Creative talent unwrapped

Published 10:39 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WINDSOR – It was an opportunity for those who mostly listen to speak.

Friday, Dec. 9, students from Bertie High School and Bertie STEM High School took that opportunity as part of “Our Stories” an open-mic night where students in the Bertie Theatre Club presented their own stories through poetry.

“Students shared their own story in their words and they were so powerful,” said Alicia Heffner, one of the teachers who directs the club. “By the end of the night, there was a collective ball of energy.

“So often we tell students to set down and be quiet or at least to listen to us,” she continued. “This was an opportunity for them to have something to say. I think they often tell us ‘Please, listen to me, I have a story to tell’.”

Jennifer Herron, who is the other club director, was equally proud of the evening.

“I thought it was great,” she said. “The kids enjoyed it and we were so happy with the number of people who came out to support them.

“It was even better than I had anticipated,” Herron added. “They had worked hard during rehearsals, but when they were in front of an audience, I think they stepped it up even more.”

More than a dozen students took the opportunity to speak during the program and even more came up to share once the open mic portion began.

“I think it went really well,” said Bertie High School senior Johnathan Reason, who performed “My Words” during the night. “We had a lot of good responses.”

Reason said he was excited about the event, but got more nervous as it got closer.

“I was both excited it was going to happen and nervous,” he said. “When the day got here, I wasn’t sure I could do it.

“To just get up there and everybody is waiting for you to say something is nerve-wracking,” he said. “I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and just started. Once I started, it flowed freely.”

Reason said he was excited about the chance and that he would definitely want to do it again.

While Reason was nervous, Bertie STEM High School freshman Wilshonda Riddick said she wasn’t. Riddick performed her work “The Creature of the Night.”

“It was great,” she said. “I knew what I imagined it was going to be, but when you get there and experience the feeling that other people are connected and feeling what you were feeling was great.

“I’m mostly a person that doesn’t express myself and usually keep to myself,” Riddick added. “It felt good.”

She said the club had been something she appreciated because there weren’t many of her friends who wrote as much as she does. She said she had been writing poems and short stories since she was in the fourth grade.

“My friends don’t write as much as I do and it is hard to explain to them how much I love it,” Riddick explained. “The Theatre Club has given me an outlet.”

Riddick said she appreciated those who came out and thought they were probably caught off guard.

“I think they were surprised at what normal teenagers had to say,” she explained. “I think they were surprised at the real experiences we go through.”

Bertie STEM sophomore Danielle Terwilliger was one of those who participated during the open mic section. She said she had been in the club, but couldn’t continue.

Heffner still encouraged her to participate.

“I was very nervous,” she said. “Once it was over I wasn’t as nervous because everyone was clapping. I felt relieved.”

Terwilliger said she enjoyed sharing part of her.

“I’ve done oral presentations before, but not sharing something personal,” she said. “It was really fun to be able to share your stuff with other people.”

The sophomore said her family and friends were supportive and that made it even better.

The idea for the event came about because Kayla Britt, one of the club members, asked if she could share her poem during a meeting. That led to more wanting to share their work.

That was combined with a Poetry Slam video coming to Heffner’s attention and the two ideas merged into an opportunity for the students to share their own work in a public setting.

Heffner said the poetry night was the first of what she and Herron hoped would be many trips into the realm of drama.

“We’re hoping to push into the dramatic acting realm with maybe a one-act play in the spring,” she said.

Herron said she wanted to see the club be even more visible and more active as the year progresses.

“I want to see even more involvement and more productions,” she said. “The first one went very well and I think the kids were excited to do it and excited about how it turned out.

“We have sports and JROTC and other activities throughout Bertie, but we wanted the students to have a creative outlet,” Herron added. “I was lucky enough to have it when I was a student and I wanted these students to have the same opportunity.”

Those who participated included Faith Askew (“The Words Written, Not Spoken”), Anfrenee Bazemore (“Open Mic”), Channon Berry (“Untitled”), Kayla Britt (“Open Horizon” and “Eternal Lovers”), Mye’Asei Bryant (“Unmasked”), Clint Connor (“Judgmental Words”), Nicole Evans, Brian Harrell (“Stay Alive”), Savannah Harvey (“Selfishness”), Tonetta Leary (“I’m Just Me” and “The Things I Want to Say to You”), Tyia Mills (“Who Am I?”), Antonio Powell (“Tragedy”), Reason (“My Words”), Riddick (“The Creature of the Night”) and Brittnee Ryan (“Curves”).

The event was held in the Roanoke-Chowan Heritage Center on the grounds of Historic Hope Plantation. Herron and Heffner credited Allie Van Norman and Jennifer Veverka with helping them have the opportunity to use the site.

The event was attended by a number of students, staff, parents and community members. Included among those was Bertie County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debbie Harris-Rollins.

“The teen years are a time of intense growth and change – physically, morally, emotionally and intellectually, and it is often a time of confusion,” Dr. Harris-Rollins said. “Despite, though, some adults negative perceptions of teenagers, they are often thoughtful, creative, passionate, empathic, idealistic and deeply interested in life – what’s fair, what’s right and love. Too often adults do not take time or provide positive outlets for teens to express their emotions, passions and opinions.  Not so in Bertie County Schools!

“Tonight the Bertie High School Theatre Club provided an awesome outlet for Bertie High, Bertie STEM and Bertie PREP students along with family, friends and BCS alumni to step up to the microphone and express themselves during what I as superintendent hope will be the first, but not the last, Monologue and Poetry Showcases,” she continued. “Hats off to Ms Heffner and Ms Herron (and the many other “behind-the-scenes” folks) who had the vision for this showcase, and hats off to the BCS students who stepped up to the mic!”