Hilda Willis

Artist-Director-Educator

Ms. Hilda Willis has been a performing artist since the age of 11 when she landed her first role with

the Children’s Theatre Company, a pre-professional company in Roanoke, Virginia. Ms. Willis

studied drama and sang in choirs all throughout junior high and high school. In her early years as an

artist, some of her most noted performances include the lead role in Trial By Jury (an operetta), A

Day To Remember, and as a featured soloist in the New Virginian’s. Voted “Most talented” of her

high school class, Ms. Willis participated in many other types of programs and projects that helped to

increase not only her artistic skills and abilities, but also her leadership skills. They include winning

the Roanoke Miss Black Teenage Pageant and first runner-up for the state of Virginia, being voted

President of Y-Teens, and head cheerleader during her senior year, to name a few.

Ms. Willis was granted a scholarship to study with the award winning Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Program at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. While at NCA&T

she received several awards and became known for her exceptional work on-stage at the historic Paul

Robeson Theatre. Those performances include: Lorraine Hansberry in Young Gifted and Black and

Nell Carter in Ain’t Misbehavin, where she was nominated to compete in the Kennedy Center

American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Irene Ryan Acting Competition and received high

honors on the regional level as a top 10 finalist. Christmas Is Coming Up-town, Tell Pharaoh, and

You Don’t Know Me But I’m Famous are also among some of her favorite performances as a student

at NCA&T.

Ms. Willis has performed on some of the most well-known stages in New York and other Regional

Theatres including: The Apollo, The Cotton Club, The Baby Grand, Sweet Waters, National Black

Theatre, The Mint, The Trilogy, Theatre Row, Billie Holiday Theatre, Lime Kiln, Mill Mountain

Theatre, 7 Stages, Jomandi Theatre, 14th Street Playhouse and The Great Bay Plaza (Antilles),

Highways Performing Arts Center, 4th Street Promenade Playhouse, The Beacon Theatre, and

Madison Square Garden. Some of her favorite professional roles include: Lady Capulet (Romeo and

Juliet), Dr. Charlotte (Falsettos), Amy (Stone Wall Country), Ancestor (The Legacy), Mother (Breath

Boom), Clorine (Glory Bound), and Woman #1 in Mad At Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth.

Having co-written and directed two musicals, Ms. Willis’ work has been produced on several Off-

Broadway theatres. Other credits include the 2015 Atlanta Premier of Baptism by Fire, a new gospel

musical, and Spunk for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. A few of her favorite projects

in the past few years are the Atlanta Premier of Mad At Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth, an

adaptation by Donna B. Bradby of Pearl Cleage’s book of the same title, at 7 Stages Theatre; director

and lighting designer for the India.Arie and Idan Raichel Open Door Concert, The Tel Aviv

Performing Arts Center, Israel; writer/director of a short play about Afeni Shakur titled, Afeni

Shakur: In Her Defense; writer/director of Breathe: The Nicole Kelly Story; and, co-writer

of Conversations with our Mothers, with Sandra Hughes, a new play with music, which features both

women; The Way Out (Promenade Playhouse, Santa Monica, CA), and as producing director for a

celebrity reading of the play, The People Of Clarendon County, for the Ossie Davis Endowment for

Education, which was presented in New York, Chicago, Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia. She has also

produced and directed for several televised specials.

In 2007, Kenny Leon asked Ms. Willis to join the True Colors Theatre Company staff as the

Education Consultant. She served in that role for seven years and was responsible for developing the

pre-professional training mission of the company, which included her successful expansion of the

August Wilson Monologue Competition, both regionally and nationally. Under Ms. Willis's

leadership The August Wilson National Monologue Competition is now in New York; Chicago,

Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Portland and

Seattle, Washington; North Carolina and Texas.

Willis initially moved from New York to Atlanta at the request of Jane Fonda, who garnered her help

to evaluate the staff and programming of the Performing Arts Program for Youth (PAPY). She

became the lead consultant for the PAPY program and worked with Harvard University's Project

Zero in a two-year program evaluation. Ms. Willis then went on to design an artist/teacher-training

model and was later hired as Executive/Artistic Director, where she wrote the curriculum guide for

the middle and high school level. Under the leadership of Ms. Willis, PAPY became a performing

arts school that offered full artistic training and development tools for youth and youth-serving

institutions and acquired it’s 501(c)(3) and 107(c)(2) status. Willis lives her art and has dedicated her

life to reaching and teaching all communities through the arts. Her arts and education methodology

has been recognized by educators and many a variety of youth-serving organizations and has afforded

her the opportunity to take part in conversations that address the needs of instituting more Arts-Based

Learning.

MISSION...To use the cathartic force of art to define living, accept change and empower.