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Keith Kennedy Theatre & Dance Student Enrichment Fund Helps Student Reach for the Stars

Mike Osborn (r.), retired chair of the then Department of Theatre and Communication Arts, speaks at the Keith Kennedy Memorial in January 2009.

When Katie Zisson, theatre performance major, learned that she was a finalist for a summer internship at The Public Theater in New York City, she didn't know that she would have to fly to the Big Apple for a face-to-face interview. After the first excitement, Zisson realized that her chances of becoming second assistant to Oskar Eustis, famed artistic director of The Public Theater, for the summer were very slim. She couldn't afford a round trip to New York City. What's more, on the date of the interview she needed to be in Memphis for the final dress rehearsal for the University's production of Dark of the Moon.

Lauren Scott (r). and Katie Zisson (l.) in the U of M's 2010 production of Hay Fever.

"When I heard of Katie's dilemma I knew that there was no way she could let this opportunity slip away," says Robert Hetherington, chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance. "Anyone serious about theatre wouldn't pass up the chance to get into Oskar Eustis' office for a 15-minute interview. She had to get herself to New York. I knew that the Keith Kennedy Fund could help her get there, because we could use it to pay for her airfare and she could book a flight that would get her back to Memphis in time for the dress rehearsal."

Zisson's 15-minute interview turned into a 45-minute meeting, and she was selected as an intern for The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of the Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino.You may follow the summer adventures of  Zisson and her special companion, Memphis Tigers mascot Pouncer, on her Bolg: Pouncing Around New York.

"Keith Kennedy's legacy is one of daring and brilliance," says Richard Ranta, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts. "He took University of Memphis theatre to the national stage and brought those from the national stage to the University to open doors for our students. It is more than fitting that the fund established in his memory helped a young theatre student like Katie reach for the stars."

For more information or to make a donation to the fund through the University of Memphis Foundation, contact Patty Bladon (901) 678-4372.

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