Taking Up Space: An Interview with A.C.T. Community Member Cheri Miller

By Taylor Steinbeck

While A.C.T. was founded on three pillars—dynamic productions, actor training, and community engagement—the last of those keystones often merits more celebration. Cheri Miller is a Detroit-born, San Francisco–based performer who acted in A.C.T.’s Education & Community Programs’ 2016 collaborative production, Crack. Rumble. Fly.: The Bayview Studies Project. After working for more than a decade in a series of different industries, Miller fell in love with acting and first got involved with A.C.T. in 2013. A tireless advocate of theater arts and social justice, Miller is a great example of a theater-maker using her talent and passion to create. We sat down with Miller to talk about taking chances, taking classes, and taking up space. 

Cheri Miller in A.C.T.'s Every 28 Hours: Black Arts Festival 2018.
Photo by Jay Yamada
Why did you decide to get so involved with A.C.T.?

When I made my stage debut in 2013 on the A.C.T. Stage Coach for Juneteenth, I remember Tyrone Davis [the former A.C.T. Community Artistic Director] saying, “You’re family now.” When people say that, you don’t really take it as truth, but I do feel that way. I feel like theater is my family and A.C.T. is my family.

You’re currently taking Margo Hall’s Studio A.C.T. class Performing Women’s Voices. How has that been?

We just had our first class last Monday and I feel like a changed woman already. I’m not the same person after spending one evening with Margo Hall—I’m so much better! It’s just a good space to be in. Theater is my home. It’s where I feel whole. It’s where I feel joy—and the excitement doesn't have to be contained. It’s like, “Let it out! Let’s use that!”

You’ve performed in Every 28 Hours for two years now. What have those experiences been like for you?

It was important to us as performers to be aware that the stories we were telling are true. We’re living them. We’re walking in them. We’re grieving them. We wanted to speak the truth of what is happening.

I recently went to the protest in Sacramento for Stephon Clark, and Uncle Bobby—Oscar Grant’s uncle—was there and he recognized me from Every 28 Hours. He gave me the greatest hug. I think because of all the lives that we represented and honored, he felt connected to me. The work meant something.

Cheri Miller performing in A.C.T.’s Education & Community Programs’ 2016 collaborative
production, Crack. Rumble. Fly.: The Bayview Studies Project. Photo by Elizabeth Brodersen.
How has your life changed since becoming an actor?

I had stage fright for most of my life. In the sixth or seventh grade, I was in a Thanksgiving play as Tom Tom Turkey and I was so scared, I forgot all my lines. I never dared to go onstage after that. I tried to make myself invisible and worked hard to not take up too much space. But there’s such a freedom in taking up space and using all the space allotted to us. Since discovering this newfound talent I have, the trajectory of who I am has changed. I’m getting to know myself and express myself in new ways. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow. I want to do everything and anything that stretches me, helps me, and helps someone else. I never want to let go of performing—it took me so long to find it!

To learn more about the opportunities our Education & Community Programs have to offer, please click here. To find out about classes in the spring and summer sessions of Studio A.C.T., click here.

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