Just as some families go to church multiple nights a week, Leighza Walker's family regularly attended the altar of the performing arts--spending most nights at the theater. Becoming an active member of the Conroe Community Players when she was 7, Walker recalls theater as being an important aspect of her life creatively and socially.
"Theater people are different from other people, and my boundaries were developed among them," she says. Growing up in a community theater is "one step up from being raised by wolves and one step down from gorillas," she explains. Conroe Community Players taught her everything "from curtain pulling to using power tools to directing, at the feet of people who loved it enough to do it for free year after year."
Walker took a hiatus from theater to attend nursing school and raise kids. She has worked as a midwife in addition to holding other hands-on jobs, including being a carpenter. Her father, now 72 and still active with the Crighton and Owen Theaters in the Conroe area, told her she could do anything, and she believed him. With his encouragement, she pursued her creative interests as much as possible. After a 17-year break, she says, "The moment I stepped back into my first audition, I felt like a dolphin being rescued from an exhibit and put back in the ocean. Freedom!"
A few years ago, she applied and was selected to be one of six participants in the Edward Albee Playwriting Workshop. When she isn't writing, directing, or acting she is, in every conceivable fashion, helping run Obsidian Art Space--a theater she designed, built, and is a co-owner of.
What She Does: "If it has to do with theater, I can do it," says Walker. "I'm not great with sound, but I'm learning because I lost our sound guy from Obsidian. I'm looking for a new one."
"I design sets, lights, sound, and costumes, build, take pictures, direct, act, produce, run tech, bartend, take tickets, write plays, and even clean restrooms. I produce every aspect of every show we do. I'm still learning and encountering problems that I love solving."
Why She Likes It: "There is always something new and different. I have ADHD. Bad. Owning a theater means I can jump from set building to setting lights to writing ad copy. I can always change on a dime what I'm doing at any given moment. Being creative is mental, spiritual, and physical; I thrive in an ever-changing environment."
What Inspires Her: "All of my life people have fascinated me," Walker says. "How we are all different people and yet we're all experiencing essentially the same things, maybe at different times. My mother told me 'we're all looking through the same eyes.' Each one of us brings our experiences through our own personal filters and our own history filters to turn it into whatever lesson. We're all experiencing our humanity in differing yet the same ways. I'm fascinated by how we are so unique and yet identical. It's the human dichotomy."
"Communication and perspectives inspire me as far as art goes--as far as playwriting goes. I'd like to crawl inside everyone's head and root around and figure out what makes them tick. I'm an information junkie, a communication addict. I'm a toddler. I need to know why. I need to know how."
As for a specific inspirational person, Walker says, "My business partner and bestie, Tom [Stell], inspires me because he worked his ass off to be able to sit back and do whatever he feels like doing, and he's not a talker. If he says he's going to do it, he is going to do it and he's going to do it now. Do you have any idea how few and far between people like that are?" She also finds inspiration from her children.
"My children inspire me because I've watched them grow up into these people I knew inside and out into people I really don't know a thing about. I've watched them go from simple creatures to complicated individuals, and I know each human being on this planet went through the same process."
If Not This, Then What: "Gosh. That's a great question. No idea. I was a midwife for years and loved it. Talk about creation! I was a carpenter, too, and that satisfied me deeply," Walker says. "If I wasn't running OAS [Obsidian Art Space], I would write more. Travel more. I've had some discussions with several people about helping them to create theater spaces in different parts of the country and I'd love to go all over the world doing that for a few months at a time. I'm thinking that will be something I would adore doing. Going around everywhere and helping people create their own space."
"Honestly, I'm enough of a narcissist to think 'I can do that' about anything. Except draw. I'm a terrible drawer. So, sometimes I'm wrong, but guess what? There's always something else."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I can do what I do anywhere. Houston is my home and I'll always keep some sort of foothold here. We're gaining a well-deserved reputation as an arts city and the community is growing. Of course, I want to try my hand at acting and directing in New York one of these days, but only to satisfy my inner 16 year old girl. I see myself as a Houstonian and being here all the time."
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What's Next: "A lot more of the same," Walker says. "Producing original work, including Big Head's popular showcases. Writing another 'full length'--forgive me, Mr. Albee--play about a family in a hospital maternity waiting room."
Walker's plans also include, "Writing some one-woman shows, LeighzaLand: Declaration of a Sovereign Nation, Observations from the LeighzaSphere, and Names Have Been Changed But You Know Who You Are--I wanna be Tamarie Cooper when I grow up. Gathering information. Learning to ride a motorcycle. Falling in love. Jumping out of an airplane. Grandkids. Building a house. Building a treehouse. Posting on Facebook. Whatever I want because this is it, folks. This is your life. Do something. I'll do it with you."
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Macy Perrone, costume designer Elsa Briggs, Painter, jewelry maker Baldemar Rodriguez, film director/producer and actor Linarejos Moreno, photographer Heather Rainwater, artist, jewelry maker Detria Ward, actress and entrepreneur Justin Cronin, book author Mark Ivy, actor Lauren Luna, painter and shoe designer Sarah Cortez, writer Kent Dorn, drawer, painter, artist Lillian Warren, painter Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer Tom Stell, actor, writer, director Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright