Moment to shine: PHS student cast in Birmingham Children’s Theatre play

PELHAM – Pelham High School sophomore Cole Hall said he’s always had an interest in acting, but it wasn’t until last school year that he enrolled in theater class. His hard work quickly paid off and his natural talent shined through as he was recently cast in a Birmingham Children’s Theatre’s play, “The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963.”

The play was adapted by Reginal Andre Jackson from the book by Christopher Paul Curtis, and is directed by Chalethia Williams. The play follows the story of an African American family, the Watsons, who travel from Michigan to Birmingham in 1963 to visit family only to find themselves in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and the tragic bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Hall plays Byron Watson, the oldest of the three children in the family who has made a reputation for himself as being defiant. Hall said the role marks his “first serious role” as an actor.

Hall said he was surprised when he learned that he was cast to play Byron, but he was even more shocked to learn that PHS teachers and administrators were willing to work with him so that he could take advantage of this opportunity.

During rehearsals, the school permitted Hall to leave at 1:30 p.m. to make it to practice by 2 p.m. The 75-minute play debuted at the end of September and will run through mid-October. On performance days, Hall may be out of school for the entire day or half a day.

But missing school doesn’t mean that he isn’t responsible for turning in his school work. Hall uses Google Classroom to stay up-to-date on his assignments.

“This experience has taught me a lot about time management,” Hall said. “I have to be very proactive when it comes to doing my school work. Any free time that I get, I’m working on school work.”

Hall said theater has also taught him skills that he’s sure will help him in the future as he grows his YouTube channel called Coletainment. Hall said his ultimate goal is to become a successful YouTube entertainment personality.

“Acting has really taught me how to enunciate and to pronounce all the syllables in a word, and how to be expressive,” he said. “Those two things will really help with talking to the camera for my YouTube channel.”

But acting in the play does come with a drawback. Since Hall isn’t 16 yet, he doesn’t get paid for his role in the play. He said it was a hard pill to swallow at first, but now he realizes how great the opportunity is regardless.

“It means a lot to me to have the support of my family and the school, and overall it’s just been a great experience,” he said. “A lot of my family came and sat on the front row. It was hard not to smile on stage, but I managed.”

PHS theater teacher Melissa Bailey took 36 of her students on a field trip on Oct. 2 to watch the play.

“We mainly wanted him to feel supported by his community and to recognize his hard work,” Bailey said. “For a person who’s only done theater for a year to land a role with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre is impressive.”

“One of my classmates said I made them cry, so that was pretty cool,” Hall said.