’21 Hollow Oak Road’ to premier at Saint Mary’s Wednesday
Liam Price | Tuesday, March 22, 2022
In the summer of 2020, Saint Mary’s senior Abigail Pinnow found inspiration when she went skydiving with her grandmother. By the next spring, she channeled that inspiration and her pandemic fatigue by writing a play.
Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., Pinnow’s play, “21 Hollow Oak Road” will premiere in the College’s Little Theater of the Moreau Center. With limited seating, the event will be free to attend.
Pinnow first wrote the play as an independent study but directed the show as part of her senior composition project for her theatre major at Saint Mary’s.
The play features a woman celebrating her 21st birthday alone during the pandemic with her roommate out of town.
“And she starts being visited by these women who lived in her house at different periods of time,” Pinnow said.
The first woman who visits the room is from the 1940s, followed by a visitor from the 1880s. Pinnow, who is a triple major studying gender and women’s studies and humanistic studies along with theater, enjoyed using the influence of her studies to write her play.
“It was really nice to tie together history and literature. There’s a huge influence of literature in this,” Pinnow said. “And then with gender and women’s studies, it’s all about women, and women’s relationships with each other.”
The main character’s isolation is directly inspired by Pinnow’s pandemic experience.
“It was just so bizarre, and this play was such a good way for me to channel those feelings and like get them out and process them to myself,” she said.
The contrast of community and isolation is a major theme in Pinnow’s play.
“I think it’s really speaking to my belief that community is found and community is built,” she said. “And that just through basic human connection, you’re able to find that sort of community and kind of step away from isolation.”
Pinnow said the play is a combination of multiple ideas and identities that are important to her life.
“I explore concepts of isolation, womanhood and this idea of storytelling in a part of Southern culture because I’m from Mississippi,” she said.
The setting of the South was foundational in writing the play, Pinnow said.
“Even still as a senior, there’s a bit of homesickness where it’s I miss my family,” she said. “I miss this place that I’m from, especially since the culture of the South is so distinct and so different.”
Pinnow thought of the idea to do an oral family history while driving home from skydiving with her grandmother and talking about her grandmother’s parents.
“It really got me thinking, ‘Oh, man, this woman is so awesome. I’ve known her all my life, but there’s still so much about her I don’t know,’” Pinnow said.
That same summer, Pinnow also helped her grandmother organize and label family pictures, growing interest in her family’s past. The historical women who enter the room in her play are “all based off of women in my family history, but they’re not exact copies,” she said.
Pinnow had to rewrite parts of the play to fit within the constraints of the project, which allows a maximum of six actors on the cast and an hour in run time.
“There are ten characters, but six actors, so most of my actors are double cast, because they’re phenomenal, just the best,” she said.
To prepare for the show, Pinnow said the cast and crew rehearsed four nights a week for two hours beginning in late January. Working with her cast, she said, has been very rewarding.
“It’s probably one of the most fun theater experiences I’ve ever had because the cast and crew are just so incredible,” she said. “We all really click so well, so it’s like I just get to play with my friends for two hours at night.”
Having had her first experience directing a play in the fall, Pinnow has enjoyed the larger decision-making role of being a director compared to her experience as an actor.
“You really get to help guide your actors to finding choices that are applicable and beneficial for them to help them improve in this show and hopefully in their acting beyond just this one,” she said.
Pinnow said watching her original work play out into the production it has become was very exciting. “It’s been pretty surreal as a playwright to watch my words happening and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I wrote this, this is insane.’”
After graduating, Pinnow hopes to keep writing, whether professionally or otherwise. “The broad plan is to hopefully find a job in Chicago and then to join a writers’ group, and kind of see how it goes from there,” she said. “I’ve really just been taking it a day at a time.”