Chalethia Williams among trio of directors for ‘Love Scenes’ at Encore Theatre and Gallery

Chalethia Williams.

It’s always a joy when Chalethia Williams is involved in a theater production, either on stage or behind the scenes.

Born in Birmingham and raised in the North Birmingham/ACIPCO area, she graduated from Carver High School before earning degrees at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and Western Illinois University.

After grad school in Illinois, she participated in the Actors Equity Candidacy Program at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas.

In Birmingham, she worked in the first production at Terrific New Theatre in 1986, the Stephen Sondheim revue “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow.” She also worked at Birmingham Children’s Theatre and many other local theaters (as well as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival) until the mid-1990s. She also has some TV-movie work under her belt.

The actor, director and educator is now in rehearsals for “Love Scenes,” where she is directing a couple of the vignettes for the show at Encore Theatre and Gallery.

She took the time to answer some questions about her extensive theater history and what Encore’s show is all about.

Tell me a bit about your background.

I was born and raised here in Birmingham and a product of Birmingham City Schools. I am the youngest of six, and my mom and dad were working-class parents (my dad served in the Army and my mom worked as a domestic when I started school). After high school and rejection from UAB and crying while sitting on my bed, I got information about St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. I applied and was accepted. My parents drove me to Austin and later they would drive me to graduate school at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. After graduate school, I was one of about 12 actors selected for the Actors Equity Candidacy Program at The Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. I would return home in 1986 to work in the first production with Terrific New Theatre. That was followed by a few years acting at Birmingham Children’s Theatre, and I also enjoyed numerous acting roles at most local theaters from 1986 until the mid-1990s.

Chalethia Williams, center, and the cast of Terrific New Theatre’s “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow” in 1986. (Photo courtesy of Terrific New Theatre).

When did you start acting, and can you tell me about your acting experience? 

My earliest memory was acting in the Christmas play at church in the role of a beggar at age 8 or 9 maybe.  I would say acting chose me, from sitting in front of the TV for hours, neglecting chores and mesmerized by the melting pot of people that I read about in schoolbooks. We lived in a double-tenant house, and our neighbor Mrs. Houston told me one day that I would be a director.  I enjoy and still learn from all positions/roles that I have performed over the years, and I enjoy acting and directing equally.  My most memorable acting role is a tie between Mama Nadi in “Ruined” and Sadie Delaney in “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” with Donna Thornton. The CBS television movie “The Rosa Parks Story” (2002 with Angela Bassett and Cicely Tyson) is a favorite, also. Another CBS movie I performed in was “The Conviction of Kitty Dodds”(1993) with Veronica Hamel and Kevin Dobson.  I performed my first role in undergraduate school (after auditioning while taking class) in a movie called “Honeysuckle Rose” (1980) with Willie Nelson.  I got my Actors Equity Association card in 2007 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival while performing/understudying in “Crowns.”  My first role at ASF was in “Trojan Women.”I also understudied and performed in “Gee’s Bend” at ASF

Where have you worked on stage?

Birmingham Children’s Theatre, Virginia Samford Theatre, Terrific New Theatre (also a board member), Encore Theatre and Gallery, Aldridge Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, City Equity Theatre, Onyx Agency Inc. (one of the founding members), Samford University, University of Montevallo, Alley Theatre, UAB, Carver Theatre, Alabama School of Fine Arts, Miles College, Spelman College, Red Mountain Theatre Company and Lawson State Community College.

Your arts experience goes way beyond acting. Tell me about that. 

As I settled into the theater scene, I put my Master of Fine Arts degree to work and started teaching numerous classes (speech, dance, acting and humanities) at Miles College.  I taught there, adding adjunct work at UAB.  I would remain at Miles until 2007, when I applied and got a teaching job at Spelman College in Atlanta for an academic year in 2007-2008.  I returned home and cared for my mom and after a year returned to Miles to teach in the resurrected theater program (which brought back the theater major and minor).  I have since moved on to teach and direct at the University of Montevallo and adjunct in the education division at Miles.

Do you prefer acting or directing or mixing it up?

I like mixing it up, but I enjoy acting the most. To me there is nothing like building a character, interacting with other characters and getting reactions from the audience. 

Tell me about “Love Scenes.” How did that come up for you? “Love Scenes” by Sara Jean Accuardi runs April 5-7 at The Encore Theatre and Gallery in Roebuck.  There are six scenes, six couples, one apartment building in 24 hours and three directors – Cheryl Hall and Marc Raby (artistic director and founder of the Encore) and myself – and there is some Shakespeare included.  Marc found the play while researching plays he wanted to bring to the Encore, and they asked Cheryl and me to join him in the directing. 

Can you tell me about the portion you’re directing? Who is in it? What is it about?

One of my scenes looks at a one-sided love affair – young man and older woman situation.  She does not care to go any further, and he does not take “no” for an answer.  Starring Donna Thornton and University of Montevallo theater major Paul Hall.  My second scene looks at two women drinking wine and possibly talking about the same man.  It stars two of my former students from Miles College, TeShara Monique and Camellia Brownlee.

What’s next for you?

I am looking forward to auditioning next year in the SETC professional auditions, and we will see what happens.  In the meantime, I will continue to teach and share my love for the art of theater with the world.

“Love Scenes,” at Encore Theatre and Gallery, 213 Gadsden Highway, Suite 108, Birmingham, April 5-7.

1 comments On Chalethia Williams among trio of directors for ‘Love Scenes’ at Encore Theatre and Gallery

  • Loved the article. Ms. Williams is a very talented, skilled & knowledgeable actress, director, & producer!!

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