• Spotlight News Hampton Roads

United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.

Updated: Mar 2

Image Courtesy of Louise Casini Hollis

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Louise Casini Hollis.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):University of Memphis, Virginia Commonwealth University, Memphis Arts Council, Memphis/Shelby County Schools, Spotlight News and numerous other schools and theatres.

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

I have 19 years of teaching experience, having taught students from 5-73 in grade schools, universities, and theatrical arts programs. Officially I started doing theatre in high school, after having begged to take an acting class at Theatre Memphis when I was 12. I loved it and am fortunate to be friends with the woman who taught me. I had always loved acting and my high school English teacher noticed I had a "flair" for it when I came in to do my Julius Caesar memory work, so I found myself in what I think they called "drama gifted", a term you can easily argue is a talent of any teenager. When I went to college, I wanted to be to an English professor and do stream of consciousness writing. I found out quickly I didn't want to talk about other people's writing all my life and that my stream of consciousness writing was better left in my head! Ultimately, I realized I was interested in exploring the world by experiencing other's viewpoints rather than reading and writing about them, so flipped my English major to a minor and Theatre to my major. I always wanted to teach, so the teaching profession was a natural progression after college. I enjoy breaking down the pieces of something and showing how it works. My favorite teaching jobs have been as Assistant Director of Education at Playhouse on the Square and teaching the Creative Dramatics class at The University of Memphis to elementary and secondary teachers. In both these positions I was able to show how reading, writing, math, history, science, music dance and the visual arts can all be learned by experience. You remember information better by experiencing it.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

I have been here almost 13 years now. My husband is an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley Research Center. One thing we realized early on is that a career in the arts will not earn as much as a career in engineering, so his job's location is our guide. Fortunately, I like Hampton Roads and the arts community.

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

They ask you in school, "Do you love it?" because both teaching and theatre are a lot of work. They require a lot of giving of one's self, and then giving some more, and then a little extra. So, you really have to love theatre, love teaching, love discovery, and love the adventure of helping others discover. There is not a lot of money to be had in theatre or teaching but to see the "ah" moment in your students or actors as they bloom is priceless. And sometimes they thank you!

Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?

I thrive when I'm productive and will jump in and lead when I sense that is needed. I've found that makes some people uncomfortable when a woman is leads. Like many women, I am a people pleaser, so I've learned to read the room quickly.

Has parenthood impacted your career or shaped your perspective as an artist? In what ways?

Being a parent has made me a better listener. One of the most important things we can do for anyone is to allow them to be heard, an especially our children. The same thing goes for our community and artists. If we listen well, we can take action, for which we all benefit.

Any closing thoughts?

I feel very fortunate to write for Spotlight News and have the opportunity to launch the Women of Note project. I went to BA with an idea, and said, "I want to do this," and she listened and said, "That's great! And we can go bigger!" It's not everyday someone can see your vision, say yes, and then add to in a way that makes the project bigger and better than you had dreamed. Collaboration is such an important part of creating and it is such a joy to see this idea bloom and have real support. I hope it inspires and encourages women everywhere.

Know a Woman of Note that should be featured? Please email us at Spotlighthrnews@gmail.com

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