Sparkle: an interview wit’ Deja Bryson

First staged production of the classic hit movie ‘Sparkle’ opens Nov. 13 at the Black Rep; Nov. 28 Saturday matinee is a fundraiser for the Bay View – call (510) 652-2120, mention the Bay View and get a discount

by the Minister of Information JR

Deja-Bryson, Sparkle: an interview wit’ Deja Bryson, Culture Currents Before there was electronic media like radio, television and the internet, there was theater – or drama. Back in the day – and today – drama was used to teach people lessons without preaching at them. The audience got a chance to watch someone else’s actions and learn valuable lessons without having to deal with dire consequences.

That is why it is essential that people catch the play “Sparkle” at the historic Black Rep Theater, 3201 Adeline St. in Berkeley, with Deja Bryson playing the part of Sparkle. It’s the first time the classic hit movie has been produced on stage, and it opens Nov. 13.

The Nov. 28 Saturday matinee at 2:30 p.m. is a benefit for the SF Bay View. Call (510) 652-2120 and mention the Bay View and you’ll get a discount on your tickets.

Very rarely do we talk to local thespians about their craft, so I wanted to sit down wit’ Deja Bryson, so she could discuss her history and her role as Sparkle. Peep her in her own words…

M.O.I. JR: Deja, can you tell us how you got into theater and drama? How did you get the leading part in “Sparkle”?

Deja: I started in theater and drama when I was 14 years old at a program called Y.M.P. (Young Musicians Program) housed at UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. We portrayed popular pieces such as “Bubbling Brown Sugar” and “Porgy and Bess.” We were also required to act out all of our classical pieces such as “Ave Maria” and “Precious Lord.”

A few people were telling me about the play “Sparkle” a while back and when I met Sean (Vaughn Scott of the Black Repertory Group Theater), we both felt this would be a wonderful character for me and a great way to use my gift to accent the beautiful work he’s been doing.

M.O.I. JR: What is “Sparkle” about? Is your character similar to you in any way?

Deja: “Sparkle” is about a young girl who idolizes her beautiful older sister and always measures herself based on her sister’s life and accomplishments. She doesn’t realize her own potential until she doesn’t have anyone to measure up to besides herself. This story also showcases the dreams and ambitions of people from the ghetto who are so thirsty for a way out that they either take the wrong route, or they get success and don’t know what to do with it.

I definitely see similarities between “Sparkle” and me. No matter how awesome you think you are, you will always compare yourself to your idols and to those who represent whatever you’d like to represent. This can make you stronger, but it can also get in the way. Often we are our own worst enemy, and we fear failure so much that at times it’s easier to play the backline.

It’s very inspiring to finally see Sparkle recognize her power and to go forward fearlessly into her own spotlight. This is a very important time in my life, when I’m recognizing my own strengths and am comfortable doing what I do best. I hope to follow in Sparkle’s footsteps!

M.O.I. JR: How long did it take for you and the rest of the crew to practice before you were ready to perform?

Deja: Well, I joined the cast of “Sparkle” a little later than others, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I practiced 10 hours or more a day a few times a week for three weeks. Everyone in the cast is a perfectionist, so we spent a lot of time touching up small details. We are all very confident in this play and ready to take people back to 1970, where the magic of this classic movie began.

M.O.I. JR: What are your future aspirations as a thespian?

Deja: I am a singer first; however, any good performance has to have some theatrical influence. I’d like to bring back the essence of the music that inspired me to do this: Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Peabo Bryson. These people had voices that stopped you in your tracks and made you feel a certain way. That’s what I want.

M.O.I. JR: Why is it important for people to support Black plays and venues like the Black Rep Theater?

Deja: It’s important because it’s a movement to empower and improve our culture and communities, and to create opportunities for people to showcase their talents and gifts. We have so much personality, so much creativity and it’s important to keep opportunities open for that to progress and grow. The “Mom & Pop” venues make the world go ‘round. The Black Rep Theater has been around for years. It’s a landmark in the Bay Area. We need to know that we can go there to develop and learn so we can go further.

M.O.I. JR: How long does the play run?

Deja: Nov. 13, 2009, to Dec. 13, 2009 – for now!

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at and visit