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Hillary Haft Bucs Honored for Teaching Excellence at Western New England University

SPRINGFIELD — Hillary Haft Bucs has been named the recipient of the 2021 Excellence in Teaching Award at Western New England University. Winners of this prestigious award are nominated by students, faculty, and administrators for outstanding contributions as educators and advisors.

Bucs is a professor of Theatre, teaching playwriting, acting, and improvisational comedy. She is also the adviser for the Stageless Players and Improv on the Rocks. She has directed numerous productions at the university, including Mamma Mia!, Beauty and the Beast, Footloose, Curtains, Hello, Dolly!, and Legally Blonde. Her sabbatical research is on Yiddish theatre through Odessa, London, Johannesburg, and New York City through the lens of her great-great-great-grandfather, Jacob Katzman.

With Valerie Clayman Pye, Bucs coedited Objectives, Obstacles, and Tactics in Practice: Perspectives on Activating the Actor, and is currently working on a second book called Embodied Playwriting: How Thinking Like an Improv Actor Can Make You a Better Playwright.

Bucs’ improv training and performance work began in Chicago, where she graduated from the legendary Second City Training Center, trained and performed with I.O. (Improv Olympics) and Annoyance Theatre, and was an improv actor with Michael Gellman’s TheatreWorks.

She was an associate artist for Enchanted Circle Theatre in Holyoke, where she played the role of Nellie in The Skinner Servant’s Tour over a six-year period. As an improviser, she was a company member of TheatreSports in Pittsburgh, as well as a variety of smaller troupes in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York City. She was an original performer with Happier Family Comedy in Western Mass. and continues to train there, as well as at the Magnet Theatre in New York City.

She has been a member and office holder of the Assoc. for Theatre in Higher Education since 2007 and is presently the secretary of the Acting Program Focus Group. She received her master of fine arts degree in performance from the University of Pittsburgh and her bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre from Northwestern University.

During the review process, one of Bucs’ nominators noted that “she is, and has always been, one of the hardest-working faculty members at Western New England, putting much of her spare time, thought, and imagination into making her classes and the community better.” Students described her as somebody who “possesses a positivity that always makes students leave the classroom with a smile” and one who “pulls up her sleeves and puts her heart into everything she does.”

Bucs has been nominated for the Teaching Excellence Award at Western New England University four times, and received the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Service Award in 2017.

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