Aliyah Turner ’16 has come a long way since her first acting role – the baby elephant in Jungle Book.
An accomplished dancer and actor, Aliyah was one of only 18 applicants (from a pool of more than 1,000) accepted into the acting program at UCLA’s elite School of Theater, Film & Television. She begins her studies in September.
The interview/audition process was rigorous and included participation in an information session, the performance of two contrasting monologues (one classical and one contemporary), an interview in which applicants are asked to discuss their goals and aspirations for studying theater, and a movement audition where judges assess how applicants comport themselves in a group setting and how they respond to challenges.
Aliyah said the process was nerve-wracking. “Throughout the whole thing they are taking notes on you, observing you, and writing your number down … or not writing your number down,” she said.
Expanding Her Creative Repertoire
A competitive dancer since the age of three who has performed locally and nationally in several different styles of dance, Aliyah was chosen two summers ago, along with several other top performers from the Castro Valley Performing Arts program, to attend dance classes full-time at the famous Broadway Dance Center and Alvin Ailey Schools in New York City for a week.
Her creative repertoire expanded to acting when she got involved with the Neighborhood Youth Theater in Castro Valley about 10 years ago. She pursued drama O’Dowd, starring in several performances including Godspell, Hairspray and A Chorus Line. She credits Drama Director Dennis Kohles and drama teacher Trina Oliver – “MizzO” as she is affectionately called – with cultivating her passion for acting. “They are very professional and knowledgeable about acting and that really opened up my eyes to the possibility of pursuing it as a career,” she said.
MizzO was instrumental in helping Aliyah prepare for her UCLA audition, as well as the other auditions she had at Pepperdine University, Chapman University and Loyola Marymount University.
“MizzO came to me at the beginning of senior year and asked if I was interested in pursuing acting after high school. When I said ‘Of course,’ she said we needed to start working on monologues and training for the auditions and interviews. She was a big help,” Aliyah said.
Aliyah prepared “Waiting for Lefty” as her contemporary piece and a monologue from “As You Like It” for her classical piece. She performed the classical piece at the Ohlone College High School Theatre Festival in May, and ended up placing in the category. “That really boosted my confidence for the auditions,” she said.
For the past year, Aliyah has taken film and screen acting classes at Film Acting Bay Area (FABA) in Emeryville, where she has been provided several casting opportunities. She’s appeared in a short film, Through the Windowpain, and will star in an episode of FABA’s new, dramatic WebSeries The Traffick in August. She’s also secured a role in the upcoming feature film Taking Liberty.
Aliyah says what she enjoys most about acting is “telling a story and getting people out of their reality and making them believe and become invested in something she is creating.”
Looking ahead, Aliyah hopes use the actor showcases at UCLA as a springboard to a film acting career. “I can’t wait to start auditioning and truly living out my passion,” she said.