Sherry Berg stands at an even 5 feet tall, but it’s nearly impossible to miss this Alexandria resident’s voice and personality. Berg, 30, is her own brand of triple-threat — actress, singer and dietician. When she’s not on stage or reading about the latest in theater news, she may be found in Oxen Hill, where she works part time at a dialysis clinic, teaching patients with kidney ailments what not to eat and drink (mainly phosphorus and potassium). This month, you can see her on stage at Signature Theatre in Arlington, where she’ll be playing, among other characters, singer Arianna Grande as a baby in the No Rules Theatre Company’s The No Rules Show – SKETCH!
Where are you from?
I grew up in Rockville and went to school at Richard Montgomery High School. Go Rockets!
Have you lived elsewhere?
I went to Boston University, so I lived in Boston, but only for college. Then at 25, when I studied theater for the first time, I moved to New York to go to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy up in New York City. I lived there for 16 months.
How long have you been acting?
I was in my first play when I was 11, and then all I did was the school plays until I was about 17. Then I was in some productions in college as a non-major doing the theater groups on campus. Then in my early-20s, I did community theater and then realized that maybe it was time to get serious. So at 25, I left my full-time job as a dietician, and I left D.C., and I went to New York to study acting.
I took the plunge almost unwillingly because I was too scared because I just didn’t really think that it was feasible to make a life out of being an artist. But with my friends and family behind me, I went and I took the plunge.
After graduating from AMDA, still uneasy … I came back to the D.C. area, got my old job back, but worked at [George Washington University] Hospital for another two years. And then found that I really needed to find a better balance. I now work part time at a dialysis clinic, and then the other time I spend being an artist.
Do you consider one a pay-the-rent job and the other more of a passion?
I use being a dietician to actually help me as an actor. If you ask me what I do, I will nine times out of 10 tell you that I’m an actor. … I use being a dietician to have purpose daily because being an artist without work — it can be really hard. Having a job three times a week gives me purpose, gives me aim, gives me specific goals, and allows me to talk to people of all different walks of life. Being a dietician and working in an atmosphere like a clinic helps me as an artist and an actor because it lets me see the lives that I represent on the stage or on screen. A lot of actors are excellent and they can just make it happen, but I’m very visual. I need to actually see it. It’s been the biggest influence to me as an actor.
It’s pretty rough [for dialysis patients]. How would you like someone telling you that you can no longer eat a certain food or no longer eat this much of it anymore? I can’t even fathom it, and I’m the one teaching it. It’s very difficult, but I’ll tell you, some of the times I laugh the most are at the clinic.
In what ways, if at all, does your Jewish identity affect your work?
[As an actress], I think just growing up in the culture, the way I find a character and deliver that character’s being is meshed in with Jewish comedy of the past. Because of my large tie to comedy of the 1920s and ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, it comes off that way too, meaning casting directors can tell that I’m Jewish right away from the way in which I speak, from the way in which I physicalize in general. For better or for worse, it affects casting. It hurts me so much. Arena [Stage] would never cast me in Fiddler even though I’m so Jewish. They’ll [think], ‘Oh, she’s too much,’ even though I can tone it down. But I think that there is within me an extreme old school sense of comedy and truth.
What is your ultimate goal?
I want to write and star in sketch comedy on TV — and/or focus my efforts in television — because I think I could bring a lot to a lot of people via that venue. There’s something about my personality and reaching out to the masses, and [having them understand] — through my storytelling — life and the human condition. I feel that is what I’m here to do.