An Act of Faith


Hayden Fowler, SPiN Wired Editor-in-Chief

Imagine singing with a musical theatre star like Leslie Odom Jr. on stage in Charlotte, N.C.’s, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in front of 2,118 people. Not many can say that they have experienced anything like that, but junior Faith Anderson has.

Anderson was chosen to perform alongside young and talented performers from throughout the Carolinas at Blumenthal’s 25th Anniversary celebration on Nov. 14, 2017, for Odom’s “Celebrating Big Dreams” show.

But how did Anderson get selected for her so-called “life-changing experience”?

Brandon Shoemaker, director of South Pointe’s newest musical “Addams’ Family” and head of the drama department, introduced the drama club to the idea of being able to perform with Odom Jr., who stars in the 2015 musical “Hamilton,” as well as in movies such as “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Red Tails,”f or the anniversary performance. Anderson first was hesitant at the idea of auditioning but eventually came to her senses and performed “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple.”

Soon after Anderson’s audition, she and fellow Stallion, Ayden Tauzel, learned that they had been chosen from their “troop” to perform in the anniversary production. The two Stallions were originally in Aiken for a South Carolina Theatre Association conference with the South Pointe Drama Club but had to leave early due to the Blumenthal show’s harsh scheduling for rehearsals.

“I was both surprised and honored that I was chosen, but I was really glad that I auditioned or else I wouldn’t have gotten to participate. It was, overall, such a great opportunity,” said Anderson.

The rehearsals in Charlotte consisted of working constantly with other performers while also following strict instructions from the leaders of the performance.

“We were treated as professionals and that helped us grow as artists’ in general. Professional theatre is so much more different than high school because it is so demanding. Directors or stage managers want whatever they want then and there,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s descriptions of her peers and teachers vary from hardcore to the sweetest people she’ll ever meet. Anderson’s coordinator, Ralph Beck, told her, “You’re made for theatre. You light up the stage!”

After enduring three eight-hour long, stress filled rehearsals in Charlotte with her fellow student performers, it is was finally time to present everyone’s hard work to the enthusiastic audience in the jam-packed theatre. Show time had finally arrived.

Dressed in her eccentric yellow pants and a black top for the opening performance, Anderson stood tall and proud on the stage with her 57 other musical theatre aficionados to sing a medley of the songs “Seize the Day” from “Newsies” and “Schuyler Sisters” from “Hamilton.”

Anderson’s time on stage with Leslie Odom Jr. came with the closing performance, when the omnipotent group of performers portrayed “You Will Be Found” from the 2015-2017 hit musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” The showcase of talent’s finale led to a standing ovation and roars of applause from the audience.

Exhaustion was inevitable for any performer who executed such a powerful and moving performance, and unfortunately for Anderson, this led to a minor complication. Heat, exhaustion, and excitement overcame Anderson in the form of a panic attack.

After the show, Anderson and her fellow performers relocated to outside of the Blumenthal theatre, where they danced to the Johnson C. Smith Drumline. All of a sudden Anderson’s body began to feel strange and “unlike anything that she has felt before.”

“I went inside to get our things and I felt like I couldn’t even walk. I was out of breath, my body felt so weak, and my face was swelling,” Anderson described.

Anderson checked in with her mother and aunt and suddenly began to sob when she started to struggle to breathe normally. The Blumenthal employees rushed to Anderson’s side and asked if a medic was necessary. Anderson declined, but a firetruck and paramedics were called as a precaution.

A heart monitor beeped rapidly in the ambulance, detecting Anderson’s increased heart rate. Anderson’s vitals and breathing habits returned to a steady rate.

“Honestly, I don’t see how that could have happened because I was having the time of my life. One of my best memories was of that performance, so it was crazy to me that my body reacted that way. The whole thing felt like extreme exhaustion, over-heating, and a panic attack all at the same time. It was all pretty crazy, but it was still honestly one of the best nights of my life,” said Anderson.

Reflection after hard work is common, and for Anderson and this performance exemplifies positivity and success, even with minor complications. Anderson told Tauzel, “I really like this, I’m in my element here [the musical industry]!”

Anderson not only performs on the stage, but also with the marching band and in front of her congregation.

Anderson first found her love for music in church, but was also influenced by her father, who is a minister who has a love for music of any genre, including both gospel and hip-hop.

Artists like Lecrae, India Arie, and Elevation Worship have played large roles in Anderson’s musical and religious development.

“I’d have to say, ‘All Things Work Together’ by Lecrae would be my all-time favorite album because he not only expresses his love and support for Christ, but also relates to the hip-hop industry by working with artists like Ty Dolla $ign, all while staying true to his faith,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s life consists of being involved with her church, taking rigorous International Baccalaureate courses, and participating in band, theatre, communication electives, and multiple clubs, which can cause a clashing effect as well as a balance.

“Theatre and journalism work hand in hand. I feel like I’m really good at communicating,” said Anderson.

All while having an event-filled life, Anderson has been nominated for a “Blumey Award” for her performance in South Pointe’s “Addams’s Family.

Theatre obviously plays a definite role in Anderson’s life, but it wasn’t always this way. Anderson first came to South Pointe as a new student who was unfamiliar with the environment of high school, which led to her not participating in the annual school musical during her freshman year.

After eventually opening up to the people around her, Anderson was encouraged by a fellow fan of the arts to audition for “Seussical” during her sophomore year. This successful audition blossomed a bright and creative side of Anderson like a daffodil during spring. Anderson then began to bless the stage of South Pointe’s auditorium, which led to her involvement in the arts department. And she has built a loving fan base.

Anderson recently participated in the South Pointe Talent Show to perform “All of the Stars” by Ed Sheeran which she dedicated to Audrey Calzada, a Stallion who recently passed away. Her powerful performance included piano playing, strong, yet sweet vocals, and a memorial video for Audrey.

Anderson’s act was followed by an emotional reaction from the Stallion family, which involved both sorrowful tears and a joyful, resilient applause.

The conclusion of the talent show involved a dramatic effect of roaring drum-rolls spreading across the auditorium as audience and participants waited in anticipation for who would be chosen as the winner.

Silence fell and her name was announced. Anderson won first place and the audience erupted in a lively, heart-warming cheer.

The stage is not an unfamiliar place for Anderson and she has developed exponentially in many ways. Throughout her time at South Pointe, theatre has helped Anderson grow closer to Christ.

While explaining her connectivity between her love for God and theatre, Anderson’s smile grew to be as wide as the Nile River. Her body movement made the room light up like a match and Anderson was clearly empowered to share her experiences.

Anderson said, “Learning how to stand strong in my faith, as well as being myself, was something that I had to learn and had to learn fast, because I wanted to meet the demands of my directors and the people around me within these past two years. But, overall, I still have to be myself, I have to be Faith.”

video credit: Anna Caroline Carter