Daysha Williams’ Clark University experience has been a series of serendipitous moments.
She first arrived on campus intending to pursue a career in public relations, but registered for a First-Year Intensive course called “How to Act Right on and off the Stage.” In that class, she met Raymond Munro, professor of theatre arts, and discovered both a calling to theatre as well as a trusted faculty adviser.
“After taking his class, I knew I wanted to take a course with him every semester and, naturally, that turned into a theatre arts major,” says the Clark senior. “It just happened so organically.”
After deciding on theatre, she felt a tug toward teaching. Williams started working with faculty member and improv specialist Daniel Balel on the program “Teaching Creativity in Main South,” which taught acting skills to high school students from Worcester’s Claremont Academy. When funding was cut last year, Williams brought the program to Clark’s Little Center, and she oversees it under the direction of Gino DiIorio, professor of theatre
“I have a core group of six students who are all about it, including two students I taught last year,” Williams says.
Meanwhile, she went to New York in January for an open casting call for director Spike Lee’s new 10-episode Netflix series based on his groundbreaking 1986 film “She’s Gotta Have It.”
And she earned a part.
“All of this is in line with where I am in my life and my journey. It’s like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be."
Williams’ path to the role started during a day at the beach last summer. While with a friend, she met a woman whose photographer husband worked closely with Lee, and the man snapped a few photos. When Lee later mentioned the role in conversation, the woman thought back to the beach and showed him Williams’ photos.
Williams appeared at the open casting call for Lee’s series, though she’d considered skipping it and just sending a resume and headshot. Lee recognized her from the images, and she received a call-back about two weeks later.
Williams credits Munro, whom she jokingly calls her “manager,” with encouraging her to travel to her hometown of Brooklyn for the call.
“I was on campus, thinking that I have a lot going on and I wasn’t going to go, and he just kept shutting down any excuse I came up with, telling me I needed to go,” she says.
Filming went smoothly. Williams was on set for three hours and finished her scene, a love scene, in one 20-minute take, later returning for background work. The series is set for a summer release.
Williams plans to focus on live theatre, but said it was a dream to work with the iconic director.
“I said if I was going to do film, that’s one person I want to work with,” she says. “I’ve already fulfilled a goal before I even graduated.”
Back on campus with a life goal in hand, Williams is turning her attention to her work with the Claremont students, and particularly enjoys collaborating with them on character development and scene work. She hopes to stage a dramatic comedy with the students in April after exposing them to the entire theatre experience, from playwriting to auditioning.
Also, as a teaching assistant for one of Munro’s classes this semester, she’s putting to use what she learned in a physical theatre workshop last summer in Chicago.
“It’s about incorporating movement with acting, dance, sound voices and exercise,” she says. “I’ve been getting amazing feedback about it, and that’s where my heart is right now.”
In her free time, Williams is involved with event planning for Hip Hop Collabo, a student-led dance group, and operates her own business, AsanaRa, which sells a line of handmade holistic care products.
After graduation, Williams hopes to continue working with the Claremont students and helping students in an urban environment connect with theatre.
“Too often we ask kids to go somewhere far from home to find peace,” she says. “It’s hard because they might not have the means to do that, so I want to help them with theatre programs in their school where they can use their life experiences in a healthy way.”
She remains primed to hit the stage and work where the integrity of the production outweighs all else. She recognizes, though Munro’s instruction, that theatre is a study of self and there’s a psychological factor to being a good actor. “It’s not about putting a mask on,” she says.
“You aren’t really portraying anything,” she says. “You’re identifying and illuminating the traits of that character within yourself.”
Combine that with a little trust in the universe and you’ll see where Williams is standing right now.
“All of this is in line with where I am in my life and my journey,” she says. “It’s like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.”