Hillsdale alumna Elizabeth Gray ‘12 originally wrote her one act play as part of a final assignment for a playwriting class at Hillsdale. When she saw the advertisement for a one act competition, she remembered the play she had written and decided to edit it and enter it in the competition.
In January, she had the opportunity to direct and perform her play for the Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Winter One Act Play Competition.
“I never really considered myself a writer,” Gray said, “so when I saw the advertisement for the one act, I just decided, ‘I really want to win,’ kind of as a dare to myself.”
Gray submitted the play to the competition in October. In late November, she found out her play had been accepted for the contest and began looking for actors in New York City, where she lives. She ended up casting Kirsty Sadler ‘11, a Hillsdale graduate also living in New York, and Mark Keller ‘13, a Hillsdale graduate who moved to New York for two months to rehearse.
The play, “The Kazoo,” is set in an Ohio cornfield and has three characters: friends and neighbors who grow up living next to the cornfield. The plot revolves around this cornfield and a terrible accident that occurs there, threatening to destroy the characters’ friendship.
“The story is about how they learn to grow, face the tragedy, forgive each other, and find forgiveness,” Gray said.
The group rehearsed four days a week for two hours each day through December and January.
“Elizabeth works at a yoga studio,” Sadler said. “She was able to get the studio to lend her time and space, so she didn’t have to pay. That was amazing because a lot of times it’s a problem getting free rehearsal space.”
After two months of rehearsals, the play had a five-night run at the competition from Jan. 21 to 25 at the Manhattan Repertory Theater in Times Square.
“It’s technically a playwright competition, so judging is on the play and how well the play does in the actual performance,” Sadler said.
“It was an audience-based vote, so the audience would rank your play from one to five, one being the worst and five being the best,” she continued, “and at the end of the week everyone’s scores were added up, and the top three went on to the semi-finals.”
Although “The Kazoo” did not advance to the semi-finals, the actors felt the play was well-received by the audience.
“We got a really good response,” Sadler said. “The last scene was really intense. You could hear a pin drop. There was some sniffling as well.”
“All the feedback we got was very positive,” Gray said. “We had people we didn’t even know come up to us and talk to us about it.”
Gray said she would definitely consider entering the competition again and that she enjoyed the experience of performing at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre.
“I now have a relationship with the main producer there, the owner of the theater,” Gray said. “It was a great venue for the show. It was right in Times Square, so it was right in the heart of the Theatre District, and there was a lot of energy.”
Overall, Gray said she was pleased with the results.
“We felt very put together and well-rehearsed. I was extremely happy with it,” Gray said. “I thought the actors put a lot of effort in, and it turned out to be a fantastic production.”