By Chloe Sommer,
After only two years at Davis High, Theresa Hayes was able to head to college with the skills and knowledge she needed to launch herself into a career in the performing arts.
Hayes is currently the Director of Instruction at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, but she’s been performing since she was in high school. Now 53, the actress and singer has a long career behind her including roles in Come Into My Gallery, Lock Up Your Daughters, Dreamgirls, Sophisticated Ladies, and the TV series “In the Beginning”. Her hard work and talents have taken her all around the United States and Europe as well as won her a NAACP award for Best Actress.
Hayes involvement in high school activities played an instrumental role in her life path, teaching her more than just what came from textbooks.
At DHS, Hayes was in the Madrigals and the first ever Jazz Choir in addition to acting and singing in several stage productions. She looks back particularly fondly on playing the role of Maria in “West Side Story”. Her teachers and directors, though, were what made the experiences significant.
“It wasn’t just playing around as a hobby,” Hayes said.
Her directors, Dick Brunelle and Julie Peterson, set high expectations for professionalism and performance, and actively encouraged students to meet them.
But it wasn’t just the performance arts that prepared Hayes for later jobs. She was also a cheerleader, a member of yearbook staff, and an avid member of Student Government. Hayes was her sophomore class representative, then senior class vice president after skipping 11th grade to graduate early. Through these activities, Hayes says she learned “loyalty, collaboration, and communication.”
After two busy years at DHS, Hayes graduated in the class of 1975 and attended UCLA where she built acting connections and entered the professional performance arts business. But it wasn’t easy.
“We made things happen. Things didn’t just happen to us,” Hayes said.
After years as a performer herself, Hayes discovered her desire to teach the arts. At the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, Hayes overlooks students, curriculum, and faculty. She considers her top priority the education of future generations of performers.
When she advises students at the Academy, Hayes says she always stresses one concept.
“You have to make it happen yourself. Don’t wait. Be prepared,” Hayes said.