Kashayna Johnson Stars at Mosaic Theater
WASHINGTON – Kashayna Johnson, the lead actress in the new play, “Milk Like Sugar,” now playing at the Mosaic Theater, had her first audition at age 7, and according to her, she was horrible.
“I was extremely nervous, very intimidated by everyone,” said Johnson, who was auditioning for the Wiz while living in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I was singing; my voice was cracking, and I was shaking. I didn’t even get cast as a munchkin.”
Johnson plays Annie in the Obie award-winning play about three high school friends who make a pact, but when one of them gets pregnant, they are forced to make life-altering decisions.
Annie, Johnson said, reminds her of her younger self.
“She is going to be a senior in high school and coming to know the world beyond what she’s known up until this point, and her character goes through a lot of questioning,” she explained. “She’s looking for something to validate herself, and she goes through some identity issues of where she fits in.
“She’s trying to learn why she feels so set apart from her environment, and that was definitely a part of my journey growing up as a teenage girl.”
For Johnson, the play is sort of a homecoming. She attended Suitland High School and resurrected her love for acting after her family moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Prince George’s County, Md., when she was in the ninth grade.
“They have a visual performing arts program, and I auditioned for theater and got accepted,” she said. “Ever since, I haven’t walked away from the stage.”
After graduation, Johnson initially attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where she majored in theater. After a year, however, she returned home due to financial circumstances, and in 2012, graduated from a one-year intensive acting program at the Theater Lab School of the Dramatic Arts in Washington.
She continued her education with a summer at the University of Oxford’s British American Drama Academy in London, a distinguished institution that produced Academy Award-nominated actor Paul Giamatti.
Her passion in performing ranges from theater to poetry, she said, and while she has been in a few musicals, she admits that she only sings in the shower.
Johnson recently acted in “For Colored Girls” at DC Metro Theater Arts, as well as the 2015 Prince George’s Summer Shakespeare Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet, where she starred as Juliet. She has also filmed a commercial for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Johnson said she would like to see more diversity in theater.
“I want to be able to do more of what I consider ‘our’ stories,” she said. “I want more of our work, specifically speaking, the African American community, to be put on stages.”
When it comes to her career, Johnson said what a lot of young actors say.
“I’m not necessarily looking to become this huge star,” she said. “I just want to always be working and bring the community work that matters.”
While she says “theater will always be my first love,” Johnson said she is pursuing the transition into television and film, and has recently moved to New York.
What keeps her motivated to continue in the acting industry, she said, is the raw love for what she does. Johnson shared the greatest advice she has received, “be true to who you are.”
“As cliche as that sounds, it’s so necessary in this industry, because it can be superficial at times” she said, “and sometimes people want you to act and look a certain way. But if you’re true to who are, that’s more interesting than trying to guess what everyone wants you to be, and it is much more freeing.”
“Milk Like Sugar runs through Nov. 27. Tickets can be purchased at www.mosaictheater.org.