Interview with Cheray O’Neal from @kleffnotes

Cheray O’Neal is a talented performer who will be debuting her solo show, Journey This, on October 12th. This show will focus on deep themes, but beyond being just a performance it will also act as a philanthropic endeavor to support those who have survived and been victims of cancer. I had the opportunity to ask O’Neal about her upcoming show and am very excited to share her responses with all of you. Thank you to Cheray O’Neal for taking the time to respond to my questions.

Can you share a little about yourself with our readers?

I’m a glass half full, passionate, nature loving, house music dancing, bohemian chic zen like kinda woman.  I love sunsets and traveling the world. I care deeply about the youth, senior citizens, being of service, speaking your truth and integrity.  I manifest those things in my craft of acting and writing.  I’m a long time company member of the LAByrinth Theater Company of NYC and I’ve published two poetry books.  I prefer gems over diamonds and would pay a taxi driver $200 to drive me around their country. “Breathe , I promise you won’t regret it.”

On October 12th you are premiering your solo play, Journey This. Could you describe the show?

It’s a love letter to my grandmother, and mother addressing forgiveness, choice, breaking family cycles and finding your own voice in this crazy journey called life. It’s a hopeful commentary on self-love and stepping into your own greatness. Multi-generational storytelling is what resonates with people.  Look at the TV hits of this year alone, ‘This Is Us’, “Red Table Talk”, not to mention ‘Modern Family’, “Mom” , “Blackish”,  “Transparent”, “Shameless”, we could go on and on. Because we live in an era of disconnect and our self-worth is monitored by likes on a social media post. There’s a real need for connection, love and truth. My grandmother’s generation had that. I want to connect all the generations, and still maintain a position of self-identity. It’s about collecting the gems and using them for the greater good. It’s about bridging the gap.

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What led you to create this show?

The life and death of my grandmother Rubie Johnson, who lived to be 92 years old and vote for a black president twice, who loved life, and suffered greatly.  One of the most amazing, strong, willful, courageous woman I’ve ever known. She lost everyone, her mother, husband, daughter and still managed to smile every morning, that was fascinating to me. When she died, I was left with this feeling of what was my purpose, what was going to be my legacy, how do I lay my footprint down in this world, who and what do I want to surround myself with? What’s really important in this life? I wrote this piece as a love letter to my mother and grandmother and a strong need to answers these questions. The pain stops with you! It ends right here and now. I’m grateful that I made it to the other side I am not the sum of my tragedies, but the greatness of the journey, that’s why I call it ‘Journey This.’

As a solo show you play every character, how did you prepare for this element and how do you get into character for each of these characters?

My preparation is very unique. For each character I figure out their walk, voice and body language. Once that is established the words that I wrote come easily.  As an exercise, I utilize repetition and daily practice.  Since I approach it from a wholistic angle, breath is also very important.  I engage in an athletic activity like cycling, yoga, basketball, or hiking and go over the lines out loud.  Character work comes from dissecting the characters’ needs first and foremost, past history, colors, tone of voice and then what is stopping them from getting their needs met.

After vocal and body warm ups, I’m my dressing room. I listen to vocalist like Nina Simone, Etta James, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughn.   This show is so much about legacy and passing the torch, I always want to honor where I come from and the hard work my ancestors put in so I could be here freely telling my story. Performing it is the most amazing act of self-love I’ve ever done, besides taking care of my grandmother, which taught me on an experiential level the true value of patience, compassion, selflessness, and courage.

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As part of the show you are donating some of the proceeds and also doing some additional philanthropic work in connection to ticket sales. Could you share some details about how your show is benefiting others?

I’m so honored to be partnered with the American Cancer Society and Lyrical Hair, a wig manufacturing company. For every admission ticket sold, a new synthetic wig will be donated to the American Cancer Society and 10% of the proceeds from the run of the show will be gifted to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. We have some free tickets that will go to cancer survivors and volunteers from the AMC as well as young students who might not be able to afford a ticket. It’s a full circle moment for me as I lost my mother to breast cancer, and I know firsthand the impact cancer has on it’s ‘victims’ and survivors. It’s truly turning karma into mission for me.

There will also be some celebrity hosts at the performances, could you share who some of these hosts will be?

Erica Gimpel on opening night and then Angela Lewis, Jeryl Prescott, Donielle Artese, Karen Malina White, Joyce Guy, and Michole White. There will be 3 scheduled talk back: opportunity for the audience to ask me questions after the 2 pm show. Angela Lewis(November 4th), Trisha Mann Grant(October 28th) and Jeryl Prescott(October 21st) are hosting those as well.

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What do you hope people take away from Journey This?

I’m hoping the show gives people permission and freedom in their lives to find their truth, talk about it and ultimately heal.  Time is short and precious, share you truth, that’s where the healing begins, you are not alone, be a part of something greater than yourself, you can be a ripple and make a change.  “The pain and fear stops with you”.  This show speaks to taking self-responsibility, to stand up for your heart and truth, one person can make a difference in the scheme of the world platform, your voice matters and can make a difference.

Where can people see the show and purchase tickets?

The Lounge Theater

6201 Santa Monica Blvd

Los Angeles , CA 90038

Tickets

https://journeythis.bpt.me

or http://www.cherayoneal.com

Where can our readers find more information about you and the show?

www.cherayoneal.com

IG journeythisevent

FB fan page journey this

jt

Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.

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