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Cymya Johnson - SASHA in Safe Harbor
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“I knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me.” – CYMYA JOHNSON, “Safe Harbor” actress

In this World Premier play by Tira Palmquist that is a result of Lower Depth’s Cycle of Violence Commission Series, we explore sex trafficking.

What Sasha Jones wants more than anything else is to have her mother back – or maybe just to go to the mall. Mikayla Reese wants, someday, to go to space. Or maybe find a home to call her own. But they can’t have those things – not now, not ever. Still, clinging to the impossible as they find themselves in increasingly dangerous circumstances, they have to make increasingly desperate choices or face increasingly treacherous consequences. All they want is a safe harbor – but this dream isn’t as easy – or as safe – as it seems. “Safe Harbor” tackles the hard truth behind sex trafficking and how easily young women can disappear.

What has become the most significant take-away for you from doing this play?

When I first saw the casting for Sasha, I was slightly intimidated; but I wanted to push myself to try something different. When I booked the role I was thrilled, but I knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. To see the impact this story has on the audience, and how my storytelling affects them is so rewarding. Just to know that I am doing my job as an artist by depicting the most authentic and honest version of this social topic and contributing to necessary conversations with the work that I love makes me feel like I am fulfilling my purpose.

Cymya Johnson as SASHA in “Safe Harbor”

What did you know about sex trafficking prior to being cast in “Safe Harbor”? 

Prior to “Safe Harbor” I had some knowledge as far as the work that is done to try to get these girls off the street. My mom was a social worker and some of her work involved helping families get their kids out of the system or help to try to prevent them from getting into the system, etc. And with her training she had to go to different conferences to learn how to properly assess, provide, and care for these girls and their families. So I guess you could say I knew more of June’s and Davis’ life than Sasha’s or Mikayla’s [other characters in “Safe Harbor”]. As soon as we got the full script and started doing table work, I started doing my research on girls and their stories before and after the life, watching different documentaries, reading up on different drugs and the cause and effects they have on young kids. All of the statics and the stories and “the life” is very alarming and overwhelming, but very heartbreaking just because these girls feel like they don’t have any hope.

What surprises you most about your character?

Honestly, nothing really surprises me about Sasha. She’s a typical teenager, who is vulnerable, who wants freedom, and is rebellious towards her father because of the emotional trauma she has endured due to the loss of her mother. What’s surprising is how being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cause a world of trouble. I feel like everything that Sasha does in this story is motivated by the lack of attention and the inability for people to simply listen to her. The first person she feels is truly listening to her and in a way has some sort of understanding of her, is Jaz. 

Cymya Johnson (SASHA) with Jason Delane Lee (FATHER)

What do you hope audiences will do after seeing “Safe Harbor”?

I hope this causes people to address this uncomfortable situation and forces people to talk about Sex Trafficking more. I hope this story puts things in perspective towards the realism and the severity of the situation at hand. I hope that it encourages parents to be more conscious and concerned about their child’s mental and emotional state and provide them with a safe space out of love for their children to discuss anything they have questions about.

“Safe Harbor”, written by Tira Palmquist, directed by Anita Dashiell-Sparks, runs Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm & 7pm (check listings) and Mondays 8pm at The Zephyr Theatre (7456 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046) through December 15th. Check www.lower-depth.com for tickets and more information. Presented by The Lagralane Group, produced by Kat Rienbold and Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble.