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Woodlawn High’s Te’Shara Colley once put together her own theater program

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Te'Shara Monique and Kevin Studdard on the stage of Marc Raby's Love on The Edge at the Medical Forum theatre Sunday November 26, 2017. (Frank Couch Photography)

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Te’Shara Colley went to one play when she was a child. That’s all it took.

Colley, 33, known by her stage name Te’Shara Monique, is the lead actress in Marc Raby’s production of “Love on the Edge,” which opened last month and is scheduled for a Jan. 21, 2018, encore at The Forum Theater at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.

Colley vividly remembers that one play: “It was called ‘Mama Don’t,’ and it was at the Alabama Theater. I thought the stage was so big, and when I looked at the characters I said, ‘I want to do that.’”

Acting came naturally for Colley, a Miles College theater major who is on schedule to graduate next year. She has acted “on every stage in Birmingham, except the Lyric Theater.”

Te’Shara Colley is known as Te’Shara Monique when on stage.

“It [acting] wasn’t until I got into middle school. We didn’t have a theater program, … but we started studying Shakespeare. I started doing some poems in front of the class, and teachers entered me in poetry contests. I was such a shy girl and didn’t ever talk, but when I opened my mouth [to read poetry] the words came to life.

“When I got to Woodlawn High School, they offered a drama and theater arts class, and I jumped on it. I thought that was the best thing that could have ever happened. I learned to do accents and improv.”

Woodlawn’s theater program eventually ended, but that didn’t stop Colley, who basically kept the course alive by herself.

“I got a group of theater kids together and said, ‘We have to have a Black History Month program.’ I had to write it, get it proofread, and then get it approved through the department chair,” she said. “I had to go to each class and ask teachers if they would let the students out of class to go to the program. That was the first presentation in front of the whole school. It was titled ‘By Any Means Necessary.’ We were later able to be in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at the Children’s Theater.”

Over time, those experiences proved very beneficial for Colley, who has taught theater for Center for a New Generation (CNG), a foundation established by Birmingham native and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and philanthropist Susan Ford-Dorsey.

“[Secretary Rice] brought me in to help start the program [in Birmingham],” Colley said. “They promoted me over the whole program. I studied under [playwright] David E. Talbert, [actress] Robin Givens, and [playwright, actor, and director] Alvin Moore Jr.”

Colley takes acting seriously.

Te’Shara Monique and Kevin Studdard on the stage of Marc Raby’s Love on The Edge at the Medical Forum theatre Sunday November 26, 2017. (Frank Couch Photography)

“Theater is life to me. Black theater is a lost art form,” she said. “We’re so exposed to reality TV that our children think it’s real TV. They don’t know that these aren’t actors. [Theater] is a lost art form that needs to be revitalized, especially among the younger generation. Older people go see plays, but what about the upcoming generation that they don’t have an open eye to what theater is?”

Theater has led Colley to dabble in film a little, as well, she said.

“I recently shot an episode of “Fatal Attraction” for TV One. That was my first television series, and it took me out of my acting comfort zone. I love and live theater, where we get no retakes. Once you’re on the stage, that’s it—you go and keep going. [Film is different, you hear], ‘Stop. OK, retake that scene. OK, action. Cut. Roll the sound. Do the scene again.’ It’s tiresome, but it’s rewarding to see the end result. I say if you get into acting, try theater first. Film will spoil you.”

The “Fatal Attraction” episode in which Colley performs will air on TV One in January 2018.