HOUSTON – Sept. 27, 2017 – For Spring ISD seniors Mariah Campbell, Brianna Wyatt and Brett Mills, the upcoming high school theater season brings excitement mingled with a bittersweet tang, as they prepare for one last round of performances on the Westfield stage – a stage that has helped them to discover who they are while sharing their gifts through story, voice, music and movement.
“I’ve gained so much self-confidence here,” said Campbell, 17, as she prepares to play the role of Celie, the protagonist of Westfield’s upcoming show, “The Color Purple.” Campbell credits the drama department and Westfield teacher Monet Salone with helping her discover her gifts.
“Getting into theater, it was a time where I didn’t really believe in myself,” Campbell said. “Through the characters she’s given me and all the work we put in, she pushed us and really just brought out what I never thought that I could do. I really discovered ‘me’ in a lot of the characters that I’ve played, and I’ve also discovered my capabilities as a person.”
Campbell, Wyatt and Mills are all part of the upcoming show, adapted from Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the early 20th century experience of African-American women in the South. Set to a score infused with blues, jazz, soul and gospel, the play tackles difficult topics, but Westfield’s young actors and actresses think audiences will leave feeling uplifted by both the music and the show’s message.
“It may not be your struggle,” said Wyatt, 17, who plays blues singer Shug Avery, “but everyone has a struggle that they go through. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in, sometimes you have to put your foot down for people to understand and actually see you.”
Mills, 17, who plays the abusive Mister, agrees. “It may not be exactly what you’ve been through, but there’s just something about this show that you connect with. For me, having to be the meanest man in the whole show, it’s been intense. But through the process, you start to understand the character and where they’re coming from. The thing I love about shows like this is that they always tell a true story, and we have to become these real people.”
Evening performances of “The Color Purple” will run Oct. 26-28 at 7 p.m., with an afternoon “dinner theatre” event at 3 p.m. on Oct. 29. Discounted presale tickets for the show are available for $10 through the Westfield Theatre Company website, and can be purchased through Sept. 30. Regular-price tickets will be sold for $15 starting Oct. 1.
For Salone, seeing her students engage deeply with the material is always satisfying. “I try to choose shows that will challenge them, but with characters they can relate to,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but they’re so excited about it. They keep me going, every single day.”