Touhill production is transformative experience for UMSL student

The cast of “For Colored Girls” includes (from left) Alexandria Johnson, Aranesha Jackson, LaShunda Gardner, Tierra Brown, Shonell Watkins and Brittnee Bell.
(Photo by August Jennewein)

A starring role in a student production at the University of Missouri–St. Louis has been a transformative experience for Tierra Brown.

The senior in media studies will play Lady in Red in the play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” presented by UMSL’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies. The play will run Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. “For Colored Girls” is a series of poems written by Ntozake Shange. Her poetry expresses the many struggles and obstacles that African-American women face throughout their lives.

This will be Brown’s first student show at UMSL. While she performed in high school plays she never thought she’d be starring in a major university production. When the call went out for auditions, she didn’t initially think to throw her name into the ring.

“When I saw the post about auditions I was like, ‘Man those girls are going to kill it,’ not knowing that I would be a part of the play,” she said.

She was freed of her self-doubt by Jacqueline Thompson, visiting assistant professor of theatre at UMSL, who encouraged her to try out for the play.

“Jackie said ‘You’re going to kill it. Go audition!’ She sees something in me that I don’t see. She is absolutely amazing. She is more than a teacher. She is a mentor and a great friend and motivator. I really look up to her. She gives me the confidence that I never thought I had. She brings it out of me.”

Brown also drew strength from her castmates, who gave her endless encouragement.

“My castmates have become my sisters,” she said. “They have uplifted me through all my pieces and truly exemplify the meaning of ‘I am my sister’s keeper.’”

As Lady in Red, Brown performs powerful scenes that deal with sex, rape and child murder. She said prepping for the play has been a revelation.

“I’m acting and it’s just a play, but at the end of the day it’s something deeper to me.”

Because the play taps into raw emotion, it’s been a cathartic experience for Brown who has used the emotional energy to work through some of her own personal issues.

“One thing I love about this monologue is that we all can relate. It tells a story about all women. Everyone has suffered in some type of way,” Brown said. “Jackie’s like ‘Push it out! Push it out!’ It’s actually helping us as women. When you’re delivering it you forget about the lady in red and you’re thinking this is my life.”

Another upside to the production is that Brown’s time management skills are now “amazing,” as she describes with a laugh. In addition to juggling her school work and rehearsing for the play she also works as a facilitator assistant at the Millennium Student Center and is a board operator for Radio One, which has two stations in St. Louis. She also co-hosts a show called “Spilled T” on The U, UMSL’s student-run radio station. The station is sponsored by the Student Electronic Media Professional’s Association, and Brown is on the executive board, where she serves as secretary.

“For Colored Girls” will begin with a show at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL. There will be an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1. That will be followed by two shows on Nov. 2: a 2 p.m. matinee and an evening show at 7:30 p.m. The play will wrap with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Nov. 3.

The performance is for mature audiences. Tickets are $5-$10. Call 314-516-4949 or visit touhill.org to purchase tickets.

Media coverage:
The St. Louis American 


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