Editor's Note: Each graduation season, we look back on a senior arts student's accomplishments. This year, as has happened in the past, two students stood out.
CRESTVIEW — Before twists of faith pushed each into the limelight, seniors Angeles Alexander and Wesley Barlow never thought about performing in public.
Wesley was a wrestler in middle school, placing at state competition in his native Arizona. When he moved to Crestview, wrestling for Crestview High seemed like a natural continuation.
Then he got bitten by the performing arts bug and joined Crestview High's jazz band, where in addition to playing piano and percussion he performed vocals.
Meanwhile, Angeles' older sister, Alexis, wary of a potential scene-stealer, begged her to avoid the drama program where Alexis had found her niche.
Angeles instead turned to the chorus, inspired by a high school chorus performance she saw while attending Shoal River Middle School.
"There came a part where someone had a solo and everybody went crazy," Angeles said. "I was like, 'I want to do that.'"
She culminates her senior year as the Chanticleer show choir's president.
Unable to resist the stage's lure, Angeles and Wesley hit the boards running their sophomore year.
Angeles acted, stage managed and choreographed. Wesley arrived by way of backstage. When friends discovered he was familiar with tech, "I was basically 'voluntold' to get into theatre," he said.
"I remember him showing up and I was like, 'all right!'" Angeles said.
The next thing he knew, he was cast as a Nazi in "The Sound of Music."
Minor roles followed until Wesley — just to see what would happen — auditioned for the 2013 musical "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." He unexpectedly landed a lead role.
"It was a little jarring to see my name on that cast list after auditions," Wesley said. "I was convinced it was a mistake."
"Being in theatre and chorus and band, they're just real confidence boosters," Angeles said. "Every time I would sing ... everybody would say, 'I just love your voice' and it felt so good."
The two performed leads together in their senior spring musical, "Happy Days," with Angeles playing Pinky Tuscadero while Wesley portrayed "The Fonz," her love interest.
'Wonderful, weird kids'
While different vocations call the duo — Angeles hopes to become an EMT; Wesley, an electrical engineer — both intend to continue their love of performing arts.
"I would love to go on Broadway, but that's not a very realistic dream," Wesley said.
No matter where life takes them, both agree their fond memories of countless hours on the Pearl Tyner Auditorium stage will last their lifetimes.
"I could just go on and on about how I love the people in theatre," Angeles said. "Everyone involved with the arts, they're trying to express themselves. We're a mix of just wonderful, weird kids."
"It was one of those things you don't know exactly how it's going to be until you get in the middle of it," Wesley said. "You think it's going to be dumb, but instead it lets you get out there and be something you're not."