Ghandia takes the stage for the very first time with OpenStage in SWEAT!

Headshot for Ghandia Johnson

Tell us about yourself! What theatre or other experiences did you have in this discipline before working on this show?

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. I got bit by the acting bug around four or five years old. My father has home movies of me putting on shows, starring ME playing all the characters! Ha! My mother put me in ballet classes to correct my severe pigeon toes. I can remember my first time speaking in front of a crowd of 200 people when I was in the 5th grade and the excitement of the applause blew me away. I am a Shadow Theatre Baby, meaning I received much of my discipline training from the incomparable Mr. Jeffrey Nickelson. I use many of the disciplines I learned from Shadow Theatre to this day.

What is something you spend your free time doing, outside of theatre?

I love cooking new and exotic recipes. I am a foodie. I also enjoy writing jokes, poetry, and parody raps and my newest hobby is salsa dancing!! I love it!

How did you hear about OpenStage?

Although I knew of OpenStage, I was honored to receive a call from the beautiful Ms. Sydney Parks Smith, herself, to audition for “Sweat”: when I got the call from Sydney, I then did a deep dive into OpenStage, its beginnings and its rich history in the Fort Collins theatre community and their incredible artistic impact on theatre in Colorado. After that, I was honored to be asked to audition and get the opportunity to read with Sydney. That was the spark that ignited the flame.

What was the most fun part of the rehearsal process?

Discovering moments is the most fun part of the rehearsal process for me. It’s like noticing a new leaf on a plant sprouting.

What has been the most challenging aspect of playing this character so far?

The most challenging part of playing Cynthia is showing her vulnerability while also showing that she’s one tough mother. Cynthia is torn between advancing her own goals while also trying to help her friends and that’s been a challenge to portray both sides of Cynthia’s struggle in this piece. Knowing when to hold back tears, to really cry, or get that tremble in Cynthia’s voice when she’s angry or scared. I do love playing her, for real. Cynthia is a part of me.

What is your favorite thing about this show?

The fight! Ha ha ha. I love the fight scene! It’s really the best: the choreography and the passion the cast brings to it makes it a delight for me watch every time and it’s like watching it for the first time every time. I love the fight scene!

Why is a play like "SWEAT" important? What do you hope audiences will get out of it?

A play like “Sweat” is important because it shows how the breakdown of one’s purpose can cause them to make life altering decisions. It also shows how blame can easily be misplaced when people are faced with tragedy.  I hope audiences get the human message in this piece and that they come away with a better understanding of how every person needs to be seen and heard to make this world a better place and that empathy is paramount in understanding your fellow man.

What is your favorite role you’ve played in the past?

My favorite roles I’ve played (besides THIS ONE) have been: Miss Hannigan from Annie and Sebastian the Crab from The Little Mermaid. I do love my musicals. Ha!

What is your favorite show?

Timbuktu, starring Eartha Kitt! My parents took me to see this show when I was little and from that moment I knew I wanted to be Eartha Kitt!

What projects are you working on next? What is your dream role or dream show to work on? 

I’m looking at doing Nana’s Naughty Knickers with the Longmont Theatre Company. At the moment, I would LOVE to do Matt and Ben by Mindy Kaling. I would also LOVE to play Miss Hannigan in Annie; I just love that show!

By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Kenny Moten

January 13–February 10, 2024
Playing at the Lincoln Center Magnolia Theatre

Come see Ghandia take the stage in "SWEAT" Jan. 13-Feb. 10!

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat is a humorous, heart-wrenching, and honest look at the decline of the working class in modern America. In 2008, in a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, best friends Cynthia, Tracy, and Jessie shared their lives—the good, the bad, and many drinks. Suddenly, they find themselves facing the crushing weight of layoffs and picket lines at the local steel mill. As the union loses ground, trust erodes and they find themselves pitted against one another in a harrowing fight to stay afloat. Sweat boldly confronts issues of race, deindustrialization, and the ever-slipping grip on the “American Dream.”