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In the spotlight: Teyonna Johnson’s love for the stage grew in Sacramento

By Lauren Johnson

For the past eight months, Troy’s Teyonna Johnson has been pursuing her acting dream in California.

Johnson, a 2014 graduate of Charles Henderson High School, travelled to Sacramento, California, for a paid acting internship. From September 25 until May 26, she performed shows on a school tour for the elementary schools in the area and on a family series stage.

“When I first got there, we went straight into rehearsals for our first show called ‘Mathematical Madness,’” Johnson said. The show “taught kids that math can be fun and taught them different ways that math can be used in everyday life.

“I played a character named Benjamin Banneker, who was an African American man from the 1700s, and he was one of the first people to predict solar eclipses,” she said.

Johnson and her team of four actors and one stage manager performed shows for the thousands of elementary students in schools in and around Sacramento.

“We’d go to different schools every day and have two to three shows per day,” she explained. “It made me realize just how big it is out there because of how many elementary schools there are.”

After about 80 shows, she became more comfortable being on stage.

Through this internship, she was able to go to the majority of these schools over a time period of nine weeks. “That’s the main thing I did as an acting intern. When we’d come back, I’d do front of house things like making sure the main stage shows would happen. I would greet the patrons and other things like that,” she said.

Johnson’s second tour was “History Extravaganza,” and she played several different characters.

During this tour, she and her team had the kids write stories. “They made up fictional stories, we would tweak them, then perform them for the schools,” Johnson said.

“These two girls wrote a story about two characters name Monti and Cello, who built Monticello, and we had to tell the kids after ‘This is fake. Monti and Cello did not exist’,” she laughed.

Through this internship Johnson was a part of all aspects of the theater, helping to set up the show, perform, pack up the show, and head on to the next destination. Besides the school tours, she auditioned to be in one of the family series shows, and she describes being lucky enough to get the part.

“The family series stage holds about 400 people,” Johnson stated. “I got to be a part of ‘Martin Luther King Jr. and the Sound of Freedom,’ and I played a character named Fanny Lou Hamer.”

This show lasted an hour and 15 minutes and was about the civil rights leaders, like Fanny Lou Hamer, who aren’t as well known. In the show, Martin Luther King Jr. leads the audience through meeting these different historical figures.

Johnson’s love for acting and the theater all started when she attended Summer Spotlight at Troy University. “I can confidently say that if it was not for that program, I would not be an actor today.”

Summer Spotlight taught her about the theater world, which she said she would not have been exposed to otherwise. “The professors there, saw something in me, and all you really need is for one person in your life to say ‘Hey, I see this in you.’ After that you start to see it in yourself and start to believe in it,” she said. 

Johnson said she knew the moment she spoke the lines of her first solo at Summer Spotlight that she wanted to major in theater in college, and that’s exactly what she did.

While a senior at Charles Henderson, her theater teacher was a role model. “Ms. Parks had just graduated college when she became my teacher, and it definitely gave me the idea that I can make a career out of this,” Johnson said.

After graduating high school, she attended Auburn University where she majored in musical theater, earned her BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), and graduated May 2018.

While in Auburn’s theater program, she said one of the most important things she learned was, “learning how to balance all of the things I had to do. I was president of AU Players, which is the theater organization that put on all kinds of social events, and we had to work around department schedules of auditioning, schoolwork, and balance being at rehearsals from 6:00 until 10:30.”

Johnson has plans to travel to Maryland and be a camp counselor at a theater camp. This will be her third year attending, but her first time being the performing arts director and program staff of the camp.

In the fall, she is going to move to New York not only because she loves the city but also because of all the opportunity for actors to audition and because that is where theaters across America audition for shows.

“I’ve visited New York a few times, and after doing the internship in California, talking with other actors, putting in the work, and realizing how much work it takes to get to where I want to go, I want to move there,” Johnson said with a smile.

“But, I’m waiting to hear back from this job in San Francisco, so if I get that, New York will have to wait,” she said.