When theatre major Alexandra Marshall signed up for a playwriting course “on a whim” during her final semester at Suffolk last fall, the actor never expected to find a new niche off-stage. But in a dramatic turn of events, Marshall’s very first play, The Search, is now garnering national attention and praise.

Marshall’s play was recently selected as a regional finalist in the annual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The 10-minute play eclipsed more than 80 other entries from across New England. Her play is one of 16 nationwide that will go to the next level. Four national finalists will be selected for a staged reading at the Kennedy Center in April, where one winner will be selected.

At the regional festival, Marshall also won a scholarship to a playwriting intensive at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City. She will spend six weeks on Broadway studying the art of new play development with master professionals. In addition, her play was selected to be performed in Binghamton, NY in July.

At the festival, Marshall participated in many workshops and was paired with a professional director-mentor. She now has valuable connections in the theatre community and several mentors willing to read her work.

Since Marshall’s studies focused on performance, writing The Search was her first time “on the other side of the audition table.” She describes the experience as both nerve-wracking and extremely rewarding. “I was able to work with a professional director and see a staged reading of my piece performed by and for people I don’t know,” Marshall explains.

The Search is the story of a husband and wife searching for their missing young son in a park,” says Marshall. “Along the way, they’re also searching for answers to their relationship problems.”

She credits her playwriting professor, Kate Snodgrass, who is also artistic director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, for setting her on this new path. “We got to try playwriting in many forms—from a monologue to single scenes to a one-act play,” says Marshall. “My classmates and our professor [Kate Snodgrass, who is also artistic director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre] were very supportive of a new playwright.”

In the past three years, Suffolk has sent three students to the regional festival, one of whom went to the national festival.