Quiet Akilah taking centre stage as Annie
Akilah Acka was “super shocked” when she got the lead role in CedarBridge Academy's Annie.
Her friends were also surprised. According to the 16-year-old, she's usually a “church mouse” in class but decided to try out for Annie because she wanted to step out of her comfort zone.
“I was just so nervous during the audition, I thought I'd blown it,” she said. “When I learnt I'd gotten the lead role I was like, ‘Really?' I was just so surprised.”
The musical is based on the hit Broadway show about a Depression-era orphan looking for a family.
It will be the first time Akilah has played a leading role, although she had parts in Julius Caesar and Othello during the Bermuda Shakespeare Schools Festival this year.
She's passionate about acting and spends her free time watching classic movies.
“I'll even watch silent movies from the 1920s,” she said. “I think they're beautiful and they tell a story.
“I love the glamour. I like to try to bring that to my acting. I think I just pick up what I see, naturally.”
Akilah was once shy but gained confidence through Junior Leaders, a youth branch of the Bermuda Regiment.
“A lot of my friends have said they can't imagine me up on stage because I'm so quiet,” she said.
“I think I'm a different person in the theatre.
“I come in and see my acting friends, and see the script and the stage and I just get so excited. Maybe because I'm normally so quiet, acting is the ultimate adrenalin rush for me.”
Junior Leaders taught her “how to deal with people”, she said.
“They teach you how to handle situations and to lead. Now when I'm on stage, I like to help people. Sometimes other people need encouragement or building up. I like doing that.”
She created back stories for many of the characters in Annie, although it wasn't required.
“It helps me get into character better,” she said. “After watching the movie I've always wondered what Annie's friends thought when she was adopted by Daddy Warbucks.
“Didn't he have enough room for all of them? I also wondered why Miss Hannigan was really mean. In my back story Miss Hannigan really loves Annie.”
Akilah said she'd seen both movie versions of Annie. While she likes the 2014 film, she prefers the 1982 version.
“I like the original because I feel like they stuck true to the era and had more lifelike costumes and attitudes,” she said, “But I like them both.”
She said being in Annie has been a lot of fun.
“I like seeing how people lived back then, during the Great Depression, and how hard it was,” she said. “I'm a bit of a history buff.
“I think the magic of the story is how Annie believes against all odds. And it turned out there is a family out there for her, although not the one she is expecting.”
CedarBridge's drama teacher, Patricia Nesbitt, said it was exciting to see Akilah's budding talent.
“She is one of those people who can just stand on stage and people will laugh at her,” Ms Nesbitt said.
“She would never go for bigger roles so I urged her to try out for this one.
“When she auditioned, I learnt she also has a beautiful singing voice. I said, ‘Oh my God this is Annie'. I am very proud of her.”
Akilah is definitely considering drama as a career.
“I enjoy being in front of people and being able to express myself,” she said. “It is nice to see people enjoy something that you love. I feel like acting is easy to do.”
• Watch Annie at the Ruth Seaton James Centre for the Performing Arts tomorrow and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets, $30 general admission, $60 patrons, are available from the school office or by calling 295-5665.