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Gospel play draws inspiration from turmoil within writer's family

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Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007 12:00 pm

By Stefanie Ochoa

Killeen Daily Herald

Inspired by personal experiences and things he's witnessed others go through, Jerry Weekly penned his

new gospel play, "Only God Can Change Me."

The Shepard family in the play has several different characters that bring together a crazy mixed up family in need of some help.

Weekly, 47, of Killeen, said the gospel play and theatrical setting send a "real" message home.

"Each character was picked for a certain reason, whether it be from my own experience or just something I built based around real-life experiences," Weekly said.

He started in Austin and has written several skits, but this work is one of his first plays.

"I wanted to do something more than acting, I want to share my faith on stage," Weekly said.

Weekly plays alcoholic father Frank Shepard, the lost soul of the family.

"My character is part of my upbringing – he had some characteristics from my father, which motivated me, and some other things I've seen in the community," Weekly said.

Cheryl Boyd, of Killeen, plays Charlene Shepard, the glue that holds the family together.

Boyd has been teaching and directing theater at Shoemaker High School since 2002.

She continues to pursue her passion for acting and has been in productions at Vive Les Arts Theatre, as well as being a part of the "Get-A-Clue" mystery dinner theater.

"I am similar to my character but a little more goofy," Boyd said. "I love the Lord and to act, so this is a good opportunity."

She said she feels that a musical is challenging, but that she has the ability to make it happen.

"The play has a great message, and I hope the audience will realize that God is the answer," Boyd said. "He can help you get through anything."

Jonathon Gilford, formerly of Phenix City, Ala., is Lee Shepard, the troublemaker of the family.

"I do relate to my character.

(Troublemakers are) really common in any community," Gilford said. "You always have that guy that wants to be a thug, and that was me when I was growing up."

Gilford said this play shows that you can always come back to God and that everyone has a chance.

Regina Dunlap, originally of Austin, plays Lisa Shepard, who is the black sheep of the family.

Dunlap said this is her first experience with a play but said she took classes at Central Texas College.

"When I was younger, I was a rebellious teenager and so is my character," she said.

Dunlap has a gospel background, which she said prepares her for the play.

Terri Troutman, a native of Georgia, plays Felicia Shepard, the peacemaker of the Shepard family.

She has been in several plays and was an extra in "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls."

"That's what I want to do is act," Troutman said. "And this play has a message that I agree with, a message to bring the family together."

Wanda Gunther plays Aunt Gracey, a character on whom the Shepard family leans. Gunther is an active member of the Jail and Prison Ministry Team at Grace Christian Center in Killeen.

Gunther said she relates to her character because they are both generous people and divas.

Tonya Garcia-Arnold developed an interest in acting while studying her mother during stage rehearsals with Houston's Urban Theater. Arnold is currently a teacher at Shoemaker High School and is known as the "life of the party" in the play.

Other actors in the play include Blessing Peace Weekly as Little Felicia, Stephen Moore as the Rev. Guy and Chloe Cho Weekly as Chantel.

The crew also represents a big part of the show.

Ashley Bonham, stage manager, said this is her first musical production. She has managed a few plays at Central Texas College and plans to pursue a career in theater, either as a professional stage manager or a teacher.

Aloha Holt, director of the play, said "Only God Can Change Me" has a heart-warming message of faith in God.

"This play has a good message of holding true to God," Holt said.

Each actor in the play said he or she relates in some way to his or her character, because Weekly created realistic characters will relatable traits.

"I want the audience to walk out more than entertained – but more of a life-changing experience," Weekly said.

"Only God Can Change Me" will premiere at 7 p.m. Jan. 12, 2008, at Ellison High School's auditorium. A sneak preview originally scheduled for tonight was postponed until further notice; however, up-to-date information on the preview can be found at www.btkp.com or by calling Jerry Weekly at (512) 939-7300.

Contact Stefanie Ochoa at sochoa@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7567

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