Kylan Williams of Lafayette, an incoming freshman at Northwestern State University, has already made a name for himself as a speaker and performer. The Comeaux High School graduate won the National Speech and Debate Association’s 2023 national championship tournament in dramatic interpretation held June 20 in Phoenix, Arizona, with 2,863 schools from eight different countries participating. Last year, he placed third in the dramatic interpretation category.
Williams performed a passage from “Miseducated: A Memoir” by Brandon P. Fleming, dedicating the presentation to his speech and debate coach, Jacob Simon. After viewing the performance on Youtube, Fleming wanted to meet Williams.
“I’ve always heard people after they’ve won the Super Bowl or landed a big role in a movie explain the feeling as ‘surreal.’ Well, my encounter with Brandon Fleming would be considered my ‘surreal’ moment.” Williams said. “From reading his book and performing his memoir at NSDA, I’ve begun to see him as a role model and inspiration. So, to see him in person and to get the opportunity to actually sit down and converse with him was a moment I’ll cherish forever. In that one moment, he allowed me to see the potential I have as a young African American just through the way he carried himself: confident, educated and persevering.”
As an athlete, actor, singer, dancer and public speaker, Williams, son of Brandy Batiste and Keiland Wiliams, already has plenty of experience. He began performing at age four and has appeared in more than 30 stage plays and short films.
“One of my memorable roles is Jean Valjean in the production of ‘Les Miserables,’” he said. “Preparing for this role was very challenging and required extreme amounts of effort. But when it was all said and done, this role showed me that I was capable of more than I initially believed.”
At NSU, Williams plans to major in Theatre and Health and Human Performance. While sports has been a big part of his life – he was a linebacker on Comeaux’s football team – he plans to focus on his craft and academics.
“Luckily for me, our performances for school and my outside theatre organization, Christian Youth Theatre, started after the football season, so I was able to put all my attention to football and grades,” he said. “At school I also had an amazing director, Mr. Simon, who was very understanding and was able to work around my busy schedule. But overall, participating in both theatre and athletics required proper time management and a lot of dedication. At times it became slightly overwhelming and seemed impossible to accomplish, but I live for a little challenge.”
Williams said the skills required for both performing and athletics complement each other.
“My athletic skills improved my dancing, my work ethic and my ability to strive for the challenge without fear. Theatre helped me with my footwork. Seriously, I was quick on my toes. It taught me how to deal with an adverse environment.”
Williams attended Freshman Connection, NSU’s new student orientation, earlier in June.
“I was attracted to NSU due to what I’ve heard about the theatre department,” Williams said. “Also, a lot of the local performers I aspired to be like were either incoming students or alumni of NSU. So, in order to be a part of that legacy, NSU was always my first choice. I expect to grow not only as a performer but as a well-rounded student. I look forward to the college life experience and the start of a new chapter.”