“According to my parents, I started performing, singing and being a true ham when I was only 2. I can’t recall those toddler years, but I do remember using pencils, pens, cassette microphones and just about anything cylindrical to give performances when I was 6 years old. I would stand on the basement couch and sing Tom Jones songs ... yes, Tom Jones. Some of my favorite songs were ‘I Who Have Nothing,’ ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ and the ‘Wichita Lineman.’ I even had dance moves to go along with them.”
Dance continued to be a strong focus even as she began studying at Ohio University with a partial dance scholarship. Having excelled at ballet, tap and jazz, she also discovered an aptitude for public speaking, which provided a solid background when she received some advice which pointed her in new directions.
“It wasn’t until the later part of my freshman year that I had a discussion with my parents, who suggested I choose a career that would better enable me to pay my bills. So since the thought of being a ‘starving artist’ didn’t appeal to me, I decided to choose a major I thought I would still enjoy that would also pay the bills.”
After changing her major to telecommunications by her sophomore year, Brantley began pursuing that dream with great enthusiasm, learning all she could about television production while also hosting a show at the campus radio station. When a professor suggested she try her hand at hosting a television show, Brantley had a clearer vision of her professional goals, eventually landing a job in South Carolina before arriving in northeast Indiana in 1993. With a husband and two kids to support, Brantley gave her television career her complete attention, but the idea of stage performance had not died completely, and she ultimately found ways to balance her two strong suits. She also discovered it provided an outlet for her during a difficult time in her life.
“In 2000, I decided to audition for a play at the Fort Wayne Civic, ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ This moment was very important to me because I’d just ended a tumultuous 11-year marriage and I needed something to positively channel my emotions after the divorce. I was ecstatic to get the role of Ruth, the wife of the main character. I ended up winning a Best Supporting Actress in a Play Anthony Award. At about that same time, I became the choreographer for the Unity Performing Arts Foundation, UPAF. For the next several years, I performed with the group and also around the city for various programs.”
Roles in “Dreamgirls,” “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “The Piano Lesson” drew more praise and two more Anthony Awards, including Best Actress for her role of Bernice in “The Piano Lesson.” While her schedule complicates efforts to perform regularly, Brantley seeks out opportunities every year to take the stage.
“There is nothing like live instant feedback from an audience to ignite your emotions and charge your creative juices. Working in theater on stage produces a natural high that almost can’t be reached in other professions. Live theater forces you to be quick-witted, think on your toes, react instantly. It keeps you polished, poised and ready to go with the flow. You feed your audience and your audience feeds you. At its peak, the reciprocity can’t be matched. Broadcast journalism is very similar in those respects and that’s why I enjoy both industries so much. I have the unique pleasure and privilege to receive accolades from both worlds.”