Ellie Milewski, a junior in Penn State’s B.F.A. Acting program, made waves this past February when she, in collaboration with the Penn State School of Theatre, produced a staged reading of her first full-length play. The play, titled 27, tells the story of an unlikely friendship between an elderly man dying of Alzheimer’s and a 10-year-old girl struggling with dyslexia.
Growing up in Springfield, Virginia, Milewski quickly took interest in the arts, beginning acting and singing by the 3rd grade while also taking up figure skating. By the time she had reached middle school, times constraints meant that Ellie had to choose which of these paths she would like to pursue. With the help of some influential mentors in her life, Ellie decided to continue developing her talent in theatre.
When making choices about her continuing education, Ellie admitted that Penn State had always been on her college radar, given that her father and brother are both alumni. Yet, it was the excitement of being a part of the building of a new BFA program at a prestigious university and the personal attentiveness and kindness of the faculty, during her audition, which solidified that Penn State was where she wanted to study.
When she first came to Penn State, Ellie was impressed with the amount of 1-on-1 personal attention she received from the faculty, which she credits with easing her transition into college and away from home and helping her to hone her theatre skills.
She said that her inspiration for 27 came from her personal experiences with loved ones with dementia, as well as a one-act play she wrote in high school featuring monologues of hospital patients. Ellie added, “I was immediately intrigued by the idea of two people at opposite stages of life and the unique relationship that could exist between them.”
This spring, it was announced that Ellie’s work on 27 had earned her the 2018 Golumbic Scholarship in performance achievement, one of the most significant awards in the College of Arts and Architecture. Speaking on the scholarship, which recognizes students whose records have demonstrated their potential for significant contribution to the arts and humanities, Milewski explained that she was flattered to even be nominated for the award. “Winning the award meant that I had realized my desire for the work I am doing to leave a lasting, positive impact on the audience.”
Actor, producer, and Penn State professor Erik Raymond Johnson spoke high praise about Ellie’s masterpiece, stating, “Ellie Milewski’s play 27 is truly special…Ellie is a talented, creative, and intelligent young artist and playwright who will affect audiences with her gifts throughout the tenure of her career. I am excited to see what she does next.”
As for the future, Milewski is currently in the process of making edits to 27 using the feedback she received from her staged reading and hopes to submit it to playwriting competitions in the coming months. Later down the road, she would love to see 27 as a full production. While acting remains Ellie’s passion, this experience has broadened her perspective on the theatre industry and expanded her career possibilities.
Milewski, not one to rest on her laurels, is already working on her next play.
By Brent Rice