In celebration of Black History Month, I am honored to interview two Gainesville Theatre Alliance BIPOC students, Rentavious Buffington and Alexis Trammell. Both students share their experience as artists and what this month means to them. I hope that you take some time to learn why we celebrate; to see and understand the beauty and the importance of this month.
“Black history is American history. “– Morgan Freeman
When did you know you wanted to major in theatre?
Rentavious: It was my sophomore year when I was introduced to more careers I could have in theatre.
Alexis: I knew I wanted to have a major in musical theatre my senior year of high school, after I quit tennis after 12 years to pursue it.
What have been your favorite roles?
Rentavious: Some of my favorite roles would include being in The Wilson Project, Tin Man in The Wiz, and Soloist in Godspell.
Alexis: My favorite roles I have played were The Leading Player (Pippin) with Performers Warehouse, and in high school, Ursula from The Little Mermaid and Sylvia from All Shook Up.
What’s the best part about being a performer?
Rentavious: The best part about being a performer is that I’m able to bring my personality to my craft and add my take to the role I’m in. It is also exciting to tell stories that help inspire others.
Alexis: The best part of being a performer is getting to inspire others.
What do you think when you hear “Black History Month”?
Rentavious: When I hear Black History Month, I think of the people who have paved a way for this country and the amount of courage they had to face the discrimination and disrespect that black people face in this country. I also think about the people to come that will continue to make black history and break those glass ceilings for future generations.
Alexis: When I hear Black History Month I think of celebrating all the things black people have accomplished despite oppression.
Is there a specific black figure that inspires you today?
Rentavious: My nephews inspire me to keep being who I am and to keep striving for bigger and better things.
What does being a black person mean to you?
Rentavious: Being black to me means being unapologetically black. It means that I, as a black person, have to fight extra hard in my career because in my experience there has always been a status quo that is met with black people being involved. It also means that I can be black and be happy about it. I can be who I am and love that about it because my darker skin was once seen as dirty and it is now trending. Being black means I am capable, I am worthy, and I am important.
Alexis: Being a black person means to me that despite what people say I am still worthy even when I feel like I’m not. It means that I stand out and that’s a good thing!
What would you tell your younger self?
Rentavious: I would tell my younger self to be who you are and don’t let anyone try to change that, because “if you can’t love yourself, how can you love somebody else.”
Alexis: I would tell my younger self to keep dreaming big and there are going to be naysayers but just ignore them
How did you discover GTA?
Rentavious: I discovered GTA through Fair Street Elementary School. I was a student and we would walk from school to Brenau’s Pearce Auditorium to watch WonderQuest (Theatre for Young Audiences) productions. Then in high school, I got involved with theatre and found myself watching these productions as a young adult and thinking about my career. I landed at GTA and am finally getting the opportunity to perform on the stage I grew up watching others perform on.
Alexis: I discovered GTA through my mom. She told me about it and I did some more research on the program and the rest is history!
When did you realize GTA was where you wanted to be?
Rentavious: It was my second year in GTA when I knew GTA was where I wanted to be. My first year was a time of hardcore self-discovery and finding out what I wanted to do with my future. I switched my major twice and thought about dropping out of college. On closing night of The Wilson Project, the spark hit and it became clear to me that I am here for a reason and this is where I want to be.
Alexis: I realized GTA was where I wanted to be once I got to my audition. It already felt like home. GTA gave me a chance. They saw my potential and gave me a shot at my dream.
What is something you look forward to for the future?
Rentavious: In the future, I look forward to getting over the pandemic and start auditioning professionally.
Alexis: I look forward to all the fun adventures I will embark on in the future as I accomplish what God planned for me.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” –Martin Luther King Jr.