Monday, September 30, 2013

BACT Spotlight On - Actor

With BACT's brand-new show The Gold Rush Musical! getting ready to embark on its Bay Area school tour, we decided it would be exciting to get to know one of the cast members: Khalia Davis. Khalia is also a teaching artist with our Youth Education Program, teaching theatre and drama at three different school locations.


BACT: You have worked with BACT in many different capacities. Can you outline those roles for us?

Khalia: My first introduction to BACT was last summer when I performed in their show Click, Clack, Moo as Cow #2 at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. At that same time I was also their musical director for their summer theater camps. We did Annie, the musical. I had such a wonderful time that when I was asked to come back for this past summer, I couldn't say no! I played Sally in The Cat in the Hat at Children's Fairyland and at Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley. I also worked at the same summer camps but this time wearing a different hat: choreographer. I was way more in my element and comfort zone in that role, as I have more experience directing and choreographing for kids. Currently, I am gearing up for the fall school tour of The Gold Rush Musical! as well as workshopping the new children's musical, Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy (based on the hit book series). While being a performer, I am also the director for two different after school theater programs: Wildwood Elementary School in Piedmont and Alamo Elementary. I am also assistant directing and doing the choreography for Disney's 101 Dalmatians, Kids at Beach Elementary School in Piedmont!

BACT: Phew! That is a lot! Do you consider yourself an actor first? An educator first? Or a combination of the two?

Khalia: That is a great question! I have always been passionate about acting and performing. It wasn't until about 4 years ago that I realized my true passion is in children's theater and entertainment. I have been teaching drama and dance to kids since I was a kid. It is a blessing that while trying to make a full-time career as a performing artist in family entertainment (theater, television, web, and film all included), my other jobs are revolved around teaching kids theater!

BACT: How does your acting inform your work as an educator?

Khalia: I think teaching kids is what has fueled my ability to perform for kids because I get to witness first-hand all their antics and adorable shenanigans in class. As an actor, you take on many roles that help tell a story. As a teacher, you take on many roles to help these children grow and learn. Sometimes I have to be stern and authoritative so my children can understand the importance of the lesson and the respect they should show me and each other as ensemble members. Then, there are times when I am the nurturer that lends a sympathetic ear to a child who is reticent to audition or perform due to shyness or nerves. Other times I am the goof ball who shows my class how easy and fun it is to just let loose and be silly and over the top. Acting is such a wonderfully freeing art form and getting to showcase that for the kids is awesome!

BACT: What do you most enjoy about being an educator? An actor?

Khalia: As an educator, I love seeing the process my children go through in creating a show. The final product is always a wonderful way to showcase how much hard work, energy, and heart these little ones put into it. I enjoy facilitating the use of their imaginations or finding ways to get kids to come out of their shells. Some of my favorite times being an educator are when I get students who have behavior problems but by show-time, the same kids find a way to be helpful whether by knowing their cues and lines or gathering props or sets.

As an actor, I love telling stories. I have the opportunity to affect an audience. I have always loved performing for people even when I was little. I started as a professional child actress and model, and I couldn't get enough of being on stage or in front of a screen. When you are acting, you are not yourself anymore. There is something very magical about that transformation. There is also something magical when an audience allows themselves to be transported to that time and space you have invented for them to enjoy. Being an artist means I never have to lose my imagination and love of creation. Being a children's entertainer means I never have to grow up.
The Gold Rush cast: Khalia Davis, Alex Lydon & Steven Shear 

BACT: You are in the midst of rehearsals for The Gold Rush Musical, which will tour schools in October. What are the differences, if any, in preparing for a touring show versus one of our mainstage shows (i.e. Cat in the Hat, Click Clack Moo)?

Khalia: The major difference I have found are the added responsibilities that we have when prepping for a touring show. We are not just the talent but also the stage hands and facilitators for discussions after the show. We have to be in charge of setting our own costumes, props, and set pieces. After a mainstage show, we may go out to the audience for a meet and greet but with this tour, we will be holding talk backs that provide kids an opportunity to ask us direct questions about our show, characters, and educational content. Mainstage shows operate in the same theaters all season long, but with a school tour, we travel all over the Bay Area and perform in all sorts of spaces. Some of the schools will have an actual auditorium with a stage. Some schools will use their multipurpose room with no stage space. We have to be ready to make those adjustments on the fly. The time it is taking us to mount this production is also significantly faster than for a mainstage show. We were required to be off-book before we even started rehearsals so that we could start immediately with working on our feet.

BACT: What are you looking forward to the most performing with BACT this year?

Khalia: Being a young woman of color, I was always looking for the black actress in anything I saw as a child. I wanted to see a representation of myself up on stage because then I could believe it was possible for me to do it too. I am so honored that I get an opportunity to travel to all different types of diverse schools this fall hopefully inspiring other young girls of color who have the same dream I did or at least giving them a reason to relate to the material being performed. It is very special for me.

BACT: What words of encouragement, insight or wisdom do you have for the younger generation who someday hope to do what you are doing?

Khalia: Training hard, being professional, and having a positive attitude are what will get you ahead in this business. If you believe in yourself and what you have been called to do, then do it. Give it everything you've got, and support and encouragement will follow. Bring positive energy into any work environment because people will notice you and your light will shine the brightest.