Professor Launches Theater Company, Premiers Original Play

Posted: July 17, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Ken Elston
Ken Elston
Photo courtesy Ken Elston

Ken Elston, assistant professor of theater at Mason, is launching a new nonprofit theater company, the Gray Ghost Theatre Company, and is premiering his first original two-act script, “The Gray Ghost,” this summer.

Several Mason students — Jennica Nishida, Jesse Nepivoda and Jessica Billings — will act in the play, as well as alumni Ryan Mulkay, BA ’04, and Michael Sandoval, BA ’02 and ’06. Tom Terlecki, BA ’06, worked on the sound design.

The first performance for the company and the play will be Friday, July 20, at the Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater on Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas, Va., campus.

“The Gray Ghost” tells the story of local legend Col. John S. Mosby, the colorful Civil War cavalry officer, through stories from his early childhood to tales of his years as a soldier. The play is set during some of the darkest days of the war, the period spanning July to December 1864.

Gray Ghost poster
This poster graphic was designed by Mason student Michael Shawn McLean for his graphic design class taught by Shanshan Cui, assistant professor of art and visual technology. The design also appears on promotional postcards and the playbill.

Elston created the play especially for the premiere of his new company, which he established to support education and historic preservation through the arts. Fittingly, the production is designed for a space not far from the Manassas Battlefield, where two major battles of the Civil War were fought.

A news release issued from the theater company explains Elston’s approach to the play.

“The excitement of physical conflict and specific historic events combine with supported conjecture by the playwright, weaving a kind of storytelling that will thrill audiences. … Even with battle sequences, Elston has presented a character-driven play. The production addresses these real lives with sympathy and respect, and illuminates important aspects of the American character still resonant with a modern audience.”

Although “The Gray Ghost” is his first original story, Elston has written other plays. A modern treatment of the Peter Pan story “Panick” ran at the Chelsea Arts Center in New York in 1994. His original version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” was performed more than 50 times in a school tour across Illinois. His translation of Molière’s “The Imaginary Invalid” premiered at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company last year. This play is also under consideration for the upcoming season of New York’s Oberon Theatre Ensemble.

At Mason, Elston teaches acting with an emphasis in movement and directing. He has a BA from Temple University and an MFA from Ohio State University.

“The Gray Ghost” will run July 20, 21, 27 and 28 and Aug. 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. A family matinee will take place on July 29, with special events for children beginning at 4 p.m. All children age 12 and under will be admitted free. Curtain on this day will be at 6 p.m.

Tickets for all other performances are $17 for adults; $12 for students and seniors; and $5 for children age 12 and under. Tickets are available at Mason’s Center for the Arts Box office, through or by calling 1-888-945-2468.

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