Acting was the last thing Octavius Rice thought he would do.Rice, a 26-year-old Charlotte resident, overcame his fear and challenges when he volunteered with NarroWay, the nonprofit Christian theater and conference center in Fort Mill.Rice had been diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and has had to deal with obstacles to things other people easily accomplish, especially reading and writing. Rice said he often sees words backwards, sees extra words or sees the words in a different order when he is reading. Despite this, Rice is now playing the lead character in NarroWay’s production of “The Gospel According to Tennessee.”“It proves nothing is impossible when you believe in God,” he said. “He will see you through anything.”The actor credited his success to lots of prayer and support from his family and girlfriend, Latrece Snipe, who encouraged him to try out for NarroWay. Rice has been volunteering with the theater for seven months, first appearing with a supporting role in “Not Just Another Love Story.”Rice had to tackle his biggest script yet with the lead role in “The Gospel According to Tennessee.” That meant dedicating hours to memorizing his lines both on and off the stage.Rice worked with director Rebecca Martin in the months leading up to opening night, often spending more than three hours on the phone rehearsing lines and songs. “I had to make some sacrifices,” Rice said. Martin said those sacrifices have paid off.“He has worked harder than I have ever seen anyone work to achieve excellence,” she said. “We’re so excited and proud of him.”“The Gospel According to Tennessee” brings the issues of racism, discrimination and faith to the stage as it takes audiences back to 1926 in East Tennessee. “The show will touch people’s hearts,” Rice said. “It goes beyond black and white and shows how we can all get along.”Much like his character, Rice has faced discrimination and stood against what seemed impossible throughout his life.When people told him he couldn’t go to college because of his dyslexia, Rice went on to earn a business degree from Johnson C. Smith University, where he now is the residence hall coordinator at Liston Hall. Rice is also a playwright and performed his first show at the university.Volunteering with the Spiritual Life Center at Johnson C. Smith helped spur Rice’s passion for writing plays, he said. Rice attributes his success to center Director Donnie Shell.“He helped me out a lot,” he said. Rice’s involvement with NarroWay provides inspiration for other people who may fear the obstacles in their way, said Cheryl Lipian, director of marketing and public relations for NarroWay. Lipian said she had people in her life with dyslexia who often “bypassed their dreams.”Rice said he gets through each day and performance through prayer.“I’m a strong man of God,” he said. “Trust in God. If you have a handicap, don’t let it hold you back from your dreams or disable you to do anything.”
Saturday, Oct. 05, 2013
Leading man not stopped by dyslexia
Want to Go? “The Gospel According to Tennessee” performances are at various Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 26 at the NarroWay Theater and Conference Center, 3327 S.C. 51 in Fort Mill. For details on prices and times, and to purchase tickets, call 803-802-2300 or visit narroway.net.
Amanda Phipps is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Amanda? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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