Bill & Martha Nell Hardy Memorial Fund

The Bill and Martha Nell Hardy Memorial Fund was founded to nurture the Essential Theatre, which in turn nurtures Georgia playwrights. Your contribution provides immediate as well as long-term support.

When you make a donation to the Bill & Martha Nell Hardy Memorial Fund, you contribute to Georgia playwrights’ success this year and continue the Essential Theatre’s mission in the future. Since its inception, this fund has enabled us to expand our Festival staff and increase artist pay to improve and increase the support we’re able to provide to our playwrights and to you, our audience. Having a growth fund also allows us to think long-term about our legacy, and thanks to your support, we are able to dream big!

Donate Today!


Whether you knew Bill and Martha Nell yourself, are already a supporter of Essential’s work, or are new to our family and are looking for influential ways to be involved, your donation will make a significant impact on the Essential Theatre.

We hope you’ll consider making a gift today!

Who were Bill and Martha Nell Hardy?
William “Bill” Hardy (1922-2019) and Martha Nell Hardy (1925-2005) were the parents of Essential Theatre’s founding artistic director, Peter Hardy.

Martha Nell was an actress and an educator who cast a powerful and positive influence over the lives of literally thousands of people. She was the former chair and professor emerita of the Department of Communication Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, founder of the Carolina Regional Theatre and 33 year participant in Unto These Hills, the outdoor drama performed to this day in Cherokee, NC and written by her husband, William Hardy.

Bill was a longtime university professor who also worked in professional theatre as an actor, director and writer. He served as a Lieutenant on a submarine in World War II, and before he began his career in theatre taught Engineering at Duke University. Among the numerous honors awarded to him in his lifetime were the Marian A. Smith Distinguished Career Award from the North Carolina Theatre Conference in 1991 and the Institute of Outdoor Drama’s Mark Sumner Award for his lifetime contributions to the field.

What B&MNH Fund supporters are saying:
“Martha Nell was like a second mother to my daughter at Unto These Hills, and Essential Theatre is very dear to me. I’m so glad to be able to help Essential by contributing to this fund.”   -Ida Glynn McQueen

“I never met Martha Nell Hardy in person, but I have spent many years involved with the Essential Theatre and Peter Hardy. From the first moment through today, I have felt welcomed as part of the family. That’s what Essential Theatre is, I think. A wonderful artistic family that nurtures and supports Atlanta actors, technicians and playwrights. Every summer feels like a celebration of emerging talent, and the support lasts long beyond the final curtain call.”     -Sarah Cave, company member

What our playwrights say:
“[Essential] produced my first plays and basically started my professional career. Support them if you value new plays, Georgia artists, and intimate/vibrant theatre!”  -Lauren Gunderson, 2001 and 2005 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award winner

“Essential’s faith in playwrights strengthens their faith in themselves, which keeps them writing. Essential Theatre helps Georgia speak for itself.”   -Karla Jennings, 2014 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award winner