Monica & Layan play international thespian fest


The center of the world for school dramatics starting June 22 will be in Lincoln, Neb., and two young
Bowling Green High School actors Monica Gonzalez and Layan Elwazani are hitting the road to perform
The campus of the University of Nebraska will host about 2,300 student and teachers involved in the 2009
International Thespian Festival.
Gonzalez and Elwazani will perform at the festival as part of the cast of the All Ohio production
"All Shook Up."
The production was selected as one of nine shows to be presented on the festival’s main stage by
screeners who reviewed shows from throughout the United States and Canada.
"All Shook Up," a high energy mash-up that borrows the plot, but not the words, of
Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night" and uses songs made famous by Elvis Presley, will be staged
twice Friday night of the festival in the 2,200-seat Lied Theater, and then the next night closing out
the festival in the smaller Kimball Hall.
Closer to home, the show will be staged Sunday at 2 p.m. at Hilliard-Davidson High School in Hilliard.
Admission is $10.
Gonzalez and Elwazani will head down to the school this week to start a new round of rehearsals with
their peers from around the state.
The show was first staged in March at the state thespian conference.
It’s the second time Gonzalez has participated in an All Ohio show. Last year, she was part of the cast
of the drama "Dead Man Walking."
This year’s show was her first shot as the lead in a musical. "I had to dance and sing, and last
year just focused on acting," Gonzalez said. She admitted "I was scared to have to sing by
myself." And the songs were "all over the place" in terms of voice range.
"It was really hard," she said. "I’m glad I had to work on that."
It didn’t take long for Gonzalez, a 2009 graduate who will attend Bowling Green State University in the
fall, to return to the musical stage. She and Elwazani, a junior in the fall, were the female leads in
the high school’s production of "West Side Story."
Elwazani said she decided she wanted to audition for the state show when she saw "Dead Man
Walking" at the 2008 state conference. When she learned it would be a musical "I knew I had to
try out."
Still the pop style of the music posed a challenge for Elwazani who studies classical voice and sings
arias and show tunes. This music had a rock flavor with gospel undertones.
Neither actress had much familiarity with Presley’s music. Gonzalez knew about his hip wiggle, and
Elwazani the "curlicue" in his bangs. They watched "Viva Las Vegas" to get a better
idea of his style.
Now both have Elvis songs have running through their heads. The show’s medley of "Teddy Bear"
and "Hound Dog" is Elwazani’s "wake up song."
Gonzalez favors "It’s Now or Never."
"I always sing that in my head," she said.
That the musical is not frequently staged is a plus. "It’s not a musical everyone has heard
of," Elwazani said. "It makes it more exciting."
"People have nothing to compare it to … so we were more at liberty to make it our own."
The cast got together several times over three-day weekends starting in January before the March show.
They will resume rehearsals this week. That put more pressure on individual performers to practice at
home. "Reviewing choreography by yourself was awkward," Gonzalez said.
Meeting and working with new people is part of the challenge and benefits of the show, Gonzalez said.
"You learn so much from other people."
There’s only one person returning from last year’s All Ohio production, she said. The mood between last
year’s drama about capital punishment and this year’s musical is marked. "The whole atmosphere is
different," Gonzalez said. "This year it’s more upbeat and happy."
Following Sunday’s production the cast and crew will board a bus to drive to Nebraska for the conference.

"It’ll be a good bonding experience," Gonzalez said.

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