With just nine days until May Commencement, you can feel the graduation jitters.
Spartans are putting last-minute touches on their cap designs, cramming for final exams and flocking to College Avenue to take photos in their graduation garb.
UNC Greensboro senior Baraka Ongeri is one of more than 2,700 Spartans set to graduate next Friday, and one of three seniors who will be highlighted on the UNCG website in the coming week.
He’s an acting student, a future New Yorker, a board game player and an amateur musician. You may recognize him from UNCG’s production of “Antigone” in the fall, or from Triad Stage’s rendition of “A Raisin in the Sun” just a couple months ago.
Ongeri recently shared about his experience in the UNCG School of Theatre and his plans for the future. Below are some highlights from the conversation.
How did you become interested in acting?
It was always something I wanted to try out. But growing up in Pennsylvania, I played sports instead. When my family moved to Greensboro at the start of my freshman year of high school, I felt like I had permission to rebuild who I was and try out different things. I started taking drama classes, and we did a show at the end of the semester. I really enjoyed it, so I kept performing. It developed from there into something I was really passionate about.
How have you grown as an actor at UNCG?
I’ve had a lot of time on stage. As a freshman, I wasn’t completely comfortable, and I couldn’t get vulnerable on stage. Now, I’ve gained confidence in expressing myself and being vulnerable in front of an audience. I’ve learned to control my voice and how to be in my body.
All of my professors have helped guide me. Denise Gabriel has been my counselor, guru and yogi – I’ve grown a lot under her guidance. John Gulley directed me twice, and I always hear his voice in my head. His instruction has stuck with me over the years.
What are some of your most memorable UNCG productions?
I’ve been fortunate to do a show each semester. My freshman year, I got to do a play by August Wilson called “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” I gained a lot artistically and got to work with other black artists, which was a big change from the experience I had in high school.
This past fall, I had my first lead male role in my first Shakespearean production, “Antigone.” I was in Prague studying Shakespeare last summer, so it’s been something I’ve been interested in for a while.
Earlier this spring, I was in my first professional production, Triad Stage’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” It was amazing getting to work outside of the educational environment.
Who are some actors you look up to?
“The Office” is my favorite TV show – I think Steve Carrell is a genius. I like the work that Jake Gyllenhaal has been doing recently. Mahershala Ali is a newer name, but he is amazing.
How are you feeling about graduation? What are your plans for the future?
It’s bittersweet. The past four years have been the best years of my life. I’ve grown so much and have experienced so many new things. I’ll always remember my time at UNCG, but now it feels like I’m ready to move on and take the next step. I plan to move to New York City at the end of the summer and take the leap. I think theater is a good way into a professional acting career, but ultimately I want to end up in TV and film. The dream is to have a career where I can do everything, but I’ll take what I can at this point.
Interview by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications