Bush High School Looks Beyond Awards in Annual One Act Play Appearances
Bush High School’s award winning theatre teacher made her fifth and final appearance at the state’s 6A UIL competition last week. Inspired by her students, Destyne Miller returned to the classroom as a student when she attends Yale University’s prestigious and highly selective graduate program in directing this fall.
Director, students mark diversity and exposure in state theater as success of work
FORT BEND ISD – This year, and for the first time, Fort Bend ISD will have two ensembles in the state’s 2023 UIL One Act Play competition. Bush and Kempner high schools competed in the 6A and 5A competitions last week, from May 4-6.
Bush High School has an impressive record in the state’s One Act Play competition, earning second place in the 6A contest in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and being named champion in 2022. The group, led by directors Destyne Miller and Jason Barron, acknowledges that the awards are important but believe the impact of their performances is of greater value.
“We perform for 39 minutes; we can’t stake our entire value of what we do on those 39 minutes when we’ve been with this for almost four or five months,” Director Destyne Miller said. “Honestly, the winning happens every time someone tells us that they see themselves.”
Bush has performed several poignant plays over the last few years, and all the plays chosen for competition have been written by women of color. They have included themes like substance abuse and sexual assault.
This year’s play, The Forgotten Prayer, discusses gun violence and was written by Miller herself. It was inspired by a spoken word piece she heard nearly a decade ago. Originally, she asked local playwright ShaWanna Goffney to develop the work, but commitments made this impossible.
By the time Miller learned that Goffney would not be available, the deadline was fast approaching to submit original work for approval. To make the deadline, Miller, with help and inspiration from her students, wrote the play in just three days.
Miller began her career in FBISD as a theater teacher at Sugar Land Middle School and was there for six years before being personally recruited to Bush High School. She had already accepted a position at Houston’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the city’s renowned arts high school. But for her, the decision came down to a simple question – where was she needed. She chose Bush.
“I came here, and I had a vision. I knew what I wanted, and the students bought into it,” Miller said.
Bush High School theater students audition to join the One Act Play ensemble each season. This year’s lead actors – seniors Theresa Ezeani, Angel Harris, Marjorie Kalule, and Sean Stegall – have earned individual honors in the five rounds of this year’s competition and have years of experience in theater. They are also working toward high school graduation and are all planning to pursue acting careers after school.
For each of them, it’s the people that have drawn them and kept them on stage – the ones they share the space with and also the ones in the audience.
“What keeps me coming back is the people in this space,” Stegall said. "It’s just such a welcoming place, this is now like one of my second homes.”
“I like watching and being in the room and then finally experiencing it,” Kalule said. “It just made me realize that this was like a calling.”
“I enjoy the challenge it gives me, both when it comes to my work and also my growth as a person,” Ezeani said.
“If I’m not having a good day, I put that into the scenes that I’m in,” Harris said, who comes from a legacy of actors. Both his grandfather and mother were actors, and he seeks their advice in preparing for his roles.
Next fall, Miller will be in a classroom as a full-time student. She’s been accepted into Yale University’s prestigious and highly selective graduate program in directing, at its David Geffen School of Drama. It’s the same school she auditioned for more than 10 years ago as an actress. Only three students are selected each year from the applicants and the staff is comprised of award-winning professors and professional directors.
Her inspiration for applying – her students. She encourages them to be courageous and apply to their top schools.
“I tell them to be brave and I started to feel like a fraud a little bit.”
Miller caught the theater bug in college and never looked back. She hopes to change the world through art. As theaters and companies across the country diversify their repertoire, she hopes to be among those sought out to bring the pages to life.
As Miller looks to this last opportunity to perform before the state’s high school theater community, she recognizes the real imprint of the work they do at Bush.
“Year after year, the actors get approached after contests by people who share their own stories of how they’ve been through this or how it relates to them, and the kids get immediate validation of being storytellers,” Miller said.
That impact is something that she wants her students to carry with them beyond their days at Bush. She wants her students to know that they have individual power and that they can offer that to others through their art.
“These aren’t our stories to keep. As artists, we have the privilege of telling other people’s stories. We’re servants of the story, above all.”