January 24, 2024

Featured Falcons: Josh Giles and Abby Sledd

Coming off last year’s win, this year’s Purple Side leaders, Josh Giles and Abby Sledd, are eager to secure another Purple Victory. Their journey as leaders has been a major learning experience so far, and in times of stress the duo has received lots of encouragement from each other and Purple Side, where they’ve both found an overwhelming sense of belonging over the years.

Giles, a Tuscaloosa native majoring in vocal performance, knew Purple Side was the right fit for him at ribbon hanging during his freshman year at the University of Montevallo. After spending time with the Purples, he realized he’d found a group of people that shared his interests, values and life experiences.

Josh Giles and Abby Sledd“There was a strength about Purple Side that was ever present that really resonated with me as a freshman,” Giles said. “The people that I spoke with were the kind of people that I could relate to and talk to about things I have going on in my life because they could understand where I was coming from.”

Since his freshman year, Giles has been in the Purple Side cast every year except for 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic altered the College Night landscape. He ultimately wanted to run for leader to help the side recover from setbacks caused by those turbulent times.

“We needed a little bit of revamping coming out of the COVID year,” Giles said. “I wanted to make sure that not only were roles being filled, but that they were being filled by people who could carry on the traditions. We’re trying to get back into the swing of things, get our alumni back involved and make sure everybody knows that we’ve still got it.”

Purple Side was the natural choice for Sledd since purple was her favorite color growing up. The musical theatre major from Huntsville dove headfirst into College Night during her sophomore year without really knowing what she was getting into, and says it was the best decision she ever made.

“There was some kind of magical spark about the people on Purple Side that really connected with me,” Sledd said. “There was a lot of creativity and a lot of individuality. You could look around and see so many different people, and the fact that they were all working toward a common goal was really inspiring to me.”

Sledd served in multiple roles in 2023’s winning production, “Cryptid Conspiracy: The Lost Episode,” having written the original script, played the main character and served as head costumer and assistant lyricist on the Purple Cabinet. She debated running for leader for a while, but made up her mind after seeing the positive reception to the show that she’d had such a large hand in.

“I had so many Vintage Purple alumni coming up to me and talking to me about the show,” Sledd said. “People I didn’t know were hugging me and telling me they were so proud of me, and a lot of them were asking if I was going to run for leader. Having the support of other people was what made me decide that I definitely wanted to do it.”

In the months leading up to the start of the College Night season, the Purple Side leaders agree that handling all the aspects of pre-production and the production has been hectic at times, but it has ultimately taught them a lot of lessons.

“It’s been interesting figuring out how to manage creative personalities and manage an entire production,” Giles said. “We want to put on something that not only the alumni, but the Purples that are here can be proud of. We want to give them moments that they can cherish and carry on, and really express the beauty of Purple Side and how much fun we have.”

As for the event that they look forward to the most, Giles and Sledd both feel that the sign raising is the cornerstone of the season.

“It was my first time being at Side Space when I was a sophomore and I helped them bring the sign down,” Sledd said. “It was so cool to get to see it the night before. It feels like a secret mission. And then it’s so fun to see people’s reactions to the reveal. The energy is high and everybody’s excited.”

Giles added that he gets the most cathartic feeling from the opening night of the shows and the audience seeing the sides’ hard work come to fruition.

“I love seeing what everybody has gotten together and really been working hard on and seeing what everybody’s going to put on the stage,” Giles said.

Once College Night ends in what the leaders hope will be another Purple Victory, Sledd can be seen in the theatre department’s production of “Eurydice” in March. She plans to pursue a master’s degree and is applying for playwriting and creative writing programs.

“I do a lot of performing as a musical theater major, but I didn’t have a chance to do a lot of my other theater interests like writing and script editing until I joined Purple Side,” Sledd said. “It’s been fun getting to do that in a setting where you actually get to see your work on stage and it’s not just hypothetical.”

Giles will be playing Prince Charming in the opera “Cendrillon” in April and plans to continue his education after graduation to become more well-versed in vocal studies and vocal pedagogy.

“You have to know a little bit of everything to make it in the current entertainment industry – opera, musical theatre, church work – so I’m looking for a grad school that can offer me that kind of coaching and leave me well-rounded,” Giles said. “I’m just proud of Abby and myself. I feel like we’ve taken this leader thing in stride and we are ready to wrap this season up, graduate and get through the end.”