Heart-to-heart with Aztec star


by David Dixon

The latest drama to open at the Moxie Theatre on El Cajon Boulevard is “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” a coming-of-age story about a young African American girl, Ernestine Crump (Jada Temple), living in the 1950s. The play features San Diego State Child and Family development senior, Cashae Monya. She plays Ernestine’s communist aunt, Lily Ann Green.

The Daily Aztec: Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to become an actress?

Cashae Monya: I’m a San Diego native who started singing at a very young age. Music was my passion and I wanted to be a singer. In junior high, I randomly decided to join a drama club. This lead to me doing shows at San Diego Junior Theatre and I eventually started acting in professional shows in the city.

The Daily Aztec: According to your bio, you are a senior majoring in child and family development at SDSU. What made you to decide to major in that as opposed to musical theatre?
I started working with kids at San Diego Junior Theatre and that became another passion of mine. After high school, I took a year off to act and decide what I wanted to major in. Majoring in theater didn’t feel right to me because I was getting so much experience in the professional world. Theater is not an incredibly lucrative job. I didn’t feel comfortable spending a lot of money in a field that would naturally keep me in debt. I wanted to get a degree in something more academic and something that I loved. I knew that while I really enjoy working on stage, I also wanted to continue helping children.

The Daily Aztec: How much do you relate to your character in “Crumbs from the Table of Joy?”

Monya: There are certain aspects of her that are relatable. I’m 23, but I’m playing a woman who is supposed to be in her 30’s. I usually play characters who are younger than myself. However, there is a piece of me in all the roles that I play. Lily’s is like me in the sense that she’s outgoing and passionate.

The Daily Aztec: How difficult is it to balance being a student and a working actress?

Monya: I’ve had to balance the two since I’ve been in high school. I think that being in school really helps in my acting. For instance, with this character, she’s a communist who is placed in a time where a lot was going on historically. Getting to think about the social context of the piece has really inspired me. It is exhausting going to class, having a show at night as well as having a job at a child development center. That being said, I love being busy and you have to let go of school and work when acting and just really be present in the character and the moment.

The Daily Aztec: What are some of the most memorable productions you have been a part of?
The production that comes to mind is “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which was directed by SDSU teacher, Rick Simas, and co-starred SDSU graduate Brandon Joel Maier. That was a lot of fun and a hilarious musical. The (audience) volunteer component of the show made each performance fresh.

The Daily Aztec: Tell the readers a little bit about the difficulties about making a living as an actress.

Monya: It is something that has kept me from just focusing on acting. I used to be in three or four shows a year, and now I am in one or two, because I can’t afford it. Performers obviously don’t make a lot of money. Also, people don’t see shows that often, due to the economy. Acting is not that lucrative, so you have to love what you’re doing. I do enjoy being in one or two shows a year because it gives me an opportunity to really appreciate them, as opposed to being in many plays, including some that are subpar.

The Daily Aztec: Any advice for students pursuing acting?
Be sure to enjoy yourself. I tend to freak myself out and worry about making the right choices in theater and in life. I can overthink things, which can be a good and bad thing. I think it is important to remember that theater, even when dealing with difficult subject matter, should be fun. That is one of the main reasons people go to theatrical events.

Also read: Inside the mind of Old Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein

Photo courtesy of Daren Scott