For Immediate Release - Southwest Tennessee Community College

Date: September 5, 2013

Southwest Alumna Gets Huge Role in "The Color Purple" Musical Production by Boston's SpeakEasy Stage Company

You've seen her shake the rafters at the Hattiloo Theater in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," bring audiences to their feet with her self-written and produced one-woman show, "Madam C. J. Walker," thrill onlookers as ‘Sophia' in the Play House on the Square's production of "The Color Purple" and now, Southwest alumna Valerie Houston takes her ‘Sophia' role to Boston, MA, in the SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of "The Color Purple."

The SpeakEasy Stage Company has, according to its Internet acclamation, distinguished itself as Boston's premiere theater, consistently winning praises for presenting top-quality productions of vital, cutting-edge plays and musicals.

When asked her initial reaction to being told she'd been casted in the musical, Houston responded, "My initial reaction to the news that I got the role was not only elation but surprise. The director offered me the role of "Sophia" the very next day, which is unusual. Most of the time it takes some time for a production team to decide on who they want for a role.

Houston graduated from Southwest with an Associate of Science Degree in music. She had no idea that she'd end up on the theater stage acting and writing. "My first theatrical experience began at Southwest under the tutelage of Professor Levi Frazier. There, I wrote and performed my very first one-woman show entitled, "Madame C.J. Walker", which I perform locally at various functions," said Houston.

Southwest's Assistant Professor of Communications, Graphics and Fine Arts Levi Frazier nurtured Houston and is one of her biggest supporters. "As Valerie's mentor and former director, I can truthfully say that I have met very few performers with her desire to learn. Whatever knowledge she acquires in workshops or rehearsals, she takes and immediately applies in her writing as well as her acting. The fact she is a very talented writer, actress and singer helps. She is a director's dream," said Frazier.

Most recently, Houston won the 2013 Ostrander Award, the highest honor of excellence coveted by members of the Greater Memphis theatre community, for best supporting actress in a musical, "The Color Purple."

Houston will leave for Boston in December. The play is scheduled to run from January 10, 2014 to February 8, 2014.

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Photo caption: Valerie Houston

For more information contact: Brenda J. Rayner, (901) 333-4247, bjrayner@southwest.tn.edu, Farris Bldg., Room 1002, 5983 Macon Cove, Memphis, TN 38134