A Chat with Sheria Irving

Get to know actor Sheria Irving, who plays Tonya in the Primary Stages production of Billy Porter’s While I Yet Live.

SHERIA IRVING in While I Yet Live. (c) 2014 James Leynse Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter, directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

SHERIA IRVING in While I Yet Live. (c) 2014 James Leynse. Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter, directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

Tell us a little about your character, Tonya.

In While I Yet Live, Tonya is the unrestricted raconteur. She’s the only player that fosters a relationship with the audience, with whom she divulges her truth and takes on a trip down memory lane. Tonya’s memories aren’t all pleasant and become weapons that constantly assault, enrage, disappoint and empower her throughout the life of the play. She’s like so many of us trying to reconcile the past in order to press forward to our future.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

Since my undergraduate years at Florida State University, my dearest friends and I have created our own thanksgiving tradition. Each year I make my special slow-baked turkey and gather with my best buddies to share what we are thankful for, eat, drink and laugh the day away.

How did you approach the play and your character? Were there any surprising discoveries about your character during the rehearsal process?

What surprised me most about working on Tonya was how similar her religious upbringing is to my own. Like Tonya, I was raised never to question God. Tonya’s family believe in God and the Bible unequivocally, which leaves no room for her to explore her own beliefs. Tonya, however, decides to make room and as she matures develops her own understanding of the world and determines her relationship with God on her own terms.

Performances run through October 31st at The Duke on 42nd Street.  To order tickets online, click here.  Or you can call the box office at (646) 223-3010.

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