Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shining like a Dyamond

By Mallory Elver 



Like many students at First Stage Theater Academy, Dyamond Jackson’s passion for theater and enthusiasm in class is contagious.  Just like her Theater Academy classmates in the DM6 group, the 12-year-old travels from class to class, ready to devote 100% of her focus and energy to the day’s activities.  What sets her apart from her classmates, however, is her remarkable initiative.  These past two weeks—and throughout her young artistic career—Dyamond has proved that taking risks creates opportunities to shine.

Dyamond (far right) and two of her classmates
at First Stage 
Dyamond’s First Stage history did not begin on her first day of class this summer.  Her interest in theater was sparked after seeing a First Stage play.  This led to her enrolling in Theater Academy with a scholarship last summer and auditioning for the Daniels-Mardak Boys and Girls Club Drama Club in January.  She returns to Theater Academy this summer with another scholarship.

When Dyamond joined Drama Club, she had no idea that she would be one of the brightest of the ten young stars in the ensemble’s final performance that took place in May at MYAC, entitled AN EVENING WITH WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.  She seized the chance not only to act on stage, but to compose and perform her own original sonnet. 

Outside of rehearsing the final presentation, Drama Club members were assigned homework to enhance their understanding of theater.  “Our homework one day was to write a sonnet,” Dyamond explains.  “I was the only one who actually did!”  Her work ethic certainly paid off.  When she was told that she would perform her original composition in front of the audience at the final performance, “I was so excited and didn’t know what to say…so I ran in the bathroom and screamed!”

Many young people are intimidated by Shakespeare’s language because it is difficult to comprehend.
  Dyamond felt this way when she first learned about the bard, but then inspiration hit.  “He wrote all of these plays: comedies, tragedies and histories,” she lists.  “We read part of Macbeth—how did he think of those ideas?—and Sonnet 18.”  This particular poem intrigued Dyamond.  “Once we learned to understand the language…I read [that sonnet] all day.”
            
It was then that her creative gears started turning.  She had written songs before, but writing a Shakespearean-style poem was a new endeavor.  To begin her sonnet, she brainstormed using a very unique strategy.  “I drew pictures on one piece of paper and wrote about what I drew on another.  I thought about Dad and Mom and church and Care Bears!” she laughs.  Her inspirations are evident in the sonnet (see below); the work is very uplifting.

Dyamond’s Sonnet

Sing a song of laughter
Sing a song of joy
Read many chapters
Sing a song for every girl and boy
You can make the world sing
There is always something in your heart
Can you hear the bells ring
Because your love is never apart
Now that we’re together, sing a song of love
Things will be different in this world.
Come on give kisses and hugs
I love my family, I’m daddy’s little girl.
I’m a lover not a fighter, that’s what I say
Sometimes I do wrong that’s also why I pray.
            
When it came to performing the piece in front of an audience, “I wasn’t nervous,” Dyamond says.  “I knew my role, I knew the stage, and I knew the people.  I’ve been in an audience before, so I just thought about them.”  How did it feel to recite her original work in front of everyone?  Dyamond grins.  “I felt like I was speaking to the world.”
            
Dyamond in Acting Theory class at First Stage 
However, her creative drive did not end there.  In one of her favorite First Stage classes this summer, Musical Theater, she and her new friend Reece have choreographed a dance.  “I went up to Miss Katie at the end of class and asked, ‘Is it possible for some of us to make up our own dance?’”  Of course, Miss Katie couldn’t refuse.  Dyamond and Reece have actually split the choreography between two groups in their class.  Clearly, Dyamond’s initiative to take the lead has given her more opportunities as an artist and has enhanced her theater experience.
            
When asked if she has changed from before she started theater to today, Dyamond’s eyes grow wide.  “Definitely,” she declares.  “When I took my first Acting Theory class [at First Stage], I was like, ‘What is this?’.  I failed once and was so embarrassed, and then [my teacher and classmates] started clapping!  Now I know I do want to be here.”
            
First Stage Lead Teacher Sheri Williams Pannell met Dyamond when she began teaching the drama class at the Daniels-Mardak Boys and Girls Club.  “From the moment I met Dyamond, she was true to her name and sparkled,” Sheri says of her student.  “I believe, with her ambition and the continuation of her training, Dyamond could be the next Cecily Tyson!  She is that talented.  I am so pleased she is a part of our First Stage family.”

What advice does Dyamond have for kids who want to try theater but are afraid to take such a risk?  She cites a line from a poem as one of her own inspirations: “You are stronger because you wanted to be,” she recites.  Dyamond encourages everyone to “take risks, no matter what people say to you…even if they doubt you.  Use that to tell yourself to try.”

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