Entertainment

Artist Profile: Sehome grad Akilah Williams returns from New York to Bellingham

Sehome High School graduate Akilah Williams, 34, jumps into Bellingham Music Club’s Night Beat’s production of “A Broadway Cabaret” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 at Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven.
Sehome High School graduate Akilah Williams, 34, jumps into Bellingham Music Club’s Night Beat’s production of “A Broadway Cabaret” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 at Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Coming off six days of performing in the backup girl group in Mount Baker Repertory Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” (with only 10 days of rehearsal), Sehome High School graduate Akilah Williams, 34, jumps into Bellingham Music Club’s Night Beat’s production of “A Broadway Cabaret” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven.

The upbeat, nightclub-style revue features popular Broadway and stage songs from the last century, from Gilbert and Sullivan to “Wicked.”

Williams is one of the four lead performers who performed in last season’s “Musical Birthday Bash Revue” at Bellingham Theatre Guild. You can find out what she up to by following her on twitter - @akilahwilliams.

Here’s more about why she likes to perform.

Question: Where did you to school after graduating from Sehome?

Answer: I went on to study theater and music (and a little dance) at Western Washington University for a few years before transferring to Emerson College in Boston. I graduated from Emerson cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in musical theater and dance.

Q: How did you first become enamored with performing?

A: I have always had a soft spot for performing, particularly theater. I can’t pinpoint a specific moment that first drew me in, but I do recall watching a lot of movie musicals growing up.

Q: What have been some of the shows you’ve done that brought you joy and satisfaction?

A: I think the shows that have been particularly satisfying to do always helped me stretch and grow as a performer. My first show here in town was “Kiss Me, Kate” at Bellingham Theatre Guild, where I was a “specialty dancer” — a very new experience. Then I sang a solo in “Oliver!” for Lynden Performing Arts Guild. I remember doing “Hair” at WWU and having to get naked on stage (eek!) and doing a dance show with the dance department (because they needed actor types.)

I went on to Boston and remember doing a very sexy choreo-poem by Ntozake Shang called “Hydraulics Phat Like Mean” — that was a trip. I went to Juneau, Alaska, for a production of “The Who’s Tommy,” where I played a variety of characters, and also in Juneau I played a yeast (yes, a yeast) in the world premiere of “Yeast Nation” (by the writers of the Tony-award-winning “Urinetown.”)

I created and produced my own solo cabaret, that I performed here in Bellingham on a visit, and in New York City. In my last summer in New York I even assistant-directed a new musical in the New York Fringe.

Q: Why did you move back to Bellingham after spending years in New York?

A: I came back to Bellingham because I just missed it so much. I missed my family, the mild weather, the TREES! I missed the pace of life. New York was very exciting, but after a while that pace was exhausting — and somehow no longer as rewarding as it once was. I had started to feel stagnant there.

Q: What have you done lately?

A: Since I’ve been back I’ve actually been ridiculously busy. Upon returning I was immediately cast in the birthday bash at Bellingham Theatre Guild, followed by “The Miser” with Stone Town Theatre Works. I did a run of a children’s show in Redmond.

This summer I got to play opposite my extremely talented husband, Christopher Cariker, in “Much Ado About Nothing” for Shakespeare Northwest — that most definitely stretched me as a performer!

I just did my first “48 Hour Theater Festival” at the iDiOM, which was a wonderful exercise as an actor, to see what we can accomplish in so short amount of time. It’s been super-fulfilling to make all this great theater and still get to see my family more than once a year. (Chris and I even went camping this summer!)

Q: Why do you like being on stage?

A: Sometimes I’m not sure why I keep doing this. Sometimes it’s frustrating; dealing with rejection, working odd hours. I’ve taken breaks from it, but I always come back.

Partly, it’s what I know best, and I’m actually pretty OK at it. Mostly, though, I think it’s the fact that I can always learn something new while doing theater. Something new about myself, or the world, or someone else’s point of view. It keeps me growing, which keeps me young. Plus, I really like having permission to be silly sometimes.

Q: What’s the Night Beat performance all about?

A: The show will involve a lot of numbers from the Birthday Bash show, with a few new ones thrown in. This version is tighter — only four actors and singers with two cameos — and a bit shorter. There will still be some great music, choreography, and show-stopping performances though! A musical-theater nerd’s dream!

I’ve really been enjoying working with this group for the cabaret. They are a really talented bunch; fantastic singers. And Scott Henderson is doing an amazing job with the direction — some of the arrangements he’s put together will stop you in your tracks!

Q: What’s next for you?

A: After my crazy busy September and October, I may need a rest! I am hoping to do a repeat of the open mic cabaret I hosted this summer at the Star Club on Holly Street. I definitely plan on continuing to find chances to perform!

Q: Do you have a day job?

A: I have a couple of part-time office jobs that keep me going. A few days a week I work at Packo Private Wealth Management in Fairhaven. And I do some office-coordinating at the Whatcom Symphony. Both of my jobs have been super-supportive of me as a performer and I feel incredibly lucky to have them.

Q: What do you enjoy besides being on stage?

A: When I’m not onstage I like to cook, bake, experiment with crafty cocktails, read, dance, practice yoga and just plain enjoy my time on this big blue ball.

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