CHICAGO — King College Prep seniors Nehmiah Barker and Danyelle Monson have been chosen to perform in the Illinois High School Theatre Festival’s production of Frank Galati’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s acclaimed novel, "The Grapes of Wrath."
The play, which is being directed by Glenbard East High School’s Mark Kaetzer — is scheduled to run from Jan. 7-11 at Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium and will feature a cast and crew of more than 50 Illinois high school students.
Barker and Monson are the only Chicago students selected for the show that King drama teacher Krista Wachob, a former actress herself, labels “the biggest recognition a high-school drama student” can garner in Illinois.
Monson, 17, of Auburn Gresham, has been acting for only two years. She took an acting class at King on a whim, she said, and fell in love with the craft thanks in part to Wachob, who the young actress credits with “making theater fun.”
Since that initial class Monson has appeared in numerous plays at King including productions of "High School Musical," "Arabian Nights" and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." She is also a two-time finalist in the August Wilson Monologues Competition, which is held each year and sponsored by the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Illinois High School Theatre Festival "is the biggest thing you can be doing with a high school acting career," said Monson, who Wachob called "a natural talent who is motivated and really starting to shine."
With one year left in high school, the thespian is preparing to apply for college. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Howard University are her top choices. She is hoping her experience in college will catapult her to stardom.
“I want to be an actress; I want to be famous," Monson said. Acting is “One of the few outlets where I can be myself. When I’m on stage, I’m home," she said.
Barker, 17, for her part, was the lead in King’s production of "High School Musical" and once learned a major solo part in a mere three days after the original actress withdrew, Wachob said.