While checking her email over winter break, UMKC playwright and graduate student Amanda Davison discovered a rare and exciting opportunity: she had been accepted as a finalist in a local writing competition.
This contest, called the New Works Playwright Competition, offers the chance for aspiring area playwrights to perform a staged reading for an audience. Furthermore, the winner receives a full-length workshop to enhance their play. The Olathe Civic Theatre Association will host the event, spanning the weekend of March 10 and 11, and work closely with the winner.
For Davison, this competition represents a major milestone for both her and her play, titled Mr. Grievers Takes A Lunch Break.
“I have had plays produced here at UMKC. I’ve also produced work of my own this past summer in the Fringe Festival,” Davison shared. “But this would be the first time that an independent theatre company would be [producing] one of my plays. For someone to say, ‘Hey, we like this so much we want to spend some money on it and [perform] it,’ that is a huge compliment.”
This huge compliment could not be more deserved, according to the competition’s anonymous judges.
”I believe the play accomplished what it set out to do, which in my opinion was to have its audience reflect on the old man’s life choices and relate them to our own [with] empathetic, sad humor,” one judge revealed.
Indeed, Davison identified her play’s underlying themes as ones that feel universal— “guilt, atonement, getting older, and death.” The story centers on an 85-year-old man confronting past ghosts and decisions.
This relatability and strong emotional premise stand out as what attracted Jo Bledsoe-Collins, the play’s director and a UMKC graduate, to Mr. Grievers Takes A Lunch Break.
“It’s a strong show because it shows the audience what it is like to be human and deal with not being able to forgive oneself,” Bledsoe-Collins emphasized. “That loneliness that Grievers feels is so raw and heavy.”
Though being chosen as a finalist is an early success in Davison’s career, it promises to be one of many. Davison cites the UMKC Masters of Arts in Theatre program as a powerful influence likely to propel her and her writing towards many more opportunities.
Ultimately, Davison’s education and writing journeys have modeled what a great play should be and include— “real characters” and “big questions.” Davison now strives to emulate these characteristics in her own work. In doing this, she hopes to recreate for future audiences the same sensations that theatre has stirred within her.
“I have walked out of so many plays feeling like a changed person, as though I were looking at things differently now,” Davison reflected. “There is a real magic to theatre all its own. With some good actors, soft lighting, and a good script, it’s pretty amazing what you can do.”
To watch this magic unfold, attend the New Works Playwright Competition on Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11. Tickets can be purchased at olathetheatre.org.