Stages Theatre: Playing a Drama Queen in Speech & Debate

What Ashtyn Sonner likes about playing drama queen Diwata in Speech & Debate now playing to all-round good reviews at Stages Repertory Theatre is that it "nice to see someone dealing with the issues we're actually dealing with."

The Sam Houston University senior said she got the part by responding to an open casting call at school for the Stages production. They practiced at school for about a week and then moved to Stages in March for the remaining rehearsals, she said.

"I thought it would be very interesting to go back and revisit high school. Usually in shows in college we've been playing characters who are older than we are or just crazy."

She and fellow Sam Houston students Michael McClure (who plays Solomon, the would-be journalist) and Garret Storms (who plays Howie, the gay kid who wants out of high school) car-pool together from Huntsville for each performance.

They'll even be performing this Sunday. "Actually Easter falls on my birthday this year," Sonner said. "It's a double whammy. I get to do a matinee. It comes with the work," she said, laughing.

Sonner, who graduated from Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz, TX, outside San Antonio, says family have been to see her show twice and she expects more of them to come this Sunday.

As for her character: "She's 17 years old and wants to be a superstar. She lives in a realm not of this earth. She's very big and dramatic and can be a little bit abrasive."

Sonner says she was in speech and debate herself in high school and although the situation is different in that the school had an established speech and debate program and faculty advisers, when it gets right down to all the intricate rules that debate demands, the play is dead on accurate.

She credited playwright Stephen Karam for protraying three teens "intelligently."

"He doesn't break it down into an afterschool special."

Sonner's post graduation plans are to work, save money and then by next January move to Los Angeles and give her acting career a full-time shot. Here's your chance to see her before she makes it really big.

Speech & Debate runs through April 11, Wednesdays through Sundays at Stages, 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-0123.

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