Kennesaw State professor honored by National Communication Association

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 30, 2017

John Gentile wins 2017 Lilla A. Heston Award

John Gentile, professor of performance studies in Kennesaw State’s Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, has received the National Communication Association’s (NCA) 2017 Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies. The NCA honored Gentile during its 103rd annual convention in Dallas. 

Gentile won the Heston award for his essay, ‘Shape-Shifter in the Green: Performing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ published in Storytelling, Self, Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies. The piece builds on Gentile’s three decades of scholarship in arguing an inextricable link between the seemingly disparate tasks of performance and scholarship. 

“It is with great pleasure that I announce our colleague, Professor John Gentile, has been selected to receive the National Communication Association's Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies,” said College of the Arts (COTA) Dean Patty Poulter.

The Heston award recognizes NCA members who have published research and creative scholarship in interpretation and performance studies.

John Gentile

In his letter nominating Gentile for the award, Emerson College’s Professor Emeritus John Dennis Anderson referred to the COTA professor as “the preeminent exemplar … of the scholar artist [in the field of performance studies].”

Much of Gentile’s work has centered on the concept of adapting and staging canonical works like Sir Gawain, Moby-Dick, and The Scarlet Letter for contemporary audiences. He said he has always been attracted to the “masterworks,” those canonical texts that are handed down over the centuries. His goal has been to illuminate the work of the ‘scholar-artist,’ he explained, “showing the work in scholarship that inevitably takes place behind the scenes in preparing a performance of a canonical text like Sir Gawain.”

“I often wonder about the future of great works,” he said. “If they are not embedded in our education experience, when will people come upon them? And, so I almost have a quest to ‘salvage’ works from a sense of loss, whereby a work of true power and significance is reduced — to contemporary students — to only a title they may have heard of.” 

For 12 years, Gentile served as chair of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies. Under his leadership, the department’s student enrollment more than tripled and the number of its faculty more than doubled. Gentile moved the department from one focused on solely on drama to a broader vision that integrates theatre and performance studies approaches and that emphasizes a wide range of performance styles and texts. During his term as chair, the department opened the Onyx Theatre, the first new theatre space at the University in 20 years.

Gentile’s celebrated scholarship and artistry was on display earlier this month at the Jung Society of Atlanta’s, “The Green Knight and Other Stories of Magic and Transformation: A Storytelling Program with Music.” 

– Robert Godlewski

Photo submitted by Karen Campbell



About The National Communication Association

The National Communication Association advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit