The Student Newspaper of Paint Branch High School


The Student Newspaper of Paint Branch High School


The Student Newspaper of Paint Branch High School


BSA Junior Acting Program Takes the Stage

Willow and Jada-Pinkett Smith Bring Inspiration
Behind the scenes with some BSA junior actors as they work backstage on their scenes.
Behind the scenes with some BSA junior actors as they work backstage on their scenes.

On Monday and Tuesday November 20 and 21,  the high school juniors of the Baltimore School of Arts (BSA) acting program took the stage for their winter scenes, after a recent donation and visit from Willow and Jada-Pinkett Smith.

In September 2022, Willow Smith and her business partner, The House of Mugler, announced a $50,000 donation to BSA on a shared Instagram post, emphasizing they wanted to to help “400+ students explore and nurture their talent in dance, music, song, acting, stage design, costuming making, visual arts, and filming.” When the funding finally came into the programs in June 2023, the students were prepared  and ready for a year full of artistry.

The Baltimore School of the Arts was established in 1970, and is a prestigious school for which students must audition to apply for admission. Fortunate students who do gain admission are introduced to a whole new creative world where their teachers help the young artists to harness their creative ability, while  maintaining what is required to receive a high school diploma. The program’s alumni include the stars Jada-Pinkett Smith and Tupac Shakur.

On October 18, midway through the actors’ journey to performances, Willow and Jada-Pinkett Smith visited BSA and met with the student body to talk about their own journeys  to success, the trials and tribulations of making a name for themselves. Jada shared some of her own  experiences while she was a student at BSA.

This conversation left students like Zemirah Blount feeling “inspired and motivated to keep persevering in their career interests and to strive for more.” The experience provided students with the reassurance that they would be able to accomplish big things in whatever entertainment career path they chose, even if they were coming out of the small state of Maryland, which is not often associated with fame.  According to Tommie Clark from WBAL NewsRadio, BSA senior Chloe McNeill mentioned after the event, “It was like, really inspiring to see someone who went there and has made it so far in  life to come and speak to us–because I’m like, ‘We can do the exact same thing.’”

Students actually began preparing for their winter scenes as soon as they hit their classroom in August, after studying classical text their sophomore year.; Techniques that focus on body voice control and text analysis. They were assigned to a partner to immediately start rehearsing. To make sure the content in the scenes were understood, Zemirah mentioned that the actors often utilized the Oxford English Dictionary to ensure they were correctly emphasizing what it was they were saying.

For weeks, the actors spent time in their classroom working and rehearsing their scenes for the performance. Zemirah said  that “before she knew it,” the week prior to the performance there. They worked closely with the junior SDP (stage design and production, the other half of the theater department) that week to make sure their costumes were fitted and ready to go, and that lighting, sound, and stage designs were all intact. Adjusting to rehearsing on stage was salient that week due to the need to be loud enough for the audience to understand and hear, as well as to gain comfort in their movements in costume. After a week’s worth of dress rehearsals backed up by months of practice in class, the junior acting program was ready to take the stage, and on November 20, that is just what happened as the actors took to the stage for the first of two nights of performances. Each night’s performance lasted about an hour and consisted of fifteen actors who would pour all the emotion they’ve been channeling into their scenes.

One of the actors on stage was sixteen-year-old actress Zemirah Blount, who was featured in two scenes. One  scene was from Misanthrope, where she played a rich flirt who got into an argument with her boyfriend because she was upset that she was even involved with him in the first place. Right before her performance, she tackled the battle of anxiety by exercising tongue twisters, deep breathing, running lines, and remembering to have fun.

After two wonderful nights of thought and emotion-provoking scenes, actors and their families headed home to enjoy the rest of their night, as well as Thanksgiving break, until the following Monday.

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Chaya Blount, Staff Writer
Do you have something in your life that you’ve always enjoyed doing? For Paint Branch junior Chaya Blount, that thing is basketball. In fact, Chaya’s favorite activity is playing basketball, something she's done since sixth grade and something she has always been interested in.  When asked which books she has read that have shaped her into who she currently is, Chaya answers, “I’ve read a couple books like Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid -- Dork Diaries, the tween books.” Her favorite movies are the three Creed films and her favorite TV series is All-American: Homecoming. Her favorite food is pineapple pizza, which, if she had her preferred superpower of flight, she could pick up from the air. As for why she’d want the ability to fly, she notes, “I’d want to fly because sometimes I just need to escape.”  As for how excited she is for her future on a scale of 1-10, she puts herself at about an 8 because “right now, I’m in high school and can’t really do anything. But as far as college goes, I’m pretty excited.”  The last gift she gave a friend was a gift box filled with letters and their favorite snacks. She doesn’t exactly have a favorite music artist because of how many songs and different artists she listens to because she grew up surrounded by all kinds of music. Her mother used to manage Dru Hill, the American R&B group, as well as a Baltimore group called “The Corporates”. Chaya as well has been in the record studio, giving her the chance to make her own music.   By: Noelle Williams

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