WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Sept. 2, 2020 — Three students were awarded the John Hennen Scholarship this fall, the inaugural year for the award.
“This scholarship commemorates our former theater instructor and actor John Hennen, who was a driving force at West Liberty University for many years. We miss John but are pleased to carry forth his love of performance and theater through this important award. I congratulate our three first-time recipients,” said Michael Aulick, director of the Theater Department.
Hennen passed away on April 21, 2020.
“We are having a good start for theater and have a big incoming freshman class, possibly the biggest in our history. Fourteen theatre majors joined us, giving us a total of 35 theatre majors this fall on campus.”
The John Hennen Memorial Scholarship 2020-2021 Scholarship Awardees include:
Alexandria “Lexy” Glover, daughter of Susan and Bob Postlethwait and Mark and Tricia Glover, is beginning her fourth year at West Liberty University. She is a theatre major from Paden City, W.Va. who has maintained a 3.94 GPA in college. She leads the program in the classroom as well as the rehearsal hall, according to Aulick. Most recently she was working on the role of Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing” until it was postponed due to COVID-19. This is expected to be performed in April 2021 as an outdoor production.
While she has been in many shows, she says that a few stand out as special. One of the best was being part of the student-directed/student-designed production of “The Secret in the Wings.” She was a cast member who played multiple roles, but also helped design and run the props for the show. That show was awarded national honors from the Kennedy Center, including Outstanding Ensemble. “Romeo and Juliet” will be one she holds up as a great experience as she was challenged to play Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt (traditionally a male role). And she enjoyed working with the exceptional cast and crew of “The Foreigner,” while stretching her comedic muscle in a way that she had not done before.
“While her final year is still a bit uncertain due to the pandemic, we are certain she is going to boldly attack the curriculum and the projects with the same vim and verve that she has done for the past three years,” Aulick said.
MaKenna Berka, daughter of Katherine Alderman and Christopher Berka, is a senior who did not start as a theatre major, but has made an impact on the program since joining the department. She landed a leading role as Helen Keller in our production of “The Miracle Worker,” under the direction of Maggie “the Dame” Balsley who noticed her potential right away. Since then, she has accepted every project she was offered, onstage or off. She was working on the role of Verges in “Much Ado About Nothing,” when we had to close down, but worked on every show last year, including a major role in “Radium Girls,” as props coordinator in “The Foreigner,” and assistant stage manager in “Keely and Du.”
“We think she is a very deserving candidate for this scholarship and we are happy we could reward her incredible hard work,” Aulick said.
Julia Paige Fields returns to campus for her sophomore year this fall. She hails from Falling Waters, W.Va. in the Eastern Panhandle and is the daughter of Trish and Joe Fields. “Fields was part of the West Virginia Thespian Scholarship audition that I attended and I immediately began recruiting her,” explained Aulick. In her first year, she was selected to play a major role in “Radium Girls” and was cast as Hero in “Much Ado About Nothing.
“We expect her to be a force in the classroom and the rehearsal for years to come,” Aulick said.
A 1970 graduate of West Liberty State College, Hennen went on to earn his Master of Arts Degree in Acting and Directing at West Virginia University. He then served as the associate director of Arts and Humanities at the Center for the Arts in Charleston, W.Va. where he managed the statewide grants program for the arts. He was the founder and artistic director of Brook Hills Playhouse (1973).
A professional actor in New York from 1980-2008 he appeared in more than 50 plays at various theatres, directed 10 productions and appeared in Daytime Television, film and commercials.
John taught acting and served as a staff director for West Liberty University for many years. He was married to Judy Hennen, an alumna of West Liberty who is active in the Theater Department as an adjunct instructor.
The WLU Foundation manages approximately 200 scholarship funds. If you would like to learn more about establishing a scholarship or donate to the John Hennen Scholarship fund, please contact the Foundation at 304-336-5635.