Anastacia in Conversation
Anastacia McCleskey, who starred in SOUL The Stax Musical as Deanie Parker, returns as Cherry Hill (and Young Swann) in A Wonder in My Soul. Check out this conversation about returning to Baltimore, playing two strong female characters, and the music in both productions.
What are some differences between SOUL The Stax Musical, which had such a huge cast and lots going on, and now coming back and being a part of this production of A Wonder in My Soul?
Well, after being here this past summer, I was like, "I definitely have to come back to Baltimore Center Stage. I love being in the theater, I love the people that work here."
[SOUL] was my first time in Baltimore ever, and being in this area, I got to know the place very well. I walked around a lot because it was warm and I learned so much. So, any experience where I can learn a lot, just about myself and my craft, I crave coming back to. So, when I got the opportunity to audition for this I was like, “Of course!” Then I found out Daniel [Bryant] was directing it and I was like, “Yes!” Then I read the script from Chicago and I was like, “Oh, this is dense.” I just knew I had to go in for the part.
As far as the cast, SOUL was so male populated. There were so many men in that cast—and five women! Then to turn around and do a play with only one man, it’s a big difference. I always felt like I wouldn’t work well with women, but I love these women! They make me laugh daily, they’re all very talented, they all have their own special unique skills, they teach me to pick up on things in the script that I might not have originally picked up on, which I really appreciate.
SOUL was a musical, but I only sang one song, so to me it was a play, which I love because I don’t get the opportunity to do a lot of [straight] plays, but then I love how in A Wonder in My Soul there’s still music but it’s acapella. For me, being raised in the Church of Christ, which is traditionally acapella, I was raised on making sounds with the body and the music coming from within, from the soul, from the ancestors. That’s the thing I really love about A Wonder in My Soul.
I feel like people who can’t relate to that feeling hopefully their spiritual side will be awakened through this production, and that they won’t just empathize with the story, but also feel something that will lead them on their own path and journey.
As for the characters, Deanie Parker was this strong woman who was very assertive and knew at a young age what she wanted to do and how to move forward. I feel like there are some hints of that within Cherry Hill, she’s a very strong woman, she’s a sergeant, but there are also some inner things that she is tackling. She’s dating this white man, so there’s turmoil within her as far as that. She loves him, but he doesn’t look like her family. Also, the relationship with her mother brings her a lot of inner turmoil as well, the struggle for her to please her mother and be seen by her. [Cherry] is constantly doing things just to be seen… Then I also had the opportunity to play Young Swann. She knows who she is. That woman was born into her light, she was like, “I am surrounded by it, I am the center of it.” I think she is more like Deanie Parker than anything.