Street Theatre Company’s upcoming production of the popular musical Hairspray is in “hell week,” and opens this weekend. I was able to work my way into the theatre amidst the bustle of preparations and speak with young African-American actress Tamaiya Clayton.
Tamaiya, you’re playing Little Inez in Street’s production of Hairspray. How did you learn about the audition, and what is your theatre background?
This is my first show with Street. I heard about the audition through my teacher at Tennessee State University, and I got Jon’s number from her. I had done a couple of things in high school, and was in the choir. I go to Broadway shows in New York, and I live in Chicago, so I love the Chicago Theatre. I came to Nashville for college.
What can you tell us about working with a professional company like STC?
Working with Jon and Cathy, sometimes I’m intimidated. They will correct any error on the spot, so I know they’ve studied the whole script. But I’ve picked up how to move, how to interact with people, and study lines strictly. Most importantly I’ve learned how to be prompt and alert. I’ve made friends here. I’m getting close to the actors I work with, and several of the dancers.
How has Hairspray changed the way you look at life?
I had seen Hairspray before, I see a lot of theatre. But being a part of it has changed how I treat people. No one is lower than anyone. I always treated people equally, but I didn’t always feel everyone was on my level. To see what my character went through as a child, about her mother owning a business in the 70s. Some of the things the Caucasians do in the script kind of got to me. I don’t take it personally, but it’s hard to see how black people were treated, and it really makes me connected.
As a student, do you think you will strive to be a professional performer?
I want to make a life in theatre. I think my next move is to go into ballet, I want to improve my form. I want to take more vocal classes too, and get pumped up to audition in Chicago. I’m a freshman in college. Hairspray will tell me if theatre is really for me. Since I’m paying for school, I really need to know if it’s the right direction. ‘Is this for me?’ I’ll know by the end of this show.
Are you nervous about opening night?
No. I’m pumped up! I’m ready.
Other articles in this series:
- In the green room at Hairspray with L.T. Kirk
- In the green room at Hairspray with Jon Royal
- In the green room at Hairspray with Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva
- In the green room at Hairspray with Tonya Pewitt
- In the green room at Hairspray with Daniel Rye
- In the green room at Hairspray with Michael Holder
- In the green room at Hairspray with Rollie Mains
- In the green room at Hairspray with Cathy Sanborn Street
Hairspray runs March 25-April 16, with performances Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m. Tickets are $16 and $14. For more information visit the Street Theatre Company website.