Besides making her mark on the St. Louis theater scene, Wiles also teaches her craft. This fall she will work with Prison Performing Arts at the St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center and will begin her fifth year teaching with the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. At the center Wiles runs a performing-arts group for refugee high schoolers, providing workshops and acting training. "We write our own play and produce it for the community," Wiles explains.

Wiles, who originally planned to be a missionary doctor before her theater debut — one line in an eighth-grade production of Oklahoma! — sees the big picture. So when she planned a trip to the West Bank through the International Solidarity Movement, she prepared herself as best she could. "I went to Palestine and I knew I wanted to do something," she says. "Something" turned out to be the play Beautiful Resistance: Confessions of a Hoosier in Palestine, a catalog of Wiles' experiences during her three-month trip.

"I knew within a week of being in the West Bank that I had to write a play about what I was seeing," Wiles says. "Military occupation is something that happens all over the world, it's not something that you can understand until you see it with your eyes." After e-mailing her experiences to people back home and documenting details as best she could (her tape recorder was stolen), Wiles returned to St. Louis and composed her play.

"I've always been a writer, and I'd actually had some writer's block for years and years before that, but I couldn't write fast enough when I was there," Wiles says.

RFT theater critic Dennis Brown attended Wiles' initial performance of Beautiful Resistance in a SLU classroom in February 2007 and says he recognized her transformation: "She was very successful at conveying what she had felt and experienced, which is what theater is supposed to do."

Sharing her experience goes on, including the play's most recent stint in July at SLU, for which Wiles rewrote her work, expanded it for an ensemble and incorporated improvisation and playback theater. Wiles says she has plans for future incarnations of Beautiful Resistance, which she admits will continue to evolve but is something she still desires to share. "I think I'll be writing and performing that for the rest of my life," she says.

Wiles got acting work right out of SLU, joined the Actors' Equity Association and hasn't stopped. She's been nominated for three Kevin Kline Awards — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play (for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' The Tempest), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play (for The Sugar Syndrome, staged by Echo Theatre Company) and Outstanding Ensemble in a Play (for the Orange Girls production of Playhouse Creatures) — and has worked with more than six different St. Louis theater companies.

Eric Little, who directed Wiles in The Sugar Syndrome, says the actress possesses a rare combination of talent, passion and hard work. "It's a great gift for a director when an actor inspires you to do more," Little says.

"She's going to change wherever she's at for the positive, and lucky for us she's in St. Louis," he continues.

Adds Wiles: "There's so much going on in the arts world in St. Louis. I can't imagine being anywhere else."
Meghan Edmonds

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