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Bloomington alums featured in faith-based play

By Camille Doty
July 19, 2012 at 2:19 a.m.

Relisa Franklin, 30, will make her hometown debut in her the play, "Only God can Judge Me." She moved to Houston last year to pursue her acting career. "I'm walking a mile in someone else's shoes and I get to come back to mine at the end of the day," she said of performing.

If you go

•  7 p.m. Saturday

• Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive, Victoria

•  $15 pre-sale, $25 at the door

•  Call 832-377-7529 or visit here.

•  Visit Mumphord's, 1202 E. Juan Linn St., Victoria

Relisa Franklin took a leap of faith when she decided to pursue her acting career.

The 30-year-old Bloomington native had an epiphany about her future while watching the play "Cheaper to Keep Her."

"I can't remember everything that was said but I remember how I felt," she said, referring to the words by playwright Renee Rivon.

Franklin wanted to evoke that same emotion in others and begun writing and, later, acting.

The media productions student will make her hometown debut in the inspirational play, "Only God Can Judge Me," on Saturday.

She will be joined on stage by former classmate Nicholas Strelow, 29, of Placedo.

He was recently laid off from work and has been unable to drive to Houston to rehearse, so he has been practicing his part over the telephone.

Strelow, who has acted in plays at Faith Family Church, said he's not nervous performing at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.

"God is using me as a vessel, I have no room for doubt," he said. Strelow added he cannot wait to connect with the cast.

Franklin, a Victoria College graduate, moved to Houston last year to begin her career.

Being able to transform allows Franklin a chance to experience how others feel, even if it's just for a little while.

"I'm walking a mile in someone else's shoes and I get to come back to mine at the end of the day," she said.

She will portray Rachel Lynn Stephens, the lead female character who has to find her way back to God. The character's boyfriend, Brian Matthews, helps her find it.

Protagonist Matthews turned his own life around, after getting into legal trouble.

But some hyper-critical church members won't let him forget about his dark past.

Matthews shies away from the church and later gets killed, his soul is now on trial.

Franklin said the portrayal of the super-religious is all too real because they keep more people away from church than bringing them to it.

Playwright Curtis Von said people need to stop being so judgmental of others because they are likely guilty themselves of the same offense.

The live performance will take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster of suspense, tears and laughter. Von said he hopes those who watch the play will think about their own actions dealing with others.

"Instead of trying to correct someone, pray for them."

Franklin is a part of a nine-member Houston-based cast.

On Saturday, he will play bad boy attorney D'Angelo Seth.

A father of six, Von enjoyed the multi-dimensional aspect of being a villain. Seth's charisma entraps people, who realize his crooked ways only when it's too late.

Although the production has teachable moments, there will be moments of comedy to lighten the mood with church mother Peeola Patterson.

"I guarantee she'll crack everyone up," he said.

Although Von has been attached to the play for three years, he said that he's still able to look at it with fresh eyes.

Von has featured the play in Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, New Orleans and Mobile, Ala.

His acting credits include working in 10 movies including "Jason's Lyric" and 40 plays including Tyler Perry's, "Why Did I Get Married?"

As Franklin pours her heart on stage, her mother Janette Franklin and son Nathanuel Krenek will be in the crowd cheering for her. Franklin hopes the show will not only inspire those closest to her, but everyone who attends.

"This play has a great message and is our way of ministering to others," she said.

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