in September 2018 when she was working on the original play 10,000 Balconies, loosely based on Romeo and Juliet and set in contemporary Damascus, Syria. 10,000 Balconies premiered in August 2019 at Theatre Squared in Fayetteville, Ark., to sold-out audiences. Sawaf's initial residency at the Writers' Colony was funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

Sawaf called her recent residency at the Writers' Colony a "game changer."

"It was a major step in giving the project its final breath and voice," she said.

When asked why a residency was important to her writing, Sawaf said the Writers' Colony is designed to enhance artists' creativity and allow them to do their best work.

"The suites are perfectly crafted for comfort with a fantastic space for writing," Sawaf said. "Offering meals, cooked by the amazing chef, Jana, allows writers to focus on the work and not worry about shopping, cooking and cleaning. My residency was perfect all around and I will hold my time at the colony dearly forever."

Sawaf was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, and holds an MFA in directing from the University of Arkansas. She trained and worked in theatre and television in Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the United States. She is a recipient of the classical directing fellowship from the Drama League in New York, where she collaborated with Tina Packer at Shakespeare and Company. She was the assistant director of Vietgone under the direction of Mary Adrales at the Manhattan Theatre Club and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Sawaf's upcoming projects include directing an educational tour of Much Ado About Nothing with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and collaborating on a new piece with award-winning playwright and director Joe Calarco and Syrian actor and educator Mohamad Al Rifaie. She was invited to participate in an elite cadre of global artists as part of the National Directing Institute with the Pangea World Theatre and Art2Action and serves as an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. She is a proud member and presenter at the Nhna Cultural Club in Damascus, Syria, which provides an artistic, educational and cultural exchange among Syrian artists.

The WCDH scholarship fund was developed to assist writers who require financial support to benefit from a writing residency at the Writers' Colony. Scholarships are awarded on an as-needed basis depending on availability. Equity Bank of Eureka Springs provided the initial scholarship fund donation and contributions to the WCDH 2019 Giving Tuesday drive continued to grow the fund, as well as writers in residence who contribute more than their subsidized room rate to enable other writers to experience the gift of uninterrupted residency time at the Writers' Colony.

For more information on how to contribute to the WCDH scholarship fund, visit www.WritersColony.org/give-to-wcdh-scholarship-fund.

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