Seizing the spotlight

After moving to New York in July, John Yi ’11 and Claire Manship ’13 were inspired to create a show about life in the city.

By Rebecca Smith ’12

When students graduate from Elon,they leave many traditions behind.But the feeling of community the campus provides doesn’t go away. Thirteen alumni proved this to be true when they got together Nov. 17 at 54 Below in New York City for “Hello, My Name Is …,” a special performance about artists in their 20s
living in the Big Apple.

After moving to New York in July, John Yi ’11 and Claire Manship ‘13 were inspired to create the show. They studied musical theatre and acting, respectively, and were ready to perform. “We felt a strong conviction to engage in a creative project that provided other performing artists the platform to share the current states of their lives,” says Yi, who spent the previous two years working as a teacher for Teach For America in Houston.

They reached out to other performers in the city and asked them to come up with songs that reflected life in your 20s. The performance ultimately included 12 Elon alumni singing nine different songs covering themes from finding your own place, living in the city, not getting along with peers, following your dreams, starting over and how love plays into it all. “It wasn’t originally supposed to just be Elon people,” Manship says. “We sent a message to a lot of our friends who had been out of school for one to five years, and it just happened to be that only Elon alumni responded. So that is how it came to be an Elon concert.”

In addition to Yi and Manship, the performers included Carly Casey ’09, Erin Burniston ’10, Julianne Katz ’10, Emily Rice ’10, Christopher Staskel ’10, Sarah Clancy ’12, Ashley Couture ’12, Amy McNabb ’12, Kat
Nardizzi ’12 and John Langley ’13.

The name of the performance, which was originally a way to organize the songs about identity and finding yourself, took on another meaning because of the Elon affiliation. “The concert name, ‘Hello, My Name Is …,’ was not only created as a great jumping off point for storytelling songs about who we are and where we are going,” Manship says, “but it also happens to be the first line of an exercise we all did in Acting I with Professor Richard Gang where we declare to our friends who we are, that we are fearless and that we have no apologies for either.”

One of the earliest developments for the production was obtaining 54 Below as the venue. Known as “Broadway’s Supper Club,” it was designed by multiple Tony Award winners to accommodate 144 people in the main dining room, with no one sitting more than 24 feet from the stage. With the venue secured, rehearsals brought together some of Elon’s most talented alumni. “Life in New York City can be a bit overwhelming,” Yi says. “But I was reminded during the rehearsal process of just how talented and hardworking Elon alumni are.”

The success of the first show has allowed the performance to become more than a onetime thing. “We’re happy to announce that due to a successful first run, the concert has already been booked for a spot at 54 Below in February,” Yi says.

As the concert series develops, Yi and Manship hope to involve students from other schools, programs and backgrounds. “In the future, this concert will hopefully involve many more actors from top theater programs, so we can spread the goodwill about the newest and brightest talent coming into New York
City and the theatrical business as a whole,” Manship says.

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