Sterling Jones (left) and Mya Ison won Triangle Rising Stars (photo by Areon Mobasher Photography)
Mya Ison is bubbly, vivacious, and a soon-to-be high school graduate. She also happens to be the most recent winner of the Triangle Rising Stars Best Actress award.
Triangle Rising Stars is an exciting regional qualifying event that’s part of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Just competing in the program is a difficult feat in itself. Hopefuls, made up of high school theatre students from Central and Eastern North Carolina, have to go through a rigorous application process to be considered for Triangle Rising Stars. Once they’re in the program, though, they get to compete for the chance to represent Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) in the national finals in New York City.
Though Mya has had a busy schedule since her win, we were lucky enough to get a moment to chat with her and ask her a few key questions about her life, her win, and her plans for the future.
Q:Why Did You Enter the Triangle Rising Stars Competition?
According to Mya, competing wasn’t just a “one-off.” It was something she’d dreamed about since she was first introduced to the Triangle Rising Stars competition.
“My high school got nominated for best musical when I was a freshman,” she said, an experience that led her to watch the competition and that made her “dream of performing at DPAC one day.”
Fortunately for Mya, it was a dream that more than came true.
Q: What went through your head when you found out you’d won?
Winning Triangle Rising Stars is a huge accomplishment, but it’s also one that can take you by surprise. This was the case for Mya, who says she was “in complete shock.” “I wasn’t really expecting to win,” Mya continued, “so it was a surreal moment for me.”
In fact, the win was so mind-boggling that she wasn’t even really thinking about it in the moment. Instead, she says, “All I could think about was how happy I was for my cast because we had won Best Musical for Ragtime a few minutes before.”
Q: What was your favorite part of the Triangle Rising Stars experience?
Regardless of who wins or loses on the big night, the Triangle Rising Stars showcase and awards show is really just the culmination of a profound learning experience for young actors.
Reflecting on her time, Mya says, “My favorite part…was getting to become friends with the other finalists and working on the group numbers with them. Everyone was super kind and talented, so it was just a super fun experience to be able to learn from the other kids there.”
She also stated that she “will never forget the feeling of performing for the huge audience at DPAC.”
Q:How will you prepare for your time in New York and the Jimmy Awards?
Though Mya has already had one major accomplishment, there are still other feats in the future, including the chance to win an award on a national level.
Mya explains that she and her co-winner, Sterling Jones, “will be doing a few classes with David Henderson and other coaches to prepare our voices and bodies for the intense 9 day week in New York.”
She also stated, in words wise beyond her years that, “Personally, I’m just trying to get rest and keep healthy so that I can do my best once June 18th comes. There is a lot of anticipation, but I’m trying to stay focused on how fun the experience will be.”
Q:What is the best theatre-related moment you’ve ever had?
Finally, just for fun, we had to ask Mya this tough question.
She went back to when she performed in Ragtime at her high school. Her school allowed the cast to host a talk-back after the final show, designed to help participants discuss and understand the issues raised by the show.
May explains that, “I didn’t know what to expect from this, but it turned out to be one of the most fruitful and eye-opening discussions I have ever had in a school context. Members of the cast and audience members who had seen the show brought their honest perspectives to the table, and no one was afraid to begin a dialogue about what was on their mind. We discussed race at [our school]- specifically, the implications of the characters and the language in Ragtime, the effect of diversifying the theatre program for this production, and a lot of other really relevant topics. It was super important to me to be able to be in a production that had such a profound effect on my community because, to me, that is why theatre is important. It is surreal that by putting on this musical we were the instigators of change at our high school, and that is a feeling that I will cherish always.”
Obviously, Mya is a girl who truly understands theatre and what is at its heart. We have no doubt her wisdom and grace will carry her far and make the Triangle proud in the coming months and years.
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