Sunday, October 24, 2021
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UMKC to Broadway

MFA acting alumna living her dream

“I could barely wait for her to get it out before I burst into tears yelling, ‘ARE YOU SERIOUS?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!’ in the middle of the sidewalk. People were staring and everything—I didn’t care,” says Toccarra Cash, recalling the moment her dreams came true “This elderly woman walked up to me while I was standing there simultaneously laughing and crying like a fool, rubbed my back and said, ‘I don’t know what it is, baby, but let it out. You let that joy out.’”

That was the scene on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, as Cash learned she’d been cast in the role of Annie in “The Play That Goes Wrong” on Broadway. It was a dream come true. A dream she’d begun to think might never happen.

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Cash first fell in love with acting through participating in the theater department at her high school, Stivers School for the Arts. After attending Spelman College in Atlanta, Cash went in search of an MFA acting program and came to UMKC. 

“I very clearly remember feeling from everyone I met that this was a place that considered me the whole person, rather than just an actor,” Cash says. “The things I discussed with instructors and students made me feel like they put the students before the program’s identity or reputation.”

Cash says she had instructors who challenged her and believed in her. They nominated her for a Princess Grace Award (which she won) and allowed her to work professionally in the Kansas City theater community, where she gained her Actor’s Equity Card and “invaluable experience.”

She moved to New York just a few months after graduating in 2008 and began working toward her dream of performing on the Great White Way. She got jobs at regional theaters, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway and more, but Broadway was always just out of reach.

After nearly a decade in New York, she began to let go of her original dream and started acting for the camera. Cash appeared in CBS’s “Blue Bloods,” USA’s “Royal Pains,” and starred in the Netflix original movie “First Match.” 

And then it happened.

“I found out I had an audition, went and saw [the show], auditioned, got a callback, went and saw it again, did the callback and got offered the role all in a week’s time,” Cash says. “It was surreal. You never think it’s going happen that fast, but it can.”

“The Play That Goes Wrong” is about a small theater company putting on a show—a show within a show. Cash’s character, Annie, is the stage manager.

Hilarity ensues as things begin to go wrong in their performance—everything from actors saying the wrong lines, to being knocked out on stage, to the set falling apart around them. It’s all scripted, but as with any show, there’s always potential for something to actually go wrong. 

However, Cash says, “That’s part of the immense fun of it—when things get really meta because things are totally going wrong and the audience has no idea, because to them, that’s the whole point of the show.”

Cash says finally performing on Broadway has been “dreamy,” but like all dreams, one must wake up. “The Play That Goes Wrong” closed earlier this month, but Cash already has a show lined up for the spring. All she can say at this time is that it’s “across the pond.”

In addition to her acting, Cash hosts a workshop she created titled “The Image Monster.” Designed for college-aged women of color, it uses improv, writing, games and discussion to address the effects of image-obsessed social media and explore a fuller meaning of beauty. She hopes to bring the workshop to UMKC in the future.

Cash also works for the Young Media Minds program based out of HBO’s New York headquarters as its media literacy facilitator. The program teaches 7th and 8th graders screenwriting, directing, acting, poetry/spoken word, broadcast journalism and more.

To current theater majors, Cash offers this advice: “Don’t waste time trying to be like somebody or something you think you’re supposed to be like. Embrace who YOU are. Also, start learning now about the business of being an actor. After all, it isn’t called show art. It’s called show business. Approach it like you’re the CEO of You, Inc., and try to keep it separate from you, the person. It will protect your mind and spirit as you navigate this monster of an industry. If you do that and remember why you’re doing this in the first place, you’ll come out okay.”

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